Parents of severely malnourished “vegan child” avoid jail time

Yvonne O'Halloran

You may have heard this story a few months ago about a little girl in Australia who was found to be severely malnourished due to her parents raising her on a ‘strict vegan diet’. It’s just been revealed that the parents avoided jail time and will instead be ordered to complete community service.  This headline is quite misleading and will lead to parents worrying over raising their child vegan.

Veganism has been approved by all the leading Dietitian’s associations as being safe for all life stages, including for infants and toddlers- once it is a balanced vegan lifestyle. This particular situation is far from balanced. It was reported that the child was fed a diet consisting only of oats, banana, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and rice and was found to weigh only 4.8 kg (or 10.8 lbs) at 19 months old.

If this overview is accurate, the child’s diet would have been lacking in many nutrients- healthy fats, inadequate protein, calcium, iron B12 and zinc to name a few. Vitamin D would also be a concern if the child was not getting daily exposure to the sun. She was obviously not consuming enough calories either.

Other sources also reported that the mother had depression that was apparently untreated. Inadequate knowledge paired with no nutritional guidance from a knowledgeable health professional seems to have been the issue in this situation, along with depression the mother of the child was suffering.

The bottom line here is to ensure you feed your child a variety of foods from these 4 food groups– fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes. Include calcium rich options like calcium fortified plant milk, tahini, hummus, sushi, leafy greens (can be added to smoothies or soups), brocolli, peas, almond meal, tofu and calcium fortified orange juice.

Vitamin D is just as important for healthy bones so if regular sun exposure for 5-10 minutes is not an option due to climate or geographical location, its advisable to have your child take a vitamin D supplement.

Healthy fats MUST be included in your child’s diet as our body cannot make these important omega 3s. Include foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and flaxseed meal on a daily basis.

Iron rich foods on a vegan diet include legumes (lentils, soybeans, black beans, chickpeas) along with quinoa, fortified cereal, nuts and seeds, tomato sauce, green leafy vegetables, blackstrap molasses and prunes/prune juice.

All children should be taking a B12 supplement if they are vegan as B12 is not obtained from plant foods (there are some in fortified foods and nutritional yeast but supplementation is still recommended).

Don’t let this story prevent you from raising you’re child vegan but If you are worried or concerned that your child is not having an adequate vegan diet, please contact Living Vegan for a nutritionally balanced meal plan.


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