Raising vegan kids

- Give Up Coffee For Beautiful Breasts
- Welcome to your First Trimester
- Welcome to your Second Trimester
- Welcome to your Third Trimester

More people are raising children to be vegan like themselves, according to a recent report in The Sunday Times. Therefore, they should plan their children’s diets carefully.


A vegan diet, in which meat, fish, dairy and eggs are excluded, can be healthy, but care is required to make sure it is able to meet a child’s growth needs, dietitians said.

Vegan children may be deficient in certain nutrients, such as vitamins D and B12, as well as calcium, they said.

“The less restrictive the diet, the lower the risk of nutritional inadequacies,” said Dr Han Wee Meng, senior principal dietitian at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

The vegan diet, unfortunately, is more restrictive than other vegetarian diets.

In particular, fruitarian diets or fruit-based vegan diets and raw vegan diets, where only uncooked food is consumed, are not recommended for children, as they may be too low in calories and nutrients, said the United States-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


A study published last year in Nutrients, a human nutrition journal, which compared the nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diets, concluded that the vegan diet had the lowest total energy and protein intake. However, it had a better fat intake profile and the highest dietary-fibre intake.

Other areas to watch out for: Calcium intake was also the lowest for vegans, and while the intake of iron was high, this came from plant sources and may not be absorbed as easily as iron from meat sources.
Indeed, vegans need about twice as much dietary iron as non-vegetarians, said Ms Lynette Goh, a senior dietitian at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

Vegan children or adults should consume iron-rich foods on a daily basis, she said. These include firm tofu, fortified foods or soya beverages, dried beans and vegetables, such as peas and lentils, and cooked spinach.

"Combine iron-rich food or supplements with fruit rich in vitamin C, such as orange, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, lemon and lime, to help increase the absorption of iron,” she advised

Secondly, do not drink tea, coffee or cocoa with your meal, as these will inhibit or reduce iron absorption.

Two nutrients which vegans may be deficient in – vitamins D and B12 – have no plant-based equivalents, said Ms Goh.

However, vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure and fortified foods. As for vitamin B12, which is found naturally in animal sources and important for a healthy nervous system, one can choose fortified breakfast cereals and yeast extracts containing the vitamin, she said.

“As food sources are limited, supplementation may be needed,” she added.

A vegan diet may also be deficient in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. There are good sources of plant protein which can substitute for animal protein, said Ms Goh. These include dried beans, peas (chickpeas and black-eyed peas), soya products, unsalted nuts and nut butters, she suggested.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in types of oil such as flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed, as well as ground flax seed, soya beans and chia seeds.

There is evidence to suggest that the omega-3 fats found in these foods may not have the same benefits as they contain alpha-linolenic acid <NO1>(ALA)<NO>and not docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the type found in fatty fish, said Ms Goh.

“However, there is inadequate research to recommend the need for supplements.”

DHA can be obtained from supplements from algae sources or foods fortified with it, she said.


Pregnant women who are on a vegan diet should ensure they get the appropriate supplementation, said Dr Han.

A lack of calcium and iron in their diet can affect foetal outcome, and a vitamin B12 deficiency has reportedly been associated with irreversible neurological damage in a newborn, she said.

Vegan diets can also be low in the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important for brain and eye development.

If sufficient care is taken, a vegan diet can be healthy and can help reduce one’s risk of certain diseases.

For instance, vegans have a lower risk of cancer as their diets, which consist of more vegetables, fruit and fibre, are higher in nutrients which help to reduce the risk of the disease. It is also lower in substances associated with increased risk of cancer, such as saturated fat, said Ms Goh.

The key is in planning to make sure vegans – particularly children and pregnant women – do not lack important nutrients, she said.

How to eat enough

A vegan diet may pose some nutritional inadequacies for growing children, especially in iron, calcium, as well as vitamins D and B12, said Dr Han Wee Meng, senior principal dietitian at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

This is because the diet excludes all animal products, including dairy and eggs, where these nutrients are commonly found.

“Getting adequate calories might also be difficult, as vegan diets tend to be based on wholegrain cereals and vegetables,” she said.

Such types of food, being high in fibre, make one feel full more easily. A child may therefore end up eating too little to support the calorie needs for his growth.

This is especially so given the small appetite of children and their high energy requirements, she said. So, include a reasonable amount of healthy fat in a child’s vegan diet, to make sure he gets enough energy, she said. Here is what else to watch out for.


