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Are Raw Diets Healthy For Children?

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You’ll find a lot of smoothies, salads and raw spaghetti at the Khan home, where the family has been eating almost entirely raw for two years.

“We actually started our journey one step at a time very slowly, and slowly started eliminating everything from the food coloring to the processed foods,” father Ramon Khan said.

“It’s nutritious,” added Khan’s son, Raheem. “It’s healthy. It tastes delicious.”

As CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported, more and more families are trying raw diets, but are they healthy for children?

Nutritionist Vandana Sheth 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 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 Vitamin B12, which is found in animal products, can be another 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 of 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.

For families who do choose a more restricted diet, Jaffe said it’s a good idea to keep a food diary so you know exactly what your child is taking in and whether extra supplements or vitamins are needed.

The Khan kids, for example, take multivitamins and B12 supplements.

“I wouldn’t go whole hog, but anytime you can get your kid to eat raw vegetables, bravo,” said Ceci Carmichael, a chef and mom.

Five-year-old Mia Nieves said she’d have a hard time adapting to a raw diet if it meant giving up Chinese food.

“I like pork fried rice because it’s good, and it has broccoli and chicken,” she said.

But Mia’s best friend, Pria Melendez, 6, said she was game to try the diet.

“I don’t like vegetables that much, but I could try,” she said.

There are different types of raw diets. Experts warn that bacterial and viral illnesses are a concern when it comes to raw diets that include meat, fish or unpasteurized dairy.

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