A Practical Guide to Veganism during Pregnancy & throughout Childhood
About This Guide
Whilst friends, family and health care professionals may periodically challenge the nutritional adequacy of a vegan diet, when it comes to feeding this diet to a mother-to-be or a child, those challenges can often turn into vociferous opposition quite unlike anything that has ever been experienced before! The important thing to remember is that a varied wholefood vegan diet will provide all the nutrients required for a healthy body during pregnancy, breast feeding, infancy and childhood, through the teenage years to adulthood. In fact, there is no known nutrient the vegan diet cannot provide. Several studies have shown that vegan women typically have healthy pregnancies and that their children thrive. Thousands of healthy children have now been reared on vegan diets and can expect to look forward to a healthier-than-average adulthood.
The following is a general introduction to pregnancy, children and the vegan diet. More detailed information should be sought from publications available for sale through the Vegan Society or organisations listed under Further Details.
One really comprehensive book devoted to this subject is Pregnancy, Children & the Vegan Diet by Dr Michael Klaper. This book provides information on meal plans for children and pregnant women - as well as recipes. The book is American so some parts will not be relevant to those living outside the country e.g. recommended infant milks will not be available. Testimonies from vegan families in Dr Klaper's book provide prospective vegans and even 'old hands' with the confidence and encouragement to raise their children on a compassionate and healthy diet.
current advice suggests that peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy and when
breast feeding in order to reduce the incidence of allergies in children.
Section One - Pregnancy
The Importance of Good Nutrition
Research during the 1990s has revealed that a pregnant woman's diet, and that of her infant during the first year of life can affect the child's health 40, 50 or even 60 years later. This research establishes the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy and infancy. A pregnant woman requires extra nutrition to support the growing foetus and to allow for changes in her body. A series of studies at the Farm, a vegan community in the USA, show that vegans can have healthy pregnancies and that infants and children can safely follow a vegan diet.
The First Few Months
Recommendations for many vitamins and minerals are higher in pregnancy but the increase in energy (calorie) requirements is relatively small. The pattern of weight gain is different for every woman. General guidelines include a little weight gain in the first trimester (first 3 months). In the second and third trimesters a weight gain of a pound a week is common. If weight gain is slow or nonexistent then more food needs to be consumed. For example, eat more often or foods higher in fat and lower in bulk. If weight gain is high, then take a look at the types of foods eaten. Try to ensure that any sweet or fatty foods are replaced with fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains (e.g. wholemeal bread, rice, etc). If the diet is already fairly healthy, then try to ensure more exercise is taken e.g. walking, swimming, etc. on a daily basis.
There is little, if any, increase in calorific needs during the first trimester. However, in order to support the recommended weight gain during the second and third trimesters, an extra 300 calories will be required. 300 calories is a fairly small increase compared to the increases required for other nutrients so it is important to use those calories in a wise manner. For example, instead of drinking 2 cans of cola, 300 calories worth of fruit and vegetables should be consumed which will also provide vitamin and mineral needs.
Several small meals should be eaten during the day. Don't miss breakfast and eat a huge lunch. It is important to provide a regular supply of nutrients to the growing foetus. Babies do not do well fasting for hours on end.
The following chart gives examples of nutrients required for a healthy body and foods that provide these nutrients:
aim to eat a varied wholefood diet and choose foods from the following food groups on a daily basis
1 Cereals e.g. barley, rice, wheat (bread, pasta, shredded wheat), oats, millet, corn, bulgur, cous cous, etc
2 Pulses e.g. beans, peas, lentils (cooked or sprouted)
3 Nuts & Seeds e.g. all types of nuts, nut butters (peanut butter, cashew nut butter etc), pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed spread)
4 Vegetables (cooked and/or raw) Deep yellow & dark green leafy vegetables include carrots, green peppers, broccoli, spinach, endive and kale. Other vegetables include bean sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, sweet corn, celery, onions, cucumbers, beetroot, marrows, courgettes and cauliflower.
5 Fruits (fresh, dried and tinned) e.g. bananas, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, apples, mangoes, cherries, grapes, apricots, pear, paw paws, kiwis, berries, currants, lemons and plums.
