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Nutritionists have warned parents that toddlers on a plant-based diet can ‘risk missing out on vitamins and minerals’.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) issued updated nutrition guidelines for toddlers earlier this week, as more and more people start eschewing animal products, saying parents should see their GP before putting their children on a vegan diet.
But a health expert has told Plant Based News that nutritional planning is an important part of parenting – whether children are vegan or not – and that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages.
British Nutrition Foundation guidelines
According to the new BNF guidelines – called the 5532-A-Day Guide – children between one and four years old should consume five daily portions of starchy foods such as bread or pasta, five of fruit and vegetables, three of dairy and two of protein. Vegan and vegetarian children should consume an additional protein portion (for example, chickpeas).
“Even when parents know which foods are part of a healthy diet, it can sometimes be difficult to know what sized portion is suitable for a young child, and how often they should be eating from the different food groups each day, Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF, said.
The BNF also tells parents they should be cautious about putting their child on a vegan diet, and should first take them to a GP to get vitamins and dietary supplements.
Heather Russell, Dietitian at The Vegan Society, told PBN that nutritional planning is an important part of parenting, whether you are vegan.
She said: “The Vegan Society works with the British Dietetic Association to share the message that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages,”
“In the UK, vitamin D drops are recommended for all breastfed babies from birth. Between six months and five years of age, supplementation of vitamins A, C and D is recommended for all children who are breastfed or consuming less than 500ml of infant formula daily.”
She added: “Additional considerations for vegan children include vitamin B12 and iodine, which can be provided via fortified foods or supplementation. Calcium and riboflavin intakes can be maintained by offering a fortified alternative to milk.
“Vitamin A status can be supported without animal products by providing a rich source of carotenoids daily, such as carrots or sweet potato. There are many plant-based sources of iron and zinc, like beans, chickpeas, lentils and tofu, and iron absorption can be boosted by including a rich source of vitamin C in each meal, such as pepper, broccoli, cabbage or mango.
“Childhood nutrition guides reviewed by a pediatric dietitian are available at vegansociety.com/nutrition. If a parent has concerns about their child’s diet, we recommend that they talk to their doctor about seeing a dietitian for expert advice.”