Some parents choose to raw food diets for their children

Dieticians warn that raw, vegan diets do not meet all of a child’s nutritional needs. (Source: NPN/RNN)
Dieticians warn that raw, vegan diets do not meet all of a child’s nutritional needs. (Source: NPN/RNN)

(NPN/RNN) - Have you ever considered a raw food diet? One that consists entirely of uncooked food?

Experts say there is no universal definition for a raw food diet, but in general the idea is that cooking food above a certain temperature breaks down the key nutrients and enzymes. Many raw diets focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

It may sound tough for an adult to stick to, but some parents are encouraging their growing children to eat this way.

Is this emphasis on raw food for kids healthy? Or cause for concern?

Smoothies, salads and raw "spaghetti" are staples in the Khan household where 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 Khan, along with 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 normal," Vanessa Khan said.

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 five or six 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 dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said 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," Sheth said.

Experts say getting enough B12, 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," said 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," Jaffe said.

Ramon and Vanessa Khan said their kids do take a multivitamin and B12 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," Vanessa Khan said.

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.

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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