Vegan sources of key nutrients
Whole grains (e.g. whole-wheat flour and bread, brown rice), nuts (e.g. hazels, cashews, brazils, almonds), sunflower and other seeds, pulses (e.g. peas, lentils, beans), soya flour, soya milk, tofu .
Whole grains (e.g. wheat, oats, barley, rice), whole-wheat bread, pasta and other flour products, lentils, beans, potatoes, dried and fresh fruit.
Nuts and seeds, nut and seed oils, vegan margarine, avocados.
Essential Fatty Acids
Two polyunsaturated fatty acids not made by the body are linoleic acid (omega 6 group) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3 group).
Linoleic acid - safflower, sunflower, corn, evening primrose & soya oils.
Alpha-linolenic acid - linseed, pumpkin seed, walnut, soya & rapeseed (canola) oils.
A - Carrots, spinach, pumpkins, tomatoes, dark greens, vegan margarines.
B - Nuts, whole-grains, oats, muesli, pulses, yeast extract (e.g. Marmite), leafy green vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms and dried fruit.
B12 - Fortified yeast extracts and soya milks, vegan margarines, packeted 'veggie-burger' mixes. Possibly: Fermented foods (eg. tamari, miso and tempeh), sea vegetables (e.g. hijiki, wakame and spirulina).
C - Citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, lemons, grapefruit), red and blackcurrants, berries, green vegetables and potatoes.
D - Sunlight, some soya milks and vegan margarines.
E - Nuts, seeds, whole grains and flours, vegetable oils.
Folate - Wheatgerm, raw or lightly-cooked green leafy vegetables (e.g. watercress, broccoli, spinach), yeast, yeast extracts, nuts, peas, runner beans, oranges, dates, avocados, whole grains.
Calcium - Molasses, seeds, nuts, carob, pulses (e.g. soya beans, tofu, haricot beans, miso-fermented soya bean curd), parsley, figs (dried), sea vegetables, grains (e.g. oatmeal), fortified soya milk.
Iron - Seeds, nuts, pulses, miso, grains, dried fruit, molasses, sea vegetables, parsley, green leafy vegetables, using cast-iron cookware.
zinc - Wheatgerm, wholegrains (wholemeal bread, rice, oats), nuts, pulses, tofu, soya protein, miso, peas, parsley, bean sprouts.
The state of pregnancy is a "watery" one, and the pregnant woman requires extra water for making additional blood for herself, the baby, and the three to six quarts of amniotic fluid in her uterus. She should try to drink at least four to six eight-ounce glasses per day in the form of pure water, fruit juices or vegetable juices. The balance of water needed (total 2-3 quarts daily) can be obtained from the watery fruits, vegetables, soups and salads, which are abundant in the vegan diet.
Further Information on Some Key Nutrients for Pregnant Women
Pregnant women must ensure adequate folate (folacin) consumption to protect their unborn children from neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Studies suggest this is plentiful in the diets of vegan adults. The Department of Health advises women considering having a baby and those who are pregnant to take a folate supplement as well as consuming foods rich in the vitamin. In the UK, 1991 recommendations for pregnant women were 300ug per day and for nursing mothers 260ug per day. All women wishing to conceive should take 400ug per day and continue this during the first 12 weeks.
Pregnant women do not require more than the average 1.5ug per day. Breast feeding women require 2ug per day. During pregnancy a woman's own laid-down body stores of B12 are not readily available to the foetus which builds up its own supply from the mother's current dietary intake of the vitamin. If B12 intake is low during pregnancy, the foetus will not have adequate stores of the vitamin and this may lead to a deficiency sometime after birth - even though the mother herself may have no clinical symptoms.
Studies have shown that vegans' intake of calcium is adequate; there have been no reports of calcium deficiency. The high boron (rich in fruit and vegetables) content of the vegan diet and the exclusion of meat helps the body conserve calcium. Studies of the bones of vegans and vegetarians show that the likelihood of osteoporosis is no greater, and may be less, than for omnivores. In the UK, current recommendations for calcium consumption are 1250mg per day for breastfeeding women. Additional calcium during pregnancy is not thought necessary.
No extra iron is indicated in the UK for pregnant or breastfeeding women as it is assumed that increased requirements can be offset against the cessation of menstrual iron loss. However, the US recommended daily amount for pregnant women is 30mg which is double that of non-pregnant women.
