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MAIL ONLINE, JULY 20, 2019
COVERAGE FOR YAZOO

Parents who want their children to eat a vegan diet are advised to speak to their GP for advice first

  • Putting toddlers on a plant-based diet can risk depriving them of vital vitamins
  • The British Nutrition Foundation has updated nutrition guidelines for toddlers
  • Toddlers should aim to eat two portions of protein foods to get iron and zinc

Veganism is booming among middle class families who claim it is a way to save the planet and boost their health at the same time.

But nutritionists have now warned parents to think twice before putting their children on a trendy vegan diet.

The British Nutrition Foundation said that restricting toddlers to a plant-based diet can risk depriving them of vital vitamins and minerals.

They issued updated nutrition guidelines for toddlers yesterday amid a growing trend for veganism in Britain that has seen companies launch vegan baby food.

The BNF urged caution for parents considering putting their child on a vegan regime, and said they should take them to a GP first to get vitamins and dietary supplements.

The guidelines, developed by top nutrition scientists, said toddlers should aim to eat two or three portions of protein foods in order to get enough iron and zinc.

This can be difficult as a vegan diet, although the BNF did acknowledge that a ‘well-planned’ vegan diet could be healthy for young children.

The BNF advice – named the 5532-A-Day Guide – recommends children aged one to four eat five daily portions of starchy foods such as bread or pasta, five of fruit and vegetables, three of dairy and two of protein, such as eggs, chickpeas or fish, rising to three if they are vegetarian or vegan.

Sara Stanner, science director at the BNF, said: ‘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.’

She added that sugary treats like ‘biscuits, chocolate and sweets shouldn’t be a regular part of children’s diets’.

The guide also says that fruit juices can provide some important vitamins, but are high in sugar and are acidic – which can damage young teeth. It advised they should only be consumed at mealtimes and should be diluted.

The number of vegans in Britain – who cut out meat, eggs, dairy and animal products, such as honey – quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 to 600,000, around 1.2 per cent of the population.

 

PARENTS’ FEAR AS CHILDREN REFUSE CALCIUM-RICH MILK

Parents are fearful their children aren’t receiving enough calcium, with one in five never drinking a glass of milk.

A nationwide survey of British parents found a third were worried their child was consuming calcium levels so low that their health was at risk.

Over half (51 per cent) of children haven’t drunk a glass of milk in over six weeks, according to the survey of 1,500 parents by KidsHealth.org

And 32 per cent of children outright refuse milk unless it is poured over high sugar cereal, according to the findings.

One in five children also dislike eating cheese, another high source of calcium, with 12 per cent only eating if it’s on pizza, the study commissioned by YAZOO KiDS found.

Health experts have warned parents that if their children are fussy eaters as toddlers, they are more likely to grow up eating junk food.

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and keeping the nerves and muscles working. It also plays a role in keeping the heart healthy.

The National Osteoporosis Society have said cutting dairy from the diet could be a ‘ticking time bomb’ for young people’s bone health.

The charity surveyed 2,000 adults in 2017, including 239 under the age of 25, and found a fifth of under-25s are reducing dairy in their diet.

They urged parents to talk to their children about their diet.

Cutting out dairy can be healthy if enough calcium is consumed from other sources, such as nuts, seeds and fish. But many people are unaware these are also sources of calcium.

Dairy is also a source of B12 vitamins, necessary for the body’s vital functions, including the production of red blood cells and breaking down food products.

Infants with low levels of vitamin B12 – found mainly in meat, dairy and eggs, perform worse at school, according to Uni Research in Bergen.

They 2017 study found children also struggled to complete puzzles, were less able to recognise letters and interpret other children’s feelings.

Scientists warned mothers to not follow a vegan diet while they were pregnant, as the lack of vitamins while the baby is in the womb affects their development when they are being brought up.