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Babies can be raised vegan with proper guidance, experts say

CALIFORNIA — Experts say it is possible to raise healthy infants and children on a totally plant-based diet.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the British Dietetic Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegan diets can meet the nutritional needs of infants and children, ideally with the participation of a pediatrician and a dietitian.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the British Dietetic Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegan diets can meet the nutritional needs of infants and children, ideally with the participation of a pediatrician and a dietitian.

CALIFORNIA — Experts say it is possible to raise healthy infants and children on a totally plant-based diet.

Planning helps, as babies are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition and are unable to choose the foods they eat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the British Dietetic Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegan diets can meet the nutritional needs of infants and children, ideally with the participation of a pediatrician and a dietitian.

“The key is to make sure it’s well planned out and you’re meeting all of your child’s nutritional needs,” said Ms Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ms Reed Mangels, a registered dietitian in California and nutrition adviser for the Vegetarian Resource Group who raised her children on vegan diets, said that vegan babies, like all infants, should start with breast milk if possible.

Where breastfeeding is not possible, a soy-based formula — which, unlike plain soy milk, is specially formulated for babies — can be a good option.

Ms Sheth said it was important for caretakers to make sure that vegan babies, once weaned, got enough of vitamins D and B12, calcium, iron, zinc and heart-healthy fats. The same is true for all babies, but these nutrients are worth paying special attention to for vegans and vegetarians.

Many fortified foods for infants include B12, along with other essential nutrients, like iron and calcium.

Ms Sheth recommended introducing vegan children to a range of foods, starting with breast milk or formula and perhaps mixing that with fortified cereals before moving on to soft options, like puréed fruits, bean spreads, mashed avocados and tofu, then eventually adding more solid options, like whole wheat breads and cooked and dried fruits.

Ms Sheth and Ms Mangels said they had noticed a growing interest in diets that included more plants and less meat. Some children are even making the decision to eat this way on their own.

“Many kids do thrive on vegan diets,” Ms Mangels said, adding that parents should work with health care providers to come up with a plan. “Just seek out good quality information so that you can feel like what you’re doing is healthy.” THE NEW YORK TIMES  

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