Raw food diets OK for kids?

By Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Jul 22 2014 03:33:14 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2014 07:45:00 AM EDT

Smoothies, salads and this raw spaghetti are staples in the Khan household.  Every meal is vegan and most are uncooked.

"We actually started our journey one step at a time, eliminating everything from the food coloring to the processed foods so that we actually, you know got to the point where we were eating a very high raw diet," said Ramon Khan.

Ramon and Vanessa and their kids, Raheem and Aliya, have been eating almost entirely raw for two years. 

"Socially for my kids, at the beginning was a bit difficult because it was new for them. But now it's, it's normal," Vanessa said.

And others say it's becoming "normal" for more and more families. Kristina Carillo-Bucaram promotes the raw vegan lifestyle, and believes going raw is a movement in the United States.

"Do I think that the movement is powerful? Yes. Do I think that it's touching and affecting families? Yes. Just within the past year I've had maybe about 5 or 6 friends who've gone through raw pregnancies and began to raise their children raw," Carillo-Bucaram said.

But is raising your children raw healthy?  Vandana  Sheth, a registered dietician nutritionist with the  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,  says a diet high in fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of some chronic conditions and obesity. But she has concerns about a raw vegan diet meeting all a child's nutritional needs.

"You might not meet all the requirements as far as protein goes, and that definitely affects how you grow," she said.

And experts say getting enough B-12, which is found in animal products, can be a challenge.

"Individuals who are deficient in B12 not only will have anemia or blood cell counts that are low but they can also have neurological problems as well," explained Dr. Rebecca Jaffe with the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Jaffe recommends a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as meats, fish and dairy for kids. But for families who do choose a more restricted diet, she suggests keeping a food diary.

"To ascertain what the child is actually taking in, and sometimes we might supplement with vitamin sources," she added.

Ramon and Vanessa say their kids do take a multivitamin and B-12 supplements,  and they are careful to make sure they get all the protein, healthy fat and other nutrients they need.

"It is extra work to, to have this diet and have this lifestyle but the improvements that I've seen in myself and my husband and my kids have made it worth it," said Vanessa.

And Raheem is happy with his diet decision, too.

"It's nutritious.  It's healthy.  It tastes delicious," he added.

Experts say bacterial and viral illnesses are of concern when it comes to raw diets that include meat, fish or unpasteurized dairy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against raw milk products for children and pregnant women, but has no formal policy on vegan raw food diets.  Neither does the American Academy of Family Physicians.

And, as for a raw diet during pregnancy, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not have a formal position, but advises women to eat a variety of healthy foods including grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy and to avoid unpasteurized milk and raw seafood, eggs and meat.

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