It's silly season – stories about the safety of a vegan diet for children continue to roll along despite the fact that the experts all agree that a well-planned vegan diet is suitable for all, including children.
This week the BBC Good Food website published a story asking if a vegan diet can be healthy for kids and the answer was yes! They said “with the right planning and knowledge, a child can get everything they need following a vegan diet”. They went to describe how parents need to be well informed and listed the nutrients they may have to look out for: vitamin D, calcium, iron and vitamin B12. The article was reasonably well-informed and provided some sound advice without making a vegan diet sound like a minefield of worries! Well done the BBC!!
Then today Independent published a story telling us how “Italian parents who force vegan diets on children face jail time under new law”. This misleading headline refers to one Italian politician’s proposal for a new law. Elvira Savino, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, has a background in economics, business studies, public relations and media; she does not have any nutritional or medical training. Savino’s proposal comes in the wake of four recent high-profile cases of children requiring hospital treatment after being fed a substandard ‘vegan’ diet. These cases were misrepresented in the press (see below). Critics of the proposed law argue there is a much more pressing issue – tackling Italy’s childhood obesity problem.
Italy’s younger generation are increasingly eating more processed foods, more junk food and more sugary sweets and drinks and over a third of children in Italy are now obese! Italy’s children are the second fattest in the world (behind Greece), with larger numbers of obese children than the US!
Last month the Independent ran a story saying that vegan diets for children aren’t abusive and that raising a child to eat meat is actually more extreme. “Vegans are often penalised for ‘forcing’ their child to eat like them. But it’s unreasonable to expect a vegan parent to give their children chicken nuggets just because this is what most people do”. This article debunks the health claims pointing out how the British Dietetic Association and other experts agree that vegan diets can be suitable for anyone of any age.
A well-balanced vegan diet contains all the protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals you need. It is low in saturated fat and free from animal protein, cholesterol and hormones – all linked to disease. A vegan diet can provide all the nutrients required for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence and for athletes too!
Footnote: of the four malnourished children:
- One was still exclusively breastfed at the age of 30 months
- One had a heart congenital defect and was not able to eat owing to his heart failure
- One had been feed with home made almond milk instead of breast milk or formula
- One child's parents unfortunately were followers of hygienist theories that promote natural eating with no need of supplementation