There is evidence from the general population that malformations occurring in some infants may be linked to zinc insufficiency in their mothers. Human milk is not a rich source of this mineral and during breastfeeding infants draw on their body reserves laid down during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Thus premature babies may be at risk of zinc deficiency. Intakes of zinc by adult vegans are similar to those of omnivores. Women aged 19-50 years should take 7mg per day. There is no recommended increase during pregnancy.
Suggested Meals During Pregnancy
· Wholemeal toast spread with vegan margarine and Marmite (or other yeast extract) or peanut butter - or both!
· Porridge and dried fruit with nut topping
· Muesli and fresh fruit with fortified soya milk
· Scrambled tofu with chopped onion and peppers on toast
· Ryvita crispbreads spread with margarine and nut butter
· Baked beans & lightly fried mushrooms on wholemeal toast
· Fresh and dried fruit
· Fruit smoothies (liquidised soft fruit & fortified soya milk)
· Wholemeal crackers and vegetable pâté
· Yoghurt (vegan version available from health/wholefood shops)
· Scheese or Tofucheese (both available from health/wholefood shops) and salad sandwich
· Veggie Burger, wholemeal bun, lettuce, tomatoes, beansprouts. Fresh green salad with French dressing.
· Vegetable bean soup and baked potato
· Humous, salad and pitta bread
· Samosas or onion bhajis with salad
· Fruit cake
· Vegetable soup and/or green salad as a starter
· Main courses: vegan versions of lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie, stew, curry, vegetable biriani, quiche, etc.
· Fresh fruit salad and ice 'cream'
· Fruit crumble and custard made with fortified soya milk
· Apple pie and soya creme
· Cake (fruit, vanilla sponge, chocolate, fudge, carob)
· Tofu cheesecake
Pure water, fruit juices, soya milk shakes, coffee/tea type beverages, herbal teas n.b. Large amounts of caffeine have, in some cases, been associated with various problems in pregnancy. Caffeine does appear in the foetus' blood in the same concentration as in the mother's blood. It is probably, therefore, wise to limit or avoid caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee, tea and cola.
Tips on relieving morning sickness
Eat 5 or 6 small meals per day and try to eat something every few hours because you may feel sick when you are really hungry.
Avoid greasy or fried foods, as these take longer to digest.
If the smell of cooking makes you queasy, ask someone else to cook while you are out of the house or try eating cold foods like sandwiches, cereal, soya yogurt, nut/seed butters and crackers, or fruit.
Don't lie down directly after eating.
Keep a snack like crackers or dry cereal by your bed and eat a little on waking up in the night or before getting up in the morning.
Try making mixtures like mashed potatoes and chopped vegetables or vegetables and rice, because starchy foods are often more appealing than vegetables.
Section Two - Breastfeeding & Formula Milks
Breast is Best
The earliest food for a vegan baby should ideally be breast milk. For support and information on breast feeding please contact the La Leche League or The National Childbirth Trust (see Further Details for addresses). Many benefits are conveyed to the baby by breast feeding including some enhancement of the immune system, protection against infection, and reduced risk of allergies. In addition, breast milk is designed specifically for babies and quite probably contains substances needed by growing infants which are not even known to be essential and are not included in infant formulae.
Formula Milk & Soya Milk
If for any reason the baby is not being breast-fed or infant formula is used to supplement breast feeding, there is only one soya infant formula on the UK market suitable for vegans to use - Farley's Soya Formula made by Heinz. It is suitable to use from birth until adulthood! Available from chemists.
It is important that soya milk should not substituted for soya infant formula as it does not contain the proper ratio of protein, fat, carbohydrate, nor the vitamins and minerals required to be used as a sole food. Soya milk should not be fed to babies under 6 months of age because it has levels of protein which are too high and excessive protein intake is thought to be medically undesirable at this stage.
Plamil soya milk is fortified with calcium (to approximately the level of human milk) combined with the necessary vitamin D2 to enable the calcium to be absorbed, plus the essential vitamins B2 and B12. The sweetened version is suitable for infants during and beyond the weaning stage. Also, where a supplementary feed is required it may be diluted to bring it closer to human milk. Plamil Foods Ltd recommends that no such supplementary feeding takes place without (a) the parent or authorised representative notifying Plamil Foods Ltd in writing at the outset of the name and address of the doctor/medical advisor so the company may provide them with information relating to the product and (b) the parent undertakes to arrange regular medical supervision.
