Question: Dear Monique, I read about vegetarian diets being safe for babies, but what about vegan diets? I have recently made the decision to make the change to a vegan diet for myself and would also like to do that for my children as well. I have a 4 month old whose formula I recently switched to soy formula, and I have a 4 year old who I have started giving soymilk and soy cheese. Friends, family, and acquaintances tell me that vegetarian diets and vegan diets aren't safe for children this young ... what can I tell them to back up my beliefs and decision? Thank You, Wendy
Answer: Yes, vegan diets are safe for babies. While many of your relatives, friends and acquaintances mean well, they are misinformed. All the nutrients and protein needed by infants and children for growth and good health, can be obtained through plant sources. So long as your children get enough calories, a properly planned vegan diet is not only safe, it can protect their health now and long into the future. In fact, according to the American Dietetic Association's position paper on vegetarian diets, "Appropriately planned vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth."
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. They reduce the risk for obesity and provide antioxidants. Encouraging children to eat healthy from the start, will provide a good foundation for them in the future. Vegan and vegetarian long-term eating habits produce a positive effect on a child's health, weight, and need for medical treatments.
In fact, even the seventh edition of the book "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care" recommends a vegan diet for children! In this book Dr. Benjamin Spock, America's most respected baby doctor, wrote "Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer ... I no longer recommend dairy products. ... there was a time when cow's milk was considered very desirable. But research, along with clinical experience, has forced doctors and nutritionists to rethink this recommendation."
For more information read ...
(1) "Feeding Vegan Kids" by Reed Mangels at http://vrg.org/nutshell/kids.htm
(2) "Vegan Nutrition in Pregnancy and Childhood" by Reed Mangels and Katie Kavanagh-Prochaska at http://vrg.org/nutrition/pregnancy.htm
(3) "Vegetarian diet on solid ground, experts say" by Sunny Aslam at http://www.usatoday.com/news/healthscience/health/diet/2001-12-07-vegetarian.htm
(4) "Healthy Snacks for Kids" at http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/snacks.html
(5) "Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start" at
(6) Veganism at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism
(7) The book Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (8th Edition)
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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.