When I was trying to conceive my second child, I payed a visit to a very closed minded naturopath for dietary advice to help me become more fertile. My first child was 15 months or so and the consultation ended up revolving around her as the natuopath did not believe in vegan diets for children.
She told me that I should really consider supplementing her with “ethically sourced” fish oil as this was the only way for her to obtain DHA (an Omega 3 fatty acid) – essential for brain development. She told me that vegan sources of Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid) such as flax seeds are insufficient because they only convert to EPA, not DHA which is the one essential for brain function and development. I asked her to research whether there was such thing as a vegan source of DHA and her answer was a firm “most definitely not”. I said “Thank you” and “I will think about it” as I parted with $120.00. I had a feeling she was wrong….
Do our kids really need to eat fish for Omega 3?
After a mini panic attack, I decided to get on Google and research it myself. I typed in “Vegan DHA” and a wealth of information was at my fingertips. As it turns out, the facts about ALA inefficiently converting into DHA were accurate, but excitingly (and with much relief) I discovered that this non-existent nutritional supplement not only did exist, but it exists in abundance! The source is from micro-algae – exactly where the fish get it from in the first place! I also discovered that this vegan source is much safer than fish oil because it is free from pollutants such as mercury – How is that for a bonus!
Meeting your vegan child’s needs
Feeling like a super mum with my new found knowledge, off I went to my local health food store to see if they stocked any micro-algae oil supplements. Udo’s Oil DHA Blend was abundantly stocked in the fridge and this is what I now mix into soy yogurt for my daughter or in hummus or guacamole.
Children have very particular nutritional needs and we as parents are responsible for ensuring that our children’s diets are nutritionally sound. When in doubt of whether your child’s diet is nutritionally adequate it is best to consult with a doctor, dietician or nutritional therapist. Bearing in mind that vegan options and alternatives are abundant, while one practitioner who may not be aware of them, another may be quite knowledgeable so always get a second opinion if you are not comfortable with their advice. PCRM is a wonderful and highly accessible resource for nutrition in general and for child nutrition as well, and you can always consult with them or with their Children’s Nutritional Guide if you have further questions.
Cover image: shutterstock. Modification: TVW