William Sorflaten
Post published at January 15, 2021

Children don’t need meat or dairy say major health bodies

adorable baby bowl

The leaflet says “well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for young children [but] if you are considering a vegan diet for your child then it is a good idea to visit your GP to ask for advice about supplementation as it can be difficult for young children to get enough vitamin A and B12, riboflavin, iron, zinc, calcium and iodine.”


Advice conflicts with other major health bodies

The leaflet also gives conflicting advice against other major health bodies, saying children should eat three portions of dairy per day and promotes animal protein sources above high protein plant-based foods.

Dr Justine Butler, Viva! Health’s Senior Researcher said: “It’s so tiresome how Viva! Health need to keep reiterating that all the major health bodies agree – a well-balanced vegan diet can provide all the nutrients needed for all stages of life – including children.

The British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) new leaflet offering dietary advice for pre-schoolers looks like it was written 30 years ago – it’s packed with outdated advice. Unbelievably, it says to try and limit processed meat – the World Cancer Research Fund advises avoiding all processed meat (sausages and bacon) as it causes cancer. Were the BNF looking the other way in 2015 when the World Health Organisation said processed meat was a cause of cancer? Don’t feed it to children – it causes cancer!


BNF’s guidance is ill-informed

The protein suggestions from the top down begin with sausages (processed meat), beef, turkey, burger, prawns, fish fingers and so on…  but nuts, lentils, chickpeas and baked beans (all great sources of healthy protein) are put right at the bottom of the list.

It’s good to see they stick with the 5-a-Day recommendation for fruit and veg, but then we get to dairy, where they say children need three portions a day with no mention of dairy alternatives. The BNF would do better to take a leaf out of Public Health England’s advice, who in their updated Eatwell guide include dairy alternatives (like soya milk and yoghurt) in their recommendations.

Given the fact that a quarter of Brits now use plant-based milks, the BNF’s insistence on including dairy foods in their guidance is ill-informed. Add to that the harmful environmental effects of animal foods and how scientists are advising moving towards a plant-based way of eating, this industry-funded body’s advice is outdated and the BNF needs to rethink their position.

The obesity epidemic is affecting children as well as adults with one in five children now classified as obese – this increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. In fact, this generation of children may be the first to not outlive their parents – a shameful legacy. The BNF should not be recommending sausages and cheese to children.

To find out more about healthy vegan children see the Incredible Vegan Health report.”

The author
This post was written by William Sorflaten
Will is one of Viva!'s campaigners. Will has been vegan for nearly ten years, and is committed to making the world a kinder, more sustainable place through veganism. Will has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge University, and works on Viva!'s campaigns, focusing in particular on expanding collaboration on university campuses. Click here for more info.

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