Carbohydrates For Kids: Raising Healthy Vegan Kids

 In this article you will learn how much carbohydrates kids need in a day, what kinds are the best for them, the easiest to get them to eat, and more! Luckily, no one questions whether vegan kids get enough carbohydrates!

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This article is a continuation of Dietary Guidelines For Kids: How Vegan Kids Get The Nutrients They Need!

What pops into your head when you think about the word carbohydrates and feeding kids?

Is it sugar or simple carbs?

Fiber, and how to get them to eat enough of it?

Or something else?

If you’re raising your kids vegan, and feeding them a mostly plant based diet, then you won’t have to worry much about your kids getting enough fiber in their diet.

Plants are loaded  with fiber!

However there are different types of carbs, and yes, some are better than others.

Obviously, fiber is better than added sugar. Yep, sugar is a type of carb; a type of refined carbohydrate. 

There are other carbohydrates that are better for us than added sugars!

*Please note that I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and am not liable for what you do with the information I provide. The following is for informational purposes only. If you or you child has a medical condition or you have concerns about raising vegan kids, please consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian familiar with a vegan diet.

Simple Carbs for Vegan Kids

When parents think of simple carbohydrates for their kids, a lot of parents think of cake, jello, sugar, and other foods like that, but those aren’t the only forms of simple carbohydrates, and some of the ingredients in those food aren’t only ‘simple’, some are ‘complex’ carbs, too!

Kids should have both simple and complex carbs.


 Because feeding kids simple carbs can be as simple as giving them non-starchy veggies and fruits and feeding them complex carbs is what will keep them full!

 What most people think of when they think of ‘simple carbs’ is actually called ‘refined carbohydrates’. 

Refined Carbohydrates are the processed flours, sugars, and other processed, whether lightly processed or highly processed, carbs we find in food. These carbs can be made from either complex or simple carbs.

Are Complex Carbs Better?

Complex carbs aren’t better or worse than simple carbs.

The difference between the two are in how they are digested and the amount of fiber they contain.

Complex carbs are digested slower, helping to keep kids, and everyone else fuller longer, because they contain more fiber. 

Whereas simple carbs are digested quicker; which may be where many people mistake them for refined carbs and a ‘sugar rush’.

Both simple carbs and complex carbs have their place in a child’s diet, the key to feeding kids carbohydrates is getting them to eat more unrefined carbohydrates than refined. AKA- whole plant foods that have not been processed!

Simple Unrefined Carbs include (but not limited to):

  • Non-starchy veggies
  • Fruit

Complex Unrefined Carbs include (but not limited to):

  • Whole grains
  • Starchy veggies
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seed

How many carbohydrates and grams of fiber do kids actually need?

Like all food, the amount a child needs will depend on their age and sometimes their weight.

However, according to the Dietary Guidelines of 2015-2020,  all children from age 1 to age 18 should consume 130 grams of carbs a day.

Don’t ask me why they recommend the same amount for all ages, I’m not a dietician. 

However, most dieticians do agree that carbs should make up at least half of the calories anyone gets in a day. Luckily, most foods contain carbs. 

The only ‘foods’ that don’t are ones that vegan kids would not be eating, such as meat and other products made from animals.

The amount of fiber kids should have does differ depending on age. Which is certainly a good thing, because fiber helps make us full, and too much fiber in a little one’s diet would make it hard to get them to eat all of the nutrients they should eat in a day!

Let’s take a look at recommended daily amounts of fiber according to the Dietary Guidelines of 2015-2020;

  • 1-3 year olds: 14 grams
  • 4-8 year old GIRLS: 16.8 grams
  • 4-8 year old BOYS: 19.6 grams
  • 9-13 year old GIRLS: 22.4 grams
  • 9-13 year old BOYS: 25.2 grams
  • 14-18 year old GIRLS: 25.2 grams
  • 14-18 year old BOYS: 30.8 grams

The difference between the amounts for girls and boys in older children is due to the higher amount of calories required for growing boys than girls. 

Why are Carbs Important for a Child’s Growth?

Carbs are what fuels us!

It fuels our BRAINS, NERVOUS SYSTEM, BLOOD CELLS; carbs are what gives us energy to do what we need to do.

Remember in school when you had a ton of work to do that made you think, or during sports practices. It was a lot easier to do those things when you ate (and loaded up on some carbohydrates) beforehand, or took a snack break to get your energy back up.

Carbohydrates are simply the best type of fuel for your child’s growing body and brain (and best fuel for us adults, too)!

Which is one reason why kids should not go on a low carb diet. 

No one should go on a low carb diet. 

This might just be my opinion (it’s not!), but carbs, fats, and protein all have their place in a healthy balanced diet. You can’t remove, or almost remove, one of those main components of a human diet and expect to thrive! 

They are all needed!

It shouldn’t be hard to find healthy carbs for your kids to eat. This is one type of food that most kids will easily eat; mostly because you can find carbs in almost any food!

  • Whole fruits
  • Veggies
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Beans 
  • Nuts & Seeds

And any other food except animal products (besides dairy- dairy has carbs, but there are so many better sources for carbs than dairy).

Excess Sugar

Having too much added sugar in the diet is not a ‘vegan’ issue, it can be an issue with any diet a child may be on. (Diet, as in what they eat; do not put a child on a fad diet!)

It’s fine for kids to have some sugar, but too much sugar can lead to an abundance of health issues. The first one you may notice is poor dental health…cavities.

When it comes to sugar, the best way for kids to get it is the same as the best way for you to get sugar; through whole fruits and other plants. 

Like dates! 

My kids and I eat dates like it’s candy!

If your kids have grown accustomed to eating candy on a regular basis, trying switching it out with dates! You can even try stuffing them with peanut butter, it’s delicious!

Try to avoid processed foods with a ton of added sugars.

Read the ingredient list, and know that some manufacturers break the sugars up in the ingredient list by using different names. This is how they can allow a certain type of sugar to not be one of the first ingredients in the list.

Honestly, if you can, try to avoid buying many foods that have an ingredient list longer than just 4 or 5 ingredients. The more whole a food is when bought, the better.

Though, I do understand that having some convenience foods, is, well, convenient, especially if you’re not able to find the time to make all your kids food from scratch.

Just be sure to check the amount of sugar in the food and the ingredient list. 

If you’re not sure what an ingredient in the list is, either put it back or ask google.

Carbohydrates for kids

This is where I would link to recipes with good sources of carbohydrates in them.

But, you know now, after reading this, that any food on the vegan diet (as long as it’s also plant-based, and not highly processed) is a good source of carbohydrates.

This isn’t generally a type of food you need to worry about your kids getting enough of. 

Just be sure to limit refined carbohydrates and give your child a variety of plant based foods and they should be fine, as far as carbs go!

 If you have any other specific questions regarding carbs and your child specifically, I’d recommend you speak with their pediatrician or a dietitian who can look over their medical/food history.

Didn’t start from the beginning? Start Here!

Need some inspiration for being or raising vegan? Check out the vegan quotes in Vegan Quotes: For Health, the Planet, & the Animals!

¹Dietary Guidelines of 2015-2020 

²Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition (Comprehensive Edition), by Branda Davis, RD & Vesanto Melina, MS, RD

carbohydrates for kids, raising healthy vegan kids

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