The Best Diet for Breastfeeding
The best diet for breast feeding is similar to that recommended for pregnancy. (See 'Pregnancy'). Calories, protein and vitamin B12 are higher while recommendations for iron are lower than during pregnancy.
The recommended calorie intake is 500 calories above the usual intake.
Breastfeeding women should ensure 2.0mg per day of B12.
Protein requirements rise to 56g+ of protein per day for breastfeeding mothers from the birth of the baby until 6 months of age. From the age of 6 months it can be reduced to 53g+ of protein per day. A guide to the amount of food that should be eaten on a daily basis, are as follows:
Portions of some vegan foods providing 10g of protein
Type of food Weight of food providing 10g protein
· Peanuts - 39g
· Almonds - 47g
· Chickpeas, dried & boiled - 119g
· Tofu, steamed - 124g
· Peas, boiled - 159g
· Wholemeal bread - 109g
· Brown rice, boiled - 109g
· Spinach, boiled - 454g
Weight Loss & Milk Loss
If too little food is eaten while breastfeeding then quantities of milk produced are liable to be lower. However, a loss of weight may be experienced because of a loss of calories in breast milk. It is safe to lose 1/2-1 lb a week while breastfeeding but more rigorous dieting is not recommended. As with pregnancy, small frequent meals are best. Since extra fluid is required at this time, use nutritious drinks like fruit and vegetable juices, soya milk (flavoured or unflavoured), soups and smoothies to provide calories as well.
Section Three - Vegan Infant Feeding
Vegan Infant Feeding - A Sensitive Issue!
Unless you are living in a supportive vegan environment, doubts about feeding children a vegan diet may creep in. Food is a sensitive issue at this time because people want the best for their children, giving the best foods possible. It is not uncommon for adults, who know the vegan diet is healthy for themselves, to re-evaluate whether it is such a good idea for their children. GPs, pediatricians and nutritionists still raise doubts about the adequacy of the diet and in some cases strongly advise against it. Please don't be deterred. Providing you follow a few simple guidelines you will be giving your child a perfectly healthy diet. The way forward will be smoother if family, friends and healthcare professionals see that you have a sound knowledge of nutrition and your child is thriving.
Support From a Vegan Doctor
One of the many advocates of a vegan diet for children is Dr Michael Klaper. Dr Klaper, an honors graduate of the University of Illinois in Chicago, has postgraduate training in medicine, surgery, anesthesiology and obstetrics. His clinical experience includes eight years of conventional general practice, and three years as physician in an isolated hospital in the mountains of northern California. He has seen thousands of patients in his general medical office. After prescribing a vegan diet to his patients he began to see beneficial changes in their health. Dr Klaper criticizes dairy products for their role in causing health problems - from runny noses to inflammed joints. Klaper's recommendations that children should never consume dairy products raises a few eyebrows from his medical colleagues. He has written two informative books Vegan Nutrition: Pure & Simple and Pregnancy, Children & the Vegan Diet (both available from the Vegan Society - see Further Details). Extracts taken from Pregnancy, Children & the Vegan Diet follows:
From Birth to 18 months
It makes sense for vegans to continue breastfeeding for a year, if possible, because breast milk is such a rich source of nutrients. However, many infants are not that interested in breastfeeding after 10-12 months and will begin drinking from a cup. Here is a chronological look at how to meet your baby's nutritional needs with a vegan diet.
Birth to 6 Months
From birth to 6 months, all of the baby's nutritional needs can be met through breast milk. Never let your baby nurse from the breast or bottle while lying flat on his or her back. Such a position permits the nasal cavity and middle ear canals to fill with milk, possibly leading to ear infections and allergies.
6 to 8 Months
At 6 months, solid foods can be introduced, but do not hurry the weaning process if the baby is content with breast milk alone. Pay attention to your baby's signals; you can tell your baby is ready for solid foods if he or she cries after breastfeedings or chews on the nipple. Even then, continue breastfeeding for as long as is comfortable for you and your baby. (Some babies are ready for solids shortly before six months. If such is the case with your baby, by all means start solids.)
