Vegan children and their risk of nutrient deficiencies

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» Vegan children and their risk of nutrient deficiencies

We respond to the allegations that young children who follow a vegan diet without medical and dietary advice are at risk of nutrient deficiencies.

Here at The Vegan Society we believe that veganism is a beautiful and honest way of living, and a vegan parent would naturally like for their children to live in this way too.

Raising children as vegan is not just about the nutritional benefits, but also about teaching them about compassion and treating other living beings with respect and equality. 

It’s important for children to understand where food comes from, how animals are treated, the impact that has on our health and the environment. This allows them to make informed choices based on facts and compassion rather than habit and what is perceived as the ‘norm’. 

However, today's warning for young children who follow a vegan diet without medical and dietary advice is a non-story disguised as a breaking discovery made by experts. 

Every diet carries its risks, especially where children are concerned. All parents should carefully research diets for their children to ensure they are eating healthily and receive adequate nutrition. 

Nutrients deficiencies are not an exclusively vegan problem and it is unfair to paint them as such. 

Both children and adults are able to get their nutrients directly from plants, rather than consuming animals who filter the nutrients through their bodies or receive supplements themselves. 

Heather Russell, Dietitian at The Vegan Society, said: “Good nutrition is essential for giving kids a great start, and well-planned vegan diets can meet the needs of every family member as well as support normal growth and development. 

“Whether you are vegan or not, balanced diets include fruit and vegetables, starchy foods and foods rich in protein and calcium, and fortified foods and supplementation play important roles. 

“Certain nutrients in vegan diets deserve special attention, including vitamin B12, which is obtained from fortified foods and supplements. Iodine supplementation is also recommended, and should be considered by anyone eating a milk-free diet. 

“People worry that vegan diets contain too little protein and calcium, but it’s actually easy to obtain enough if you choose the right plant foods. 

“During the introduction of a vegan infant’s first foods, the use of unsweetened fortified soya milk in cooking is recommended. It contains as much calcium as cows’ milk and a similar amount of protein. 

“Beans, chickpeas, lentils, soya mince, fortified soya yoghurt and tofu are just a few examples of other good sources of protein, and these foods provide zinc too. 

“Introducing children to a wide variety of plant foods helps them to establish healthy habits for life. Eating a balanced vegan diet helps people to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, and research has linked this way of eating with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. 

“Both the British Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognise that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages

“The Vegan Society provides advice about vegan nutrition during every stage of life at www.vegansociety.com/nutrition.”