Q&A: I'd like to raise my child as a vegan. How can I safely do this?
I'm a vegan parent, and I'd like my child to grow up without consuming animal products or animal byproducts. Can you provide any nutritional guidelines for my toddler? Everything I read is geared only toward vegetarian parents.
According to the American Dietetic Association:
A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of (these) nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids, and iodine. In some cases, use of fortified foods or supplements can be helpful in meeting recommendations for individual nutrients. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
If your baby is less than a year old breast milk is the best choice for providing optimal nutrition. After your child reaches the six-month mark, breast milk can be complemented with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tofu, and beans.
Daily Diet for Children between 1 to 4 Years of Age:
Whole Grains, Breads, Cereals
2 to 4 tablespoons dark green vegetables
1/4 to 1/2 cup other vegetables
Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, Non-Dairy Milks
1/4 to 1/2 cup legumes
3 servings breast milk, soy formula, soymilk, or other non-dairy milk
3/4 to 1 1/2 cups
The American Dietetic Association makes the following recommendations:
- Consult a registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professional, especially during periods of growth, breastfeeding, pregnancy, or recovery from illness.
- Choose whole or unrefined grain products instead of refined products.
- Choose a variety of nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, including good sources of vitamin C to improve iron absorption.
- For infants, children, and teenagers, ensure adequate intakes of calories, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc. (Intakes of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and zinc are usually adequate when a variety of foods and sufficient calories are consumed.)
- If exclusively breastfeeding premature infants or babies beyond 4 to 6 months of age, give vitamin D and iron supplements to the child from birth or at least by 4 to 6 months, as your doctor suggests.
- Usually, take iron and folic acid supplements during pregnancy.
Vegans are often deficient in the following nutrients, so make sure these are included in your family’s diet:
- Vitamin D: fortified soy beverages and sunshine
- Vitamin B12: fortified soy beverages and cereals
- Calcium: tofu processed with calcium, broccoli, seeds, nuts, kale, bok choy, legumes (peas and beans), greens, lime-processed tortillas, and soy beverages, grain products, and orange juice enriched with calcium
Iron: legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, whole grains, and iron-fortified cereals and breads, especially whole-wheat. (Absorption is improved by vitamin C, found in citrus fruits