Ask the expert: Will my unborn baby get the food it needs from my vegan diet?

I am vegan and I just found out I was pregnant. Do I only feed my unborn child vegan food, and is it safe to only feed my baby vegan food once it is weaned?

Nutritionist Sandra Hood, author of Feeding Your Vegan Child, says, “A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for every stage of life, from pregnancy to raising a vegan child, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds proved to be protective.

“As with any diet, it is important that it is balanced and contains a wide variety of plant-based foods. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can meet their nutritional needs with a vegan diet. Some nutrients must be given special attention as they are not found in plant foods, i.e. vitamin B12 and vitamin D, must therefore be supplied through dietary supplements or [vegan-friendly] fortified foods [such as cereals and plant milks].

“Vitamin B12 is made by bacteria and omnivores get it from eating animal products. For vegans, it can be provided through fortified foods or dietary supplements. Vitamin D is only found in animal products or fortified foods, but is usually obtained from exposure to the sun.

“However, dietary supplements are recommended in different phases of life, whether omnivores, vegetarians or vegans, for example during pregnancy and breastfeeding and for children between the ages of six months and five years.

“Breastfeeding or baby food should be the main food for the first six months. When weaning begins, breastfeeding should continue for as long as desired.

Feeding your vegan child by Sandra Hood

“Infants grow and develop very quickly for up to a year, so the focus should be on high-energy food. Monitoring growth is the best way to ensure that energy needs are met. Infants should be offered a wide variety of foods and a suitable high. Energy foods include nut butters, avocado, and tahini, which can be added to dishes or spread on vegetables and bread.

“All essential fats and proteins come from plant-based foods, and these requirements can easily be met with a vegan diet. Good sources of protein include beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.

“High fat sources include nut and seed butters, avocados, tofu, and soy. Iron needs are high during this time and breast milk remains a good source, along with fortified cereals, bean puree, and lentils.

“The Ministry of Health recommends that all children between the ages of six months and five years take a daily dietary supplement with vitamins A, C and D. In addition, vegan children from the age of six months should take a vitamin B12 supplement of at least 1 µg per day.

“Plant-based foods provide many protective nutrients, including phytochemicals that can reduce many diseases, fiber, which is linked to a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, and they are low in saturated fat. After all, choosing a vegan diet is compassionate, healthy, and a sustainable way of living. “

Feeding Your Vegan Child by Sandra Hood is published by Hammersmith Health Books, £ 14.99.