Exploring veganism in the early years

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January is Veganuary! A time to adopt a vegan diet and explore the many, exciting plant-based dishes available to us. Veganism can be good for our health and have a positive impact on the environment, so what's not to love? Let's explore veganism in the early years!

In veganism, animal-derived foods are not consumed, in favour of plant-based foods. As a result, vegans tend to consume more fibre and less saturated fats, both of which support cardiovascular health. Plant-based diets are also less likely to lead to metabolic conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and vegans tend to have lower body weight.

What foods are removed on a vegan diet?

  • Meat & any meat by-products (gelatine, lard etc)
  • Fish & fish derived products
  • Eggs & any dressings, cakes, bakes, or foods containing eggs
  • Honey & all products containing honey
  • Dairy produce, milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurts etc
  • Certain additives including but not exclusively E120, E441, E469, E542, E901, E966
  • Some forms of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish based)
  • Sweets & Chocolate - many sweets contain gelatine

Many of the foods above provide essential nutrients in our diets, which means that a vegan diet should ideally include these nutrients from plant-based sources, or even from supplements. There are tonnes of plant-based options available to us, which means following a nutritionally balanced vegan diet is becoming much easier.  It’s also been well documented that there are many environmental and health benefits to a vegan diet but it is important to highlight that most of the health studies have been based on adults.

So what impact does a vegan diet have on very young children?

When making a decision about a diet or lifestyle choice it's advisable to enter into it with all the facts and considerations. This should help to ensure that it will have a positive impact on your health, physically and mentally, and especially that of a child. We'll outline some studies to consider below.

Early years vegan diet studies

Early childhood is a time of vast nutritional need due to the rapid pace of physical and cognitive development that takes place. Amongst young children and adolescents on a vegan diet, various studies have raised some cause for concern in relation to nutritional deficiencies during this time of rapid development.

Researchers at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health steered a study into formative nutrition and vegan diets and reported that: -

“Children following vegan diets were on average 3cm shorter, had 4-6% lower bone mineral content and were more than three times more likely to be deficient in vitamin B-12 than the omnivores.”

A different peer reviewed journal in Pub Med on vegan diets in young children states: -

“A vegan diet can be potentially critical for young children with risks of inadequate supply in terms of protein quality and energy as well as long-chain fatty acids, iron, zinc, vitamin D, iodine, calcium, and particularly vitamin B12. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to severe and sometimes irreversible developmental disorders”

Should my family explore a vegan diet?

There are so many reasons to say YES to Veganism! And there are certainly lots of tasty dishes to tickle your taste buds and support the environment. The important thing to remember is to plan a vegan diet around obtaining all the essential nutrients that we need in our diets. This may mean that supplementing with key nutrients is necessary. Ultimately, it is crucial that we never underestimate the role that food plays in early development.

And if you don't fancy going all out vegan just yet, why not try swapping just some of your meals for vegan alternatives? This can still have a positive effect on your health and the environment!

At Nursery Kitchen, our team of nutritionists and development chefs create tasty dishes that meet the nutritional needs of early years children with different dietary needs. This includes a range of wholesome vegan dishes, such as our brand new squash and seed roast dinner.


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