Vegan eating and keto are the two biggest diet fads at the moment, they are almost on opposite ends of the spectrum, but – both come with significant risks for pregnant women and young children. I have spoken about keto diets previously – check out my blog here But I think it is also important to address the vegan fad.
Vegan eating is where only plants are included and all animal products (not just meat) are excluded. This is unlike vegetarian diets where milk and eggs as well as all plants are included, or pescatarian diets where plants foods, milk, eggs and fish/ seafood are included.
A well planned vegetarian diet can be suitable for pregnant women and young children. As can be pescatarian eating. However, I believe vegan diets come with significant risks and are not suitable for pregnant women or small children. Many others have written about the risks in babies who are eating solids, in various outcomes in pregnancy- for example here and
here (associated with mums anxiety levels and a birth defect in male offspring), and in adding to malnutrition generally. But there is no real consensus, a lack of research, and I am aware not all health professional agree with my position.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think eating lots of plants and having a plant based diet is good. But for optimal nutrition it is still important to have some animal based foods such as milk, eggs, fish, poultry and red meats. These animal foods are nutritionally dense in vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, B12, vitamin D, omega 3 and other dietary fats. These nutrients are important for physical and cognitive development in the unborn child, and infants and toddlers.
Getting adequate amounts of nutrients from plant based foods is tough in pregnancy when your needs are very high, and also in small children, because volumes of plant food required to obtain adequate nutrients are extremely large compared to the much smaller volumes of animal foods to meet those same needs. This is pretty important in little kids who only have little tummy’s and are also often fussy. The plant based foods are also high in fibre, now most kids are not eating enough fibre, but in vegan kids they can get too much, and fill up early before they meet their caloric needs for growth.
Sadly some people are combing the two fads- keto and vegan – leaving not very much food at all!! This most certainly is very dangerous in pregnant women and children.