A Healthy Diet For Life
Well-planned plant-based diets can support healthy lifestyles at every age, from pre-parenthood, through pregnancy and breast-feeding, childhood and adulthood, and on into later years.
The Importance of Good Nutrition
Your diet during pregnancy and that of your infant during the first year of life can affect your childs health 40, 50 or even 60 years later. It is therefore of utmost importance that during pregnancy you and your baby are provided with good nutrition. During pregnancy you will require extra nutrition to support your growing foetus and to allow for changes in your body.
Research Gives Veganism The Thumbs Up!
Several studies have examined the nutrient intakes of vegan children. One study of British school-age children published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 1992 found that vegan children had higher intakes of fibre, and that intakes of all vitamins and minerals studied (with the exception of calcium) were comparable with those of meat-eating children. Vegan pre-schoolers in the US were found to have generous intakes of protein, vitamins and minerals, and their diets exceeded recommended intakes for all nutrients studied with the exception of calcium. Finally, vegan children have been shown to have lower intakes of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than non-vegetarian children.
The study showing lower calcium intakes by vegan pre-schoolers was conducted before calcium-fortified products were readily available, so calcium intakes of vegan children may be higher now. Calcium is important for bone development. Around 45% of adult bone mass is accrued before 8 years of age, another 45% is added between 8-16 years of age, and a further 10% accumulates in the next decade. Given the importance of calcium intake during childhood, all parents should ensure that their children’s diets contain calcium-rich foods and meet current recommendations for calcium for their age group.
Reports in the medical press of vegan infants suffering protein and energy deficiencies are extremely rare. In some instances infants were weaned onto poorly planned fruitarian or macrobiotic regimes rather than vegan diets. In other cases parents had not adopted veganism but instead had eliminated foods fromtheir infants' diets on a piecemeal basis and without seeking proper advice.
It is believed that the foundations for many chronic diseases of adulthood have their beginnings in childhood. For instance, processes initiating atherosclerosis and high blood pressure are thought to start very early in life, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels have been shown to track from early childhood and to be related to childhood nutrient intakes. Body mass also tracks from early childhood, with obese children being at an increased risk of obesity in adulthood.
Vegan diets may introduce children to a greater variety of whole plant foods, thus establishing healthful lifelong eating habits.