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Zinc for Vegan Kids: Simple Ways to Boost Their Intake

As a vegan nutritionist and mom, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to ensure your vegan kids are getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. While there’s a lot of focus on protein and iron, I believe the most crucial nutrient we need to pay attention to is actually zinc. I’ll explain why zinc is so important and share my top tips for incorporating zinc-rich foods into your family’s diet.

Why Zinc Matters for Vegan Kids

Zinc plays a vital role in many aspects of health, including reproductive health (especially for males), immune system function, hormonal balance, and learning and development. 

While all kids need zinc, the requirements are highest for teenage boys, who need around 13 mg per day. That amount jumps to 19 mg when you factor in the lower absorption of zinc from plant foods. Men also have high zinc needs.

Meeting Zinc Needs on a Vegan Diet 

The good news is that many foods high in zinc are also great sources of iron. So by focusing on zinc for vegan kids, you’ll likely meet iron needs too. Some of the best plant-based sources of zinc include tofu (1.7 mg per 100g), pumpkin seeds (1 mg per tablespoon), cashews (1.7 mg per 1/4 cup), legumes (1 mg per 1/2 cup, with black beans being the highest), and fortified cereals like Cheerios (1.8 mg per 1/2 cup).

Zinc Absorption for Vegan Diets

The trick with zinc is making sure our bodies can actually absorb and use it. Foods in a vegan diet like beans and nuts are fantastic sources of zinc, but they also contain phytates, making it a bit tougher for the body to absorb zinc effectively.  By employing certain preparation methods and combining foods wisely, we can enhance zinc absorption, ensuring our kids get the most nutritional bang for their buck.

Kid-Friendly Ways to Boost Zinc Intake

I get that nuts, seeds, and beans aren’t always an easy sell with kids. The key is to incorporate them into foods they already like. Blend cashews or white beans into smoothies for creaminess, bake pumpkin seeds into muffins, bars, and other treats, use black beans in brownies or other baked goods, and serve fortified cereals like Cheerios. 

Getting kids used to the idea of eating beans in sweet treats makes them more open to trying them in savory dishes down the line.

Ensuring your vegan kids get enough zinc is crucial for their overall health and development. By incorporating zinc-rich plant foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and fortified products into their diets in creative, kid-friendly ways, you can help them thrive on a vegan lifestyle. 

Stay tuned for my upcoming book “Super Boosted Vegan Snacks” for kid-approved recipes packed with zinc and other key nutrients! In the meantime, if you need personalized help optimizing your child’s vegan diet, check out my one-on-one nutrition coaching sessions.

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