TODAY   |  April 20, 2012

Veganism for kids: ‘You have to be conscientious’

Many parents who eschew all animal products are choosing to also raise their kids as vegans. Nutritionist Heidi Skolnik and psychologist Jennifer Hartstein discuss whether a vegan diet is both physically and mentally healthy for children

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> is a nutritionle, jennifer hart steen is a child psychologist . ladies good morning to both of you.

>> good morning.

>> let's start with you. what's your take on this?

>> from a nutritional standpoint it is true that at any stage of life you can be a healthy vegan. you have to be careful with b-12. you might have to supplement with that. there are certain nutrients, essential fatty acids. iron getting enough protein. yes. you can do it. you have to be very conscientious, however. my objection with this is the scare tactic , is age appropriate . usually, if that's your belief system you can share that within your home and you can model it by the foods you serve. but teaching kids to fear food is not typically a very healthy way to approach it.

>> that takes us from nutrition into the child psychologies asecretary. do you agree with heidi?

>> i absolutely agree with heidi. the fact that there's so much fear presented in the book and if you would just give it to a child as a children's book they don't understand it. so now they're just going to be afraid. they may choose to eat this way and actually become malnourished as a result. and fear doesn't really teach the appropriate intervention. you can lead your child in this lifestyle and give the information in an age appropriate way over time so that they really can understand it and decide if they want to continue to embrace that.

>> one illustration addresses the idea of animal testing and shows a graphic picture of wounded animals. so that you think, kids have enough to worry about, is that what you're saying, without making them worry about where they're getting their food?

>> absolutely. i think why do we have to scare them, which could create eating disordered behavior.

>> i think guilt and fear is not a good place to come especially with such a peaceful message. so i see and this is where our fields are so interlocked. although i'm here to talk about the nutritional adequacy i also see kids who are very anxious and very fearful and adults about making the right and wrong decision around food.

>> back to you for a second. this idea -- the book is called "vegan is love." are we to then conclude or children conclude that if you're not a vegan, it's about hate? or you're not someone who loves?

>> or you don't get to feel love. or you're clearly creating hate or bad feelings amongst everybody else, if you're not that. and i do think that it's a very strong and powerful title that kids can interpret in their, not fully developed way, which is going to be problematic.

>> i don't think --

>> go ahead.

>> i don't think it's just kids. i think it's parents who are very successful and doing the right thing for their kids. there are people who truly believe in this and it's a lifestyle.

>> it's a life saving lifestyle for a lot of people. bill clinton is one of the most famous vegans or vegan converts right now. a man who suffered from heart disease .

>> but it's not coming from a spiritual place. now the reality is, you can go that way or you can be a flexitarian where you are plant based but include minimal amounts of animal product that really advance your nutritional status.

>> all right. thank you both.