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by Erin Pavlina
A vegan does not eat
any foods that contain animal products. This means no beef, chicken, fish, pork
or veal; no milk, cheese, butter, eggs, sour cream, or cottage cheese. Instead a
vegan eats fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes.
Is a vegan diet healthy for an active, growing child? Absolutely. Children
raised on a vegan diet eat more fruits and vegetables than their meat-eating
counterparts. They are sick less often, and don't have as many food allergies.
Even vegan junk food is healthier than regular junk food, containing fruit juice
instead of sugar, and whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Family and
friends may worry that your child will be ostracized at school if he brings tofu
and sprouts. So send your child to school with a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich, apple, carrots, and fruit-sweetened cookies and no one will know your
child is eating a "special" diet. At birthday parties, find out what the host is
serving and drop your child off with the vegan equivalent of those items.
Most of you probably know how important it is to breastfeed your baby, but it's
even more important when you're vegan. As of this writing there are no
commercial soy infant formulas on the U.S. market that are 100% vegan. They all
contain Vitamin D derived from an animal. And cow's milk formulas are out for
obvious reasons. What does that leave you with? Not much choice. If you want
your baby to be vegan, you've got to breastfeed or find a milk bank that has
collected and stored milk from a vegan mom (difficult at best).
It's important to be
prepared to breastfeed, you don't want to wing it. It may sound simple and easy
to breastfeed but there's a lot more to it than just putting your breast in the
baby's mouth. While you're still pregnant, read books about breastfeeding and
attend a few La Leche League meetings so that you can get your baby latched on
by yourself if there's no one there at the birth who can help you. If your
birthing center or hospital provides a lactation consultant, use her! If you can
afford to hire a lactation consultant, they are worth their weight in gold. If
finances are tight, seek a La Leche League meeting or leader who will help you
free of charge. They can also help you overcome any unforeseen difficulties that
How Long to Breastfeed
How long you
breastfeed your baby is entirely up to you. Current recommendations suggest
breastfeeding for a minimum of one year, and two if it's mutually desireable.
Since infants need breastmilk or formula for at least one year and since there
are no vegan formulas, as a vegan mom you should plan on breastfeeding your baby
for at least the first year. Babies need breastmilk or formula until they are
one year old. After that you can give them soy beverages and other nondairy
beverages if you are not still breastfeeding.
The well known
advantages of breastfeeding your infant include providing natural immunity
against numerous diseases, fewer ear infections, less allergies, less
gastrointestinal disorders, lower incidence of SIDS, and a decreased risk of
contracting diabetes. One lesser known advantage is that the breastmilk of vegan
women is refreshingly void of toxins that are found in large quantities in the
breastmilk of non-vegan women. Breastfeeding is also better for the environment
as there is no waste or pollution. And, of course, breastfeeding is much better
for the animals, who'd like to keep their milk for their own babies.
Feeding Vegan Babies
The breast milk of
vegan women is refreshingly void of many toxins and pesticides that are found in
the breast milk of meat-eating women. This affords a vegan baby an even better
chance for short and long term health.
Feeding Vegan Infants
The first foods any
child eats are usually mashed fruits, soft veggies, and iron fortified rice
cereals. All of these items are vegan so nothing special needs to be said for
starting solids. Avoiding cow's milk and eggs are probably good advice for the
first year of any child's life anyway. After that, simply give your vegan child
samples of food from your own plate and see what she likes.
Feeding Vegan Children
As your child gets older you can incorporate the things most kids enjoy eating.
