The Vegan Diet for Infants and Children
Reed Mangels, PhD, RD
Sandra Hood, BSc (Hons), SRD
It takes time and thought to feed infants and children,
and all parents should think carefully about what their children eat. The years from birth to adolescence are
when eating habits are set, when growth rates are high, and to a large extent when the size of stores of
essential nutrients such as calcium are determined. This article will examine the health benefits of vegan
diets for children, address potential concerns, present information on key nutrients and provide guidelines for
feeding vegan infants and children.
The number of vegans in the UK today is estimated at 0.5%(1) but we do not know
how many of these are children. In the US, a poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group in the year
2000 found that about 0.5% of 6 to 17-year-olds were vegan and did not eat meat, fish, poultry, dairy products
or eggs (2).
Health Benefits of Vegan Diets
Several studies have examined the nutrient intakes of
vegan children. One study of British school-age children found that they had higher intakes of fibre and that
intakes of all vitamins and minerals studied (with the exception of calcium) were comparable with those of
meat-eating children (3). Vegan pre-schoolers in the US were found to have generous intakes of protein,
vitamins, and minerals and their diets exceeded recommended intakes for all nutrients studied with the
exception of calcium (4).