No doubt you’ve heard about the legislator in Italy who is proposing to make it illegal to raise kids as vegans. Italian lawmaker Elvira Savino wants to see jail sentences of up to seven years for parents who feed their children only plant foods.
The proposed bill describes veganism as “a diet devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth,” It’s ludicrous. Given what we know about nutrient needs, there is no reason to think that children of well-informed vegan parents are at risk for poor health. It is not especially difficult to create a diet that will ensure adequate nutrition for vegan children.
But, as I’ve said on this website many times, you do need to know a little something about meeting nutrient ... Read More >
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported about a preschool in Jersey City, NJ that offers only vegan food. The article kind of made me cringe. It made veganism look like a somewhat nutty, somewhat elitist diet that denies kids cupcakes at birthday parties.
But at the very least, it didn’t question the safety of vegan diets. An article in Slate magazine did question it, though. Science writer Melinda Wenner Moyer said that she “couldn’t help but wonder: Can kids actually get the nutrients they need on a vegan diet?”
One way to find out would be to ask actual experts on vegan nutrition. For example, Ms. Moyer could have called Dr. Reed Mangels, who has a PhD in nutrition, teaches at the University of ... Read More >
Vegan diets aren’t dangerous. However, people with irrational ideas about nutrition are. The stories of vegan parents who starved their babies because of mistaken beliefs about infant feeding are clear proof of that. It is horrible and it’s heartbreaking. But it has nothing to do with veganism.
Why is it that journalists can’t figure this out? Mary Elizabeth Williams’ article in Salon was another attempt to tie the actions of a handful of misinformed parents to veganism. She made the case that some babies in vegan families have suffered because they were fed inappropriate diets. And, then, she suggested that “whatever a parent’s personal beliefs, they must be continually adjusted and evaluated based on a child’s needs.”
I can’t argue with either of those observations ... Read More >
Casual recommendations regarding vegan diets can and do take a toll on the health of some vegans. There is no reason why vegans should ever be at risk for nutrient deficiencies. But if they don’t have access to good advice, or don’t follow it, deficiencies can certainly happen. And as one reader of this blog (a vegan mom) mentioned to me after reading a somewhat alarming article on feeding vegan children, “all of these issues are magnified tenfold when children are involved.”
Vegan kids have some clear advantages; their diets are low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, and rich in fiber plus all kinds of health-promoting plant chemicals. The tradeoff is that some nutrients need a little bit of extra attention.
For breastfed infants, ... Read More >
It’s just not possible for dietitians to be knowledgeable about every single aspect of nutrition. If you put me in charge of a dialysis unit, I’m sure all the patients would be dead in no time at all. Although I took a few clinical nutrition courses in school, I learned—and promptly forgot—just enough to pass my RD exam.
So, I wouldn’t take a job as a hospital dietitian and I wouldn’t agree to do an interview on any aspect of clinical nutrition. Unfortunately, when it comes to vegan (and vegetarian) diets, journalists often end up interviewing health professionals who don’t have expertise in this particular area. It often results in misinformation and sometimes exaggerates the potential pitfalls of vegan diets.