The best time to introduce solid foods to your baby is just after nursings, when the baby is not ravenously hungry. Be patient and go slowly. The classic "first food" is mashed banana, though other good bets are apple sauce and peaches which are cooked and mashed. Start with a small amount of mashed banana as you hold the baby in your lap, tilting him/her back slightly as you touch the spoon to him/her lips and drop the food into his/her mouth. Show him/her by your smile that this is something they will like. If the baby isn't interested the first few times you try to introduce solids, just forget the whole project for another week. When the baby is ready, don't try to fill him/her up with the solids; these first attempts are merely an introduction. The baby will let you know when she has had enough by turning away her head, clamping her mouth shut or spitting the food out. Take his/her word for it.
Later, at about 7 months, your baby should be ready for well-cooked, wholegrain cereals that are mushy in consistency. Avoid commercial baby cereals, which are more expensive and do not have equal nutritional value as homemade. If your family has a history of wheat, soy or corn allergies, start with rice or oat cereals. A small amount of mashed banana or breast milk can be added to the cooked cereal for easy introduction.
When introducing solids to your baby, offer one type of food only and then observe how well it is tolerated. If two or more foods are introduced at the same time, and the baby has diarrhoea, colic or other digestive problems, you will not know which food was the culprit. Give the baby's digestive system a few days (up to a week) to get used to each new food before introducing additional ones.
Avoid all baby foods that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar contains no vitamins, minerals or protein and can lead to obesity, both now and later in your child's life. Sweetened foods also confuse and seduce the appetite because they tend to satisfy hunger and displace healthful foods.
8 to 10 Months
At 8 to 10 months, you can introduce potatoes. Bake them whole to preserve vitamins, and mash with a small amount of water or breast milk. Or try mashing them with cooked beetroot to make them pink, much to the delight of babies this age.
After potatoes are well accepted (at nine to eleven months), your baby will be ready for fresh fruits, such as pears, peaches, plums and melons. Peeled apple may be given if scraped with a spoon or grated. To prevent allergies, do not give citrus fruits to babies until one year of age, and never offer sticky fruits like dates, figs and raisins until they can chew small pieces well and can floss their teeth afterward (with a little help from a grownup)
10 to 12 months
At 10 to 12 months, begin to introduce more cooked vegetables, either finely grated or blended. Try sweet potatoes (if you haven't already), winter squash and carrots; then experiment with other cooked vegetables. Do not give chunks or sticks of vegetables to children under 3 because of danger of choking. After the child's tolerance to various foods is established, you can offer blended salads. Merely blend avocado, tofu, apple sauce, cooked greens, and some nut butter (and a dropperful of iron-enriched vitamins, if 'vitamin insurance' is desired); then spoon-feed.
During this time period, you may also introduce well-cooked whole grains, like strained rice, barley oatmeal. Or try a high-protein cereal, with soya beans and wheat germ.
12 to 14 Months
At age 12 to 14 months, you can add legumes (peas and beans) to your baby's menu, but be sure all beans are cooked until quite soft and the skins (especially soya) are removed. A thin split-pea soup is a good introduction to legume protein. Check the baby's stool to see whether the beans are being digested well. If the stool smells sour, if the baby's bottom becomes reddened or irritated, or if parts of beans are seen, wait a while before trying legumes again. Some children do not tolerate whole legumes until age two or three, but that is okay. other soy products (such as soya milk and tofu) and grains will meet your child's nutritional needs. Hummus, made with chickpeas and tahini (sesame seed butter), is a tasty protein and calcium-rich food that can be used to augment an infant's nutrient intake. Another winner is avocado, rich in riboflavin, essential fatty acids, potassium and copper. Small pieces of ripe avocado can be eaten as finger food, or blended with water or fruit juice.
You can now give breads to your baby. Start with toast; it's easier for the baby to chew. And don't forget how much children, even young ones, love noodles. Pastas, enriched with artichoke and other vegetable flours and served with gravies and sauces, provide energy and protein.