Below are some suggestions for things most vegan children will enjoy and will
ensure that he has a well balanced and varied diet:
Spaghetti with tomato sauce
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Chicken-Free nuggets (soy protein nuggets that taste just like breaded chicken)
Baked french fries with ketchup
Burgers, hot dogs and sandwich slices made of tofu and other meat substitutes
Whole wheat bread (3-4 slices each day)
Grilled soy cheese sandwiches
Veggie pizzas with soy cheese
Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon
Pancakes with pure maple syrup
Waffles with fruit
Barley and vegetable soup
Romaine lettuce salad
Vegetables, including green leafy and deep yellow vegetables
Baked potato with broccoli and tofu sour cream (non dairy)
Rice and beans
Calcium-fortified orange juice
Calcium-fortified soy milk (3 cups each day).
Iron-fortified cereal with calcium-fortified soy milk supplements: a vegan
multivitamin to provide Vitamin B12 and zinc, and extra iron and calcium
Fruits, cut up into bite sized pieces for children under 4 (4-5 1/2 cup servings
with at least 2 servings of citrus fruit or juice each day)
Fresh berries and sorbet (all fruit without sugar)
Vegans can't eat white sugar, and most candy is made with it. But there are some
vegan chocolate companies that make some good stuff, and a gummy bear substitute
that isn't bad made with fruit juice. Vegan cakes, donuts, cookies, and pies are
Is a Vegan Diet During
During pregnancy it is vital to maintain a healthy diet for the safety of the
developing fetus. Pregnant vegans have a tremendous advantage since their diet
is naturally high in the vitamins and minerals the baby needs. As long as her
diet is varied and incorporates a reliable source of B12, a vegan woman can be
reasonably sure she is meeting her daily requirements. A visit to a registered
dietician who specializes in vegan diets can help ease her mind if she is unsure
of her particular diet.
Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet by Dr. Michael Klaper, the bible for
It is important to eat a varied diet during pregnancy to ensure an adequate
supply of many vitamins and minerals. Below is a list of some food choices that
are healthy and rich in the nutrients a woman needs during pregnancy. These
items are good choices even for non-vegan women.
Whole grain cereal with soy milk
Whole grain pancakes with pure maple syrup
Oatmeal with dried fruit or apples and cinnamon
Whole wheat toast with all fruit preserves
Romaine lettuce salad with chopped vegetables and low fat dressing
Veggie sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onions.
Baked potato with broccoli and tofu sour cream (non dairy)
Falafel sandwich with humus or tahini
Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce
Vegetarian pizza with no cheese
Vegetable stir fry with brown rice
popcorn with nutritional yeast
fruit juice with sweetened cookies
Handling The Opinions
It isn't always easy
being a vegan. Not everyone understands the nature of the diet or how healthy it
really is. The best way to deal with people who challenge the safety of a vegan
diet is to arm yourself with information. Read Diet For A New America by John
Robbins. This book provides wonderful documentation of the ill effects of the
standard American diet and describes how healthy a plant based diet is. Also,
when dealing with the opinions of family and friends, remember that you don't
take medical advice from your insurance broker, so don't take advice about diet
from anyone isn't an expert.
It's important that a
vegan child not feel different just because their diet may not be shared by
those around them. During holidays it's wise to find vegan equivalents to
favorite holiday treats. For example, a vegan Easter basket can include vegan
chocolate eggs and plastic eggs with coins in them. Halloween can be tough, but
one idea is to get together with other vegan parents and have a Halloween party.
Let the kids dress up in costume and enjoy activities like bobbing for apples.
Serve vegan cupcakes and confections in the shapes of monsters, and carve
pumpkins too. With a little forethought and creativity, a vegan child can enjoy
the same holidays non-vegan children do.
Raising a vegan child
is just as exciting, rewarding, and filled with challenges as raising any child.
But providing your child a vegan diet will give him an early start on leading a
long and healthy life.
For more information
on raising healthy vegan children, pregnancy, and vegan parenting, visit the
VegFamily website at
Although not for
everybody, a vegan diet does indeed have many health benefits, and if planned
appropriately, it can be a healthy diet for children. Parents, especially if
they are vegans, can feel reassured that they can raise their kids to be vegans
too. The article mentions that children raised on a vegan diet are 'sick less
often' and that the breast milk of women on a vegan diet is 'void of many toxins
and pesticides,' and that this may give 'a vegan baby an even better chance for
short and long term health.' These comments are the opinions of the author and
have not been confirmed by medical or scientific studies. The purpose of this
article is more to teach parents on how to safely raise a child as a vegan and
not to convert all parents to this type of diet.
