VEGAN and thinking about your child’s diet?

 
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Did you know that there are currently no infant formula milks suitable for vegans on the market?

This is because the Vitamin D added to the formula is from animal sources. If your child is over a year old, oat, almond milk or Alpro Soya Growing up milk (which contains plant based Vitamin D) may be suitable as long as they are growing well and have a good appetite. As non-dairy milks are not as nutritionally complete as cow’s milk to meet the growing needs of your child, it is very important to think carefully about the quality of the vegan diet you offer, whether your child is just weaning onto solids or is an energetic teenager.

You may wish to bring your baby up as vegetarian before embarking on a vegan lifestyle when they are older.

There are a few infant formulas that are vegetarian: Kendamil First infant Milk, Sainsburys Little Ones First Infant Milk and Holle Organic Infant Goat Milk Formula (powdered versions only). Cow's milk and goat's milk infant formulae are generally not suitable for vegetarians due to the fish oil and animal enzymes added in manufacture.

Many people assume a vegan diet is a way to a healthier lifestyle, however there are a few key nutrients in which a vegan diet may be deficient, primarily vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3, iron, calcium and iodine. If you wish you child to follow a vegan diet, they will require a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement eg VegLife Vegan Kids multivitamin and mineral chewable tablets daily as these nutrients cannot be met from a vegan diet exclusively.

The following principles of a vegan diet should be applied for children to ensure the best nutritional intake:

  • Make sure their diet contains a variety of fruit and vegetables – eat a rainbow!

  • Include 3-4 portions of protein daily such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu or peanuts

  • Eat nuts and seeds daily, especially those rich in omega-3 fat such as walnuts and chia seeds

  • Drink 300—400ml calcium-rich non-dairy milk daily

  • Ensure that the diet contains a reliable source of vitamin B12 and iodine and an additional source in the form of a supplement

  • Every child should have a daily Vitamin D supplement - Vitamin D3 from a lichen source is vegan

  • Do not use low fat products as the diet is inherently low in fat already

If you are unsure how to nutritionally balance your vegan diet to suit your baby, toddler or teenager or would like some help with ideas, contact me for further information.

Below is a table comparing key nutrients in vegan products with the equivalent cow’s milk product.

Almond milk has been selected just as an example. Of particular note, iodine is not added to non-dairy milks or products. This nutrient is essential for regulation of the thyroid hormone. The protein and fat content of vegan products is low and research has shown that prolonged elimination of milk and dairy from the diet may have an impact on the rate at which weight and height is gained in childhood. Of note, the salt content of vegan products is often higher than dairy based products and beyond the recommended level for health of < 1.5g per 100g product

Added ingredients to non-dairy milks should also not be overlooked when thinking about how healthy a vegan diet is for your child.

Non-dairy milks are largely composed of water eg only 2.3% of almond milk is from almonds. Stabilisers such as locust bean gum are added to the non-dairy milks along with salt for flavouring. Vegan cheese is made from modified starches, oil, acidity regulators, flavourings, colourings and salt and rice milk should not be given to children under 5 years of age due to it’s inorganic arsenic content. Not only is cow’s milk a cheaper, simple and more accessible product, it provides a wealth of nutrients that will benefit health, bone density and growth, only some of which can be consumed within the confines of a vegan diet.

 
  Table of key nutrients in almond products compared to cow’s milk products

Table of key nutrients in almond products compared to cow’s milk products

 

More information on Eating Well on a Vegan Diet for Children can be found at the Vegan Society website. Click HERE.