Your child can absolutely thrive as a vegan. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (the world’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals) position is that well-planned vegan diets are healthy, nutritionally adequate, may help to prevent and treat certain diseases, and is appropriate for all life stages, including infancy and childhood. Healthy food preferences are established early in life. In fact, they begin in the womb. By feeding your child healthy, whole plant foods in their early years, you are setting them up for a healthy future and good food habits (Mennella, Jagnow & Beauchamp, 2001).
Very young children need to have higher calorie foods than we do because their stomachs are small and if your child has massive quantities of fibre, they may not get in the adequate calories and nutrients their body requires. Adding foods such as avocado, tahini, nut butters, and dried fruit will ensure adequate fats and calories.
Key Nutrients for vegans include:
o Calcium: Calcium fortified plant milks & tofu, almond butter, tahini and green leafy vegetables.
o Iron: Legumes, tofu, nuts & seeds, quinoa, dried fruit and dark leafy green vegetables. Include vitamin C to enhance absorption like citrus, capsicum, berries & broccoli.
o Omega 3’s: Flax meal, walnuts & chia seeds. Vegan marine algae supplements are available too if you’re concerned.
o B12: Include fortified foods like plant milks, veggie burgers, nutritional yeast & give your child a B12 supplement (speak to a plant-based dietitian for advice) (The Dietitians Association of Australia, 2018 )
o Vitamin D is obtained from the sun. The length of time required to expose the face and arms are heavily dependent on the time of year and the UV levels. According to Osteoporosis Australia, outdoor play and outdoor activities throughout the year is the best way for children to obtain vitamin D, using a hat and sunscreen in the summer months. Never allow your child’s skin to burn.