Also try to get your child to appreciate raw vegetables, like carrots and cucumbers, at this age. Grating them finely or putting a dab or peanut butter, tahini or almond butter on these vegetables will often entice a child. Plain tofu and rice cakes are other healthful snacks.
14 to 18 Months
By age 14 to 18 months, your child should be eating the same foods you eat (after putting the foods through a baby food grinder, if necessary) and, because of your insistence on raising him or her on a vegan diet, will be off to great start, health-wise. Throughout these early months of your child's life you may have to endure criticisms from others that you're being "reckless" or "experimental". But be assured: A vegan diet is a good start for the health of a child.
Section 4 - Children
Research Gives Veganism the Thumbs Up!
Studies carried out on life long vegan children in 1981 and 1992 showed that although generally lighter in weight than their omnivore peers, vegan children are within the normal ranges for height and weight. Infants and children raised on a varied vegan diet obtain adequate protein and energy, are healthy and grow normally. 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 from their infants' diets on a piecemeal basis and without seeking proper advice.
Some Key Points for Feeding Vegan Children
Infants need plenty of energy. Home-prepared cereals should be made as a thick porridge, not as a thin gruel. Adding a little vegetable oil to the cooked grains, increases their calorie content, and improves palatability by making them less glutinous as they cool.
Use more soya bean oil or rapeseed (canola) oil, and less sunflower, safflower or corn oils. The former may encourage the production of fatty acids which are important for the development of the brain and vision.
Don't let infants fill up with liquids before eating their meals.
Spread breads with margarine fortified with D2 and B12 or with seed or nut butters to increase energy density.
Low salt yeast extract is a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Well cooked and mashed pulses provide energy and protein.
Use black molasses to boost iron and calcium intakes.
Tofu prepared with calcium salt (usually calcium sulphate) contains more calcium than cow's milk. It is also rich in protein.
Make sure children have access to sunshine regularly and give vitamin D2 supplements in winter.
Use soya milk which is fortified with calcium, vitamin D2 and vitamin B12.
Information on Some Key Nutrients for Children
What children primarily require is sufficient food energy i.e. calories rather than protein per se. With adequate calories an individual will be in positive nitrogen balance and will thrive on a diet in which protein is available from a mix of plant-based foods.
After birth, if a woman's breast milk contains too little B12, deficiency can then occur in her infant - not in the first few weeks of life but after a few months when his or her own stores have run down. B12 problems in breastfeeding infants of vegan mothers remain very rare. Requirements include 0.3ug per day for infants aged 0-6 months and 0.4ug for infants aged 6-12 months. Children from 1-10 years of age should consume 0.5ug increasing to 1ug per day. B12 deficiency in infancy and childhood is rare. However, because deficiency can have severe effects, and because natural plant sources of the vitamin are in doubt it is prudent for vegan families to use and give their children fortified foods or supplements.
Except in northern latitudes, most people obtain vitamin D from exposure to sunshine, rather than food. Consequently the UK hasa set Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) only for people most at risk from deficiency - that is infants from 8.5ug dropping to 7ug per day. Formula feeds contain sufficient vitamin D for infants but breast milk may not supply adequate amounts after 4-6 months of age especially in northern countries in the winter. Even in the general population, some autumn-born babies who are solely breast fed throughout winter may develop a deficiency, because the vitamin D content of their mother's breast milk is low. Nutritional rickets is more likely to occur under these conditions in dark-skinned people, especially if traditional clothing limits exposure to sunshine. Brief daily exposure of the skin to daylight in spring, summer and autumn, although not at the hottest times of the day, nor necessarily in direct sunshine, will ensure adequate vitamin D. Alternatively vitamin D fortified foods or supplements are an option for solely breast-fed infants and at weaning.
Calcium deficiency has not been reported in vegan children. Given the importance of calcium intake during youth on the future risk of osteoporosis, vegan parents like any others should ensure calcium-rich foods in the diet. The RNIs are: 350-550mg per day for infants and children to the age of 10 years, 800mg per day for teenage girls, 1000mg per day for teenage boys.