This essential nutrient, which protects a person’s nervous system, is found primarily in animal products. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to irreversible neurological retardation and, in severe cases, brain atrophy (shrinking of the brain). Other physical effects include low muscle tone, delayed motor skills, failure to thrive, sparse hair and abnormal pigmentation.


Iron stores are depleted by six months of age, which is also about the time when infants start to eat solid food. Nutritional deficiencies can arise if the child is not introduced to an adequate diet.

In fact, the most common deficiency among infants is iron-deficiency anaemia, which can lead to growth and neuro-developmental delays.

Therefore, iron-fortified cereals and other vegetarian sources of iron, such as pureed beans, should be introduced to the child.

Although this mineral can be obtained from plant sources, such as green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals, the type of iron found in them is less easily absorbed by the body. It is also found in smaller quantities. The child has to eat more of these types of food to get sufficient iron.


Vitamin D is found only in a few types of food (milk, eggs and oily fish). The best way to get it is through sun exposure.

As there is abundant sunshine in Singapore, there is a lower risk of children being deficient in vitamin D, which can result in rickets, compared with children living in temperate climates..

Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium. As children grow, they will need this mineral to build strong bones.

- The right rice in the right amount
- What To Eat To Live Long Life (part 2) - Beetroot, Oatmeal, Green tea, Seafood, Soy milk
- What To Eat To Live Long Life (part 1) - Garlic, Turmeric, Avocado
- The Right Way To Snack (part 2) - Plan your snack attack,Toast your health at happy hour
- The Right Way To Snack (part 1) - Nourish with nibbles, Build strong bones
- The Bitter Truth About Sugar (Part 2)
- The Bitter Truth About Sugar (Part 1)
- July Its Now In Season (part 2) - Pumpkin
- July Its Now In Season (part 1) - Lemon
- Eat Fit – Food First Aid (Part 3)
Top Search
- Losing Weight In A Week With Honey
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- 9 Bad Habits That Can Cause Miscarriage
- Grape Is Pregnant Women’s Friend
- What Is Placenta Calcification
- 7 Kinds Of Fruit That Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Eat
- Do Not Miss Sugarcane Juice In Pregnancy
Top 10
- Omega 3 fatty acids – what’s all the fuss about ? (part 3) - DHA supplements
- Omega 3 fatty acids – what’s all the fuss about ? (part 2) - Docosahexaenoic acid
- Omega 3 fatty acids – what’s all the fuss about ? (part 1) - The science bit, Alpha linolenic acid
- Your Pregnancy After 35 : Labor and Delivery (part 15) - When You’re Overdue
- Your Pregnancy After 35 : Labor and Delivery (part 14) - Baby’s Birth Presentation
- Healthy Recipes for a Vegan Pregnancy : Sides (part 17) - Caramelized Baby Carrots, Roasted Garlic, Zucchini, and Onions
- Chocolate Covered Naartjies - Cauliflower Carpaccio With Watercress And Almond Dressing - Avocado Mousse Topped With Cauliflower And Bacon Crumbs (part 2)
- RECIPE Orange Cointreau jellies : Golden dessert to beat the glut
- BBQ Chicken Around The World (Part 2) - Beer can chicken
- Healthy Recipes for a Vegan Pregnancy : Vegan Breakfasts (part 8) - Vegan Crepes, Tofu Florentine, Quick Hollandaise Sauc uick Hollandaise Sauce, Potato Poblano Breakfast Burritos
- Midweek Meals - These Dishes Promise Smooth Sailing (Part 2) - Lemon and thyme lamb with warm pumpkin salad
- Grill Happy Healthy Family Dinners (Part 5) - Pork and plum skewers
- Healthy Recipes for a Vegan Pregnancy : Soups and Stews (part 4) - Ten-Minute Cheater’s Chili, Thai Tom Kha Coconut Soup , Cold Spanish Gazpacho with Avocado
- Winter Favourites New Ideas Cooking (Part 2) - Mac ’n’ cheese with pumpkin
- Celebrate Christmas Soon In July (part 2) - Roast pumpkin, fennel & brussels sprouts
- Healthy Recipes for a Vegan Pregnancy : Desserts (part 6) - Foolproof Vegan Fudge, Cocoa-Nut-Coconut No-Bake Cookies , Cheater’s Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
- Budget Meal Planner For This Week (Part 1) - Monday - Spinach & Sausage Penne
- Budget Meal Planner For This Week (Part 5) - Friday - Rendang Beef Noodles
- Homegrown Treasures Time To Harvest (Part 2) - Beetroot & shallot tatins
- Get To Know Your Salad (part 2) - Greens & Berry Salad