Vegan Diets for Pregnancy and Children

Vegan Diets for Pregnancy and Children


Many health professionals recognize a vegan diet to be nutritionally adequate for people of all ages, but key life stages, such as pregnancy and during infancy, childhood and adolescence, the body is working at its hardest, and its nutritional needs should be given special priority. A sensible vegan diet can satisfy the body's needs to promote normal growth at these times. Plan the diet carefully to ensure that any deficiencies occurring in the body are adequately compensated for. 


Things to consider while pregnant and on a vegan diet:

Pre Conception Vegan Diet Tips:

In addition to a varied wholefood vegan diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, you should ensure adequate intake of folic acid and B12, preferably through fortified foods or supplements. 

Pregnancy Vegan Diet Tips:

  • For all women, vegan and non-vegan alike, the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals is higher during pregnancy. Increase your intake of folic acid, vitamin A, B1, niacin, riboflavin, B12, D2, calcium, iron and zinc. 
  • During pregnancy the body's store of B12 is not readily available to the foetus, which builds up its supply from the mother's daily intake. If B12 intake is low during pregnancy, the foetus will not have adequate stores of vitamin, and this may lead to a deficiency in the child at some point after birth.
  • Human milk is not a rich source of zinc, and breast-feeding infants draw on their own body reserves, laid down during the last three months in the womb. Adequate zinc intake should therefore be ensured. 
  • The increase in calorie requirements during pregnancy is relatively small. There is a little, if any, increase in calorie need during the first six months, but an extra 200 calories per day should be consumed during the third trimester. Pregnant teenagers will require more calories as their own bodies are still growing at this age. 
  • Extra water is required for making additional blood for the mother, the baby and for the amniotic fluid. Drink at least four to six 200ml/7floz glasses per day of either water, fruit juice, soya milk or vegetable juice. Avoid large amounts of coffee and tea, as caffeine has been associated with various problems during pregnancy. 
  • The basic advice for pregnant women on a vegan diet is to follow the nutritional guidelines established for all vegan adults, ensuring an increased quantity of varied vegan wholefoods. Many women (not just vegans) take a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement during pregnancy as extra insurance. 


The diet to follow when breast-feeding is similar to that recommended for pregnancy, although the intakes of calories, protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium and vitamins B12 are slightly higher. Eating an increased quantity of varied vegan wholefoods is an ideal way to give yourself a nutritional boost. In particular, ensure an adequate vitamin B12 and D2 intake at this time. 

Birth to 6 Months

From birth to 6 months all your baby's nutritional needs will be met by regular feeds of breast or bottled milk. Breast milk provides a young baby with a natural and nutritionally balanced diet. Gradually your baby will move away from milk as the main source of nutrition, towards her first solid foods. 

If you decide to use a bottled milk, it is possible to purchase a vegan formula. Ask any vegan organization, health food store or pharmacy for details on vegan formulas currently available. Soya-based infant formulas can be used from birth onwards. Standard soya milks used by adults should not be used as a straight replacement for breast or infant formula, as they do not contain the correct amount of nutrients for a baby. Infant formulas that are vegan can be found at local markets. If they do not carry any request that they do. Some supermarkets honor requests made from customers and will begin carrying products per request. 

First Foods

The classic "first food" is mashed banana. Other choices include cooked and blended apples, peaches, carrot or baby rice. 

Begin feeds with breast or bottle milk and gradually increase the amount of solid food afterwards. Solids should never be added to a bottle of milk. Do not add salt, sugar or spice to food. Move from solid food at one feed per day to solids at two feeds and so on, following the baby's appetite and pace. 

Remember, that after four or five months of age, your baby may not receive enough vitamin B12 or D2 from breast milk if your body stores are depleted. Bottled infant formula and some fortified soya milks contain vitamin B12 and D2.

7 Months

In addition to breast or bottled milk, you can introduce blended oats, millet, rice or wholewheat breakfast cereal to the baby's diet, and a variety of vegetables, such as cooked and mashed carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips. 

8-10 Months

Gradually adjust your baby's feeds to fit in with the family's meals. Provide foods which contain soft lumps, such as mashed potato, to get them used to using a spoon. Your baby will be ready for fresh fruits, such as pears, peaches, plums and melons. You can also try finger foods, such as toast or peas. By now your baby may also be ready to take a drink from a cup. Suitable drinks, other than breast or bottled milk, include water or diluted fruit juices, such as apple or pear. 

10-12 Months

Foods should be chopped, finely grated or blended. Your baby will be more inclined to hold a spoon, and may be moving towards eating on their own. A greater variety of vegetables should be offered at this point. Only introduce nut butters on the advice of your healthcare provider if you have a family history of nut allergies.

12+ Months

  • From 12 months of age your infant can share the same meals as the rest of the family, with additional snacks. Keep in mind the following key points:
  • cook fruits with their skins on and peel them before serving
  • use refined grain products, such as white rice and couscous. Use wheat or gluten free products of you prefer. 

Use energy – dense foods:

  • use fruit juices or concentrated fruit spreads
  • use full fat and fortified soya milks or infant formula milk. 
  • make thick porridge and add a little vegetable oil
  • use nut butters, tahini and hummus

Use soya and rapeseed oils

use more soya bean or rapeseed oil and less sunflower, safflower or corn oils, to encourage brain and visual development.

Boost vitamins and minerals

  • use black molasses to increase iron and calcium intakes
  • use tofu prepared with calcium sulphate
  • ensure access to sunshine and intake of vitamin D2 fortified foods
  • ensure adewuate vitamin B12 intake
  • include vitamin C rich foods in a meal to enhance iron absorption

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