Infants can absorb up to 50% of the iron in human breast milk but it is calculated that only 10% of the iron in formula milks is absorbed. A 1981 survey of British vegan children aged 1-4.6 years found an average iron intake of 10mg per day, mainly from wheat and pulses, which considerably exceeds the British RNI of 6.1-6.9mg per day. A follow up study at the ages of 5.8-12.8 years confirmed that all the children were still consuming the RNI for iron. The 1991 UK RNI is: 0-3 months - 1.7mg per day; 4-6 months - 4.3mg per day; 7-12 months - 7.8mg per day; children up to 10 years - 6.1-8.7mg per day (depending on age); and teenagers from 11.3-14.8mg per day.
There is evidence from the general population that malformations occurring in some infants may be linked to zinc insufficiency in their mothers. Human milk is not a rich source of this mineral and during breastfeeding infants draw on their body reserves laid down during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Thus premature babies may be at risk of zinc deficiency. UK recommendations are 0-6 months - 4mg/day; 7 months-3 years - 5mg/day; 4-6 years - 6mg/day; 7-10 years - 7 mg/day.
Suggested Meal Plan for the Vegan Child
The following meal plan is taken from Pregnancy, Children & the Vegan Diet by Dr Michael Klaper. We hope it will be useful in providing an idea of amounts of foods that should be given to the growing child.
Daily Servings Per Age Group
Type of Food Approximate Serving 6 mths-1 yr 1-4 yrs 4-6 yrs
· BREAD 1 slice 1 3 4
· CEREALS (enriched) 1-5 tbs 1/2 finely ground 1 2
· FATS 1 tsp 0 3 4
· citrus 2-4 oz 0 2 juiced/chopped 2
· other* 2-6 tbs 2-6 tbs 2 chopped 3
· PROTEINø 1-6 tbs 2 cooked/sieved 3 chopped 3
· VEGETABLES 2-3 oz
· green leafy/deep
· yellow 1/4 cooked/pureed 1/2 chopped 1
· other§ 1/2 cooked/pureed 1 chopped 1
· Fortified 200ml 3 3 3
· Soya Milk
· e.g. Farleys Soya Formula
· molasses 1 tbs 0 1 1
· wheatgerm 1 tbs 0 optional optional
* Other fruits include avocado, apple, peach, banana, pear, berries, apricots and grapes.
ø Protein foods include nuts, nut butters, peanut butter, pulses, seeds, seed butters and tofu.Nut milks may be made for older children but should not replace soya milk. Nuts and seeds should be ground for the toddler.
§ Other vegetables include bean sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, celery, onions, cucumbers, beetroot and cauliflower.
Section 5 - Mixing With Non-Vegan Children
Having Friends 'Round
When dealing with your child's non-vegan friends, it is worth making a note of the types of foods they will be likely to expect at parties, afternoon tea, etc. These foods are likely to be slightly different from those that would be served to fellow vegans who are into the no-sugar wholefood type diet. Children are notoriously undiplomatic in expressing their disapproval of food and it can be very upsetting for vegan children to have 'their' food curtly rejected - especially at a birthday party or similar special gathering of friends.
If children are expecting a more conventional approach to meals, try to go along with this expectation. In this way the likelihood is they will think the vegan diet is not so strange after all and be more willing to try more of the same in the future. For example, avoid wholemeal breads if children are used to white bread and avoid wholemeal pastry if they usually have pastry made with white flour. The Jus Rol frozen pastry is ideal as it comes as shortcrust, puff or filo - even ready to use vol-au-vents. Carob in cakes or sweets is not a good idea if they have never eaten it before as their taste buds are usually anticipating the sweet chocolate taste and are therefore quite disappointed. There are many good quality vegan 'ice creams' on the market which should win over any non-vegan child. There are also good quality jellies available now not only in wholefood shops but also in supermarkets e.g. the Rowntrees Ready To Eat jellies in small plastic tubs, ideal for little hands to cope with (and the tubs can be re-used again to make jellies, trifles, etc for kids to take to school for lunch). Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls will fool anyone into thinking they are eating meat. Add to this sticks of fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery, halves of tomatoes, crisps, peanuts and fruit juices or fizzy drinks. There are plenty of recipes around for good vegan sponge cakes (chocolate is always popular) to round off the meal. If they haven't got any room left for the cake, cut it up into slices and put a couple of portions in their party bag to take home.