The foods that are part of a vegan diet are low in cholesterol and saturated
fats and they are high in fiber (all characteristics of a healthy diet) and may
lead to a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type II
diabetes. And since most of the foods that people are allergic to (cow's milk,
egg whites, seafood, poultry) aren't part of the vegan diet, your child is much
less likely to suffer from food allergies. These health benefits led Dr. Spock
to recommend a strict vegan diet for all children over the age of 2. This
proposal created a lot of controversy, but not because experts disputed the
health benefits of a vegan diet, but rather because they thought that parents
might not take enough time and effort to plan a vegan diet that included enough
calories, minerals and nutrients to ensure optimal growth in their children.
Some areas that you should pay special attention to if your child is on a vegan
Vegan diets may have less calories than diets that include meat and dairy
products. Although it isn't necessary to count calories each day, you should
ensure that your child is receiving enough calories for their optimal growth. In
general, if your child is eating a well balanced and varied vegan diet, is
gaining weight and developing normally and is active, with a lot of energy, then
he is probably getting enough calories.
Getting Your Vitamins
breastfeeding it is extremely important to make sure you are getting all the
nutrients you need in your own diet. Your baby is counting on you to provide her
with all the nutrients she needs to grow at a healthy rate. While getting a well
balanced diet and sufficient vitamin intake is of extreme importance while
breastfeeding, the following two vitamins are of particular concern to vegan
women. Be absolutely sure you are getting enough of these:
Babies are born with zero to little stores of this important vitamin. B12 will
pass through your breastmilk in sufficient quantities ONLY if you're getting
plenty in your own diet. If you are not 100% sure you're getting enough
yourself, consider giving your infant a liquid B12 supplement from the time she
is 2 weeks old until you stop breastfeeding. This vitamin is only absorbed from animal products, so your child will need to
take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with Vitamin B12 (check
nutrition labels), including fortified soy milk and some meat substitutes. Also,
nutritional yeast as a great way to get B-12.
Get out into the sunshine! If you can't get 10-15 minutes per day of sunshine,
or 20-30 minutes two to three times per week, then you must be sure to get
enough Vitamin D in your diet. Good sources of this vitamin are found in
fortified non-dairy beverages. Let your baby's skin get some sunshine too, but
be very careful not to expose your infant to too much sunlight because of the
damaging effects of ultraviolet light. If you live in colder climates and aren't
sure you're getting enough Vitamin D, you can supplement. Find Vitamin D2
because that is plant derived. Vitamin D3 is from an animal source. Your body also
makes Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so most children do not have problems
with Vitamin D deficiency. If your child is not exposed to the sun very often,
then you should consider Vitamin supplements or a soy milk that is fortified
with Vitamin D.
Calcium is a mineral that is mostly present in your child's bones. Having a diet
with foods that are high in calcium to meet daily requirements is necessary for
the development of strong bones. It is also an important way to prevent the
development of osteoporosis in adults. Many vegetables contain calcium,
especially broccoli, sweet potatoes, great northern and navy beans, and leafy
greens. You can also give your child soy milk or orange juice that is fortified
with extra calcium.
Protein. You can make sure that your child gets enough protein and amino acids
by eating a good balance of grains and legumes.
Your child will need to take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with
zinc to get enough of this important mineral, since the best sources of zinc are
meat and yogurt. Zinc is also found in whole grains, brown rice, legumes, and
La Leche League
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch and Judy Torgus
The Breastfeeding Book by Martha Sears R.N. and William Sears M.D.
Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet by Michael Klaper, M.D.
Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.