Raising vegans

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Research strongly supports vegan nutrition for babies and children

Your diet during pregnancy, and your infant’s diet, can help protect your child’s health into adulthood. It is therefore of utmost importance that during pregnancy you and your baby are provided with good nutrition. Of course, you knew that already. Perhaps what you don’t know is that research strongly supports vegan nutrition for babies and children.

The BDA (British Dietetic Association) state that well-planned plant-based diets can support healthy lifestyles at every age and life-stage, including pregnancy and infancy. Whether you’re planning to have or adopt a baby, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or feeding growing infants and older children – there is a healthy plant-based diet for you. 

Handy hints for feeding young vegans

•Breast milk or infant formula should be a major part of your child’s nutrition until at least age one.

•Breast milk banks such as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies can help if you want to feed your child breast milk but are unable to produce it yourself.

•Use more soya bean oil or rapeseed (canola) oil, and less sunflower, safflower or corn oils. The former help encourage the production of fatty acids that are important for the development of the brain and vision.

•Do not allow infants to fill up on liquids before mealtimes.

•Spread bread with avocado, or seed/nut butters to increase calories.

•Well-cooked and mashed pulses (e.g. lentils, mung beans and chickpeas) provide energy and protein. It is important to strain them through a sieve to get rid of the skins, so that children can better digest them. 

•Choose calcium-fortified tofu (also rich in protein), which can be served mashed or as finger food.

•Make sure children have regular access to healthy sun exposure (while being careful to avoid the risk of burning), otherwise provide vitamin D supplements.

•Use non-dairy milks that are fortified with calcium, vitamin D2 and vitamin B12

•Green vegetables are an excellent source of iron, calcium and antioxidants. If your child isn’t keen on them, try blending them into a tomato-based pasta sauce, or including in juices. 

Expert recommendation

Sandra Hood, vegan Registered Dietitian and author of Feeding Your Vegan Infant with Confidence, says, “Raising a child on a vegan diet enables parents or carers to discuss with a young one where food comes from, instil an appreciation of and respect for food, and make eating a happy experience. All parents want to give their child the best start in life, and increasing evidence demonstrates the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Such diets are lower in saturated fat and salt and higher in fibre than conventional diets. Studies have shown that a healthy vegan diet can provide all the nutrients necessary for a healthy life.”