Preparing for School
Packed lunches are invariably easier than taking pot luck with school meals. If the school has a good record of providing wholefood vegetarian options, there may be no problem requesting a vegan meal. The Vegan Society's provide a catering pack which can be passed on to the canteen or catering company dealing with meals for your child's school.
Whilst adults find it difficult to put up with a constant barrage of criticism from relatives and friends, children find it much harder, being more sensitive to criticism and peer pressure. They really just want to 'fit in' with the rest of the kids in the class and not have to constantly defend their food and lifestyle. Other than at lunchtime, veganism is probably not going to be much of an issue at primary school. However, it is wise to prepare children with sound information on veganism so they are able to stand firm against any comments coming their way. Secondary school is likely to be more of a problem depending on the level of awareness in the school. Animal rights as an issue is more and more popular with kids in their teens and vegetarianism (if not veganism) is becoming commonplace. Some schools are making a tremendous effort to provide healthier food in the canteen so things are improving all the time. The subject of veganism is even on the the GCSE syllabus now!
There is plently of literature around from different animal rights organisations that will provide your child with good defence material against peers who question their lifestyle. Animal Aid, for example, has a good Youth Group and plenty of literature and posters aimed at schoolchildren.
Providing vegan parents offer as much support, information and advice on this subject as they would on any other about which they hold firm convictions then this will give kids a good grounding for the future. Children deserve to have information presented to them in a manner which takes into account of their age, sensitivity and level of understanding . Honest answers and straight talking will pay rich dividends at a later date. Children who are not fed an assortment of half-truths or deliberate misinformation will have little difficulty in making the connection between live animals and the food on their plate.
The subject of whether or not to vaccinate children is an oft debated topic pf particular concern vegans and vegetarians who want to know more about the content of the vaccines, whether animal testing has been involved in their production and their long-term safety. Dr Gill Langley discusses the issues and their relevance to vegans in the Vegan Society's information sheet on Vaccinations.
In the UK families on low incomes are offered milk tokens. However, the Department of Health stipulates that these may be exchanged only for cow's milk. It may be possible to obtain Farley's Soya Formula on prescription if the GP considers there to be a medical reason for it to be supplied to the infant. The Vegan Society periodically lobbies the DoH to outline its concerns over this issue. To increase pressure on the Department of Health to change its policy on milk tokens, please write to it requesting that vegan parents be permitted to exchange the tokens for a vegan alternative to cow's milk or considers making a cash allowance available in lieu of tokens. The Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS.
The Vegetarian Baby by Sharon Yntema. Published by Thorsons.
Vegetarian Children by Sharon Yntema. Published by Thorsons.
Healthy Vegan Infants/Children. Published by Plamil Foods Ltd, Plamil House, Bowles Well Gardens, Folkestone, Kent. £2.00 plus A5 SAE.
Living Without Cruelty by Mark Gold. Published by Green Print.
Vegan Nutrition by Gill Langley. Published by The Vegan Society.*
Pregnancy, Children & the Vegan Diet by M. Klaper. Published by Gentle World.*
Simply Vegan by Debra Wasserman & Reed Mangels. Published by VRG (US)*
Vegan Nutrition: Pure & Simple by M. Klaper. Published by Gentle World*
Why Vegan by Kath Clements *
Weaning Your Baby with Wholefoods. Published by Heretic.
Animal Free Shopper. Published by the Vegan Society. (small section on Baby & Infant Care products)*
All books marked with an * are available from The Vegan Society.
Animal Aid, The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1AW. Tel: 01732 364546.
La Leche League GB, PO Box 29, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 6FY. (Breastfeeding help & information).
National Childbirth Trust, Alexandra House, Oldham Terrace, London W3 6NH. Tel: 020 8992 8637.
Mothers Know Best, 4 Wallace Road, London N1 2PG (information on antibiotics, vaccinations, home schooling, hyperactivity, how to win an argument with teachers & doctors).
Plamil Foods Ltd, Plamil House, Bowles Well Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT19 6PQ. Tel: 01303 850588.
The Vegan Families List
The Vegan Society holds a list of vegan families in the UK which is available free on receipt of a SAE. This is a network of vegan families who have had or have vegan children and are happy to be contacted for advice and support. If you would like your family to be added to the list please send a stamped addressed envelope for a Vegan Families Questionnaire.