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30th Dec 2019

Toddlers and tofu: is it safe for children to be vegan?

Jade Hayden

Veganism is all the rage these days.

Everyone and their mother is chatting about the diet that could be en route to saving the world. And, as it turns out, so are their kids.

We already know that’s entirely possible to follow a vegan diet and get every single nutrient that you need to live a completely healthy life, but what about those among us who might be more vulnerable when it comes to growth and development?

Specifically, children.

It seems as if every couple of months we’re presented with another shocking story of parents starving their children to the point of malnourishment via a so-called ‘vegan diet.’

But is it really the ‘vegan diet’ we should be focusing on, or the active neglect these people are inflicting on their children.

And, at the end of the day, is it safe for children to be vegan?

According to dietician Maeve Hanan from Orla Walsh Nutrition – yes, it is.

She says that when it comes to nutrition, each individual is different.

What works for one person diet-wise may not work for another. However, choosing to eat a diet free from any animal products can be entirely safe if done properly, no matter how old a person is.

“A vegan diet can be safe and appropriate at all life stages,” she says, “but there are certain groups that are more nutritionally vulnerable.”

“We’re talking about infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, somebody who’s unwell or malnourished, or someone who has an eating disorder. All those things can impact whether it’s appropriate, and those people may need some extra support.”

This extra support could come in the form of working with a dietician, closely monitoring the person’s health, and regularly going for check ups to ensure that they – and this is particularly applicable for children – are developing correctly.

It could even mean taking specific supplements that are suitable for children, providing them with their specific needs.

“There are appropriate supplements that vegan children and infants can take,” says Maeve, “but generally you do need that extra bit of support and planning.”

“If a child doesn’t get the right nutrients at that stage, it can impact growth and development long term.

“[Veganism] absolutely can be done but if someone’s unsure, they should get individual advice from a dietician.”

You can read more of Her’s in-depth look at veganism in Ireland here.