The Duke and Duchess Of Sussex May Raise The Royal Baby Vegan
But is a plant-base diet safe for babies?
As the latest royal baby (and the first for Meghan and Harry) is due to arrive any day, speculation about everything from where the baby will be delivered to what his or her name may be is at a fever pitch. And the latest bit of news being circulated among royal watchers is pretty controversial, especially for a family deeply seeded in protocol and tradition.
According to Woman’s Day, Baby Sussex (as the child of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is often referred to) may be raised on a plant-based diet, and Prince Harry’s grandmother, the Queen, isn’t very supportive of the idea. “It’s created tense discussions between Meghan and Harry, who doesn’t want to upset his grandmother,” a palace insider told the magazine “… Bringing the baby up as a vegan simply won’t be tolerated by the monarch.”
While the plan hasn’t been confirmed or denied by the palace, it does make sense. Meghan has long shared she tries to limit her diet to plant-based foods during the week, and since marrying the duchess, Prince Harry has tried to adapt more of his wife's healthy habits. Harry has reportedly been opting for “less meat and more fruit and vegetables” and following a healthier lifestyle leading up the new baby’s arrival.
Of course, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are adults and can make their own choices about what they put in their own bodies, but one might wonder: Is a vegan diet a safe idea for a brand-new baby? Here's what experts say.
It could be fine if the parents or caregivers are diligent about taking all the infant’s nutritional needs into consideration. “If your child is following a vegan diet, which consists of eating only plant foods, no eggs or dairy products, you need to be aware of possible nutritional deficiencies as it can be difficult to consume sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D if dairy products and eggs are completely eliminated from their diet,” cautions Constantine George, M.D., who is dual-board certified in Internal Medicine & Pediatrics.
Because vegans enjoy plant-based nutrients, their iron levels may need to be monitored more closely. “Vegans may lack adequate protein sources and therefore can have an inadequate iron intake. As a result, you need to ensure that your child receives a good balance of essential amino acids. As a general guideline, the child’s protein intake should come from more than one source, combining cereal products (wheat, rice) with legumes (dry beans, soybeans, peas), for example; when eaten together, they provide a higher quality mixture of amino acids than if either is consumed alone,” says Dr. George.
The baby has to also be getting the right vitamins, that may otherwise be found in a more traditional well-rounded diet. “Another concern is that the child may also consume insufficient amounts of vitamin B-12, zinc and other minerals. If their caloric intake is also extremely low, this could cause a delay in normal growth and weight gain, so additional planning may be necessary," says George. This means children on a vegan diet may be advised to eat commercially prepared foods fortified with vitamin B12, add a calcium and/or iron supplement to his or her diet or find alternative sources of vitamin D to make up for the lack of dairy milk.
If mom is a vegan during the first year of life, Dr. George advises she should make sure that she supplements with appropriate nutrients, vitamins and minerals to make sure her breast milk has the nutrients it needs for her child.
That said, nutritional professionals say there’s no reason a baby on a plant-based diet can’t thrive if all the dietary considerations are indeed met. “The Academy of Nutrition states that well-planned vegan diets are helpful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases…for all stages of the cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood…There are a few nutrients that she'll want to be sure to include in adequate amounts during her pregnancy, if she plans to breastfeed and as baby starts solids, like DHA, B12, and iron,” says Alex Caspero, a plant-based dietitian, recipe developer, author and nutrition consultant.
"And, even more to the point, most Americans eat far, far less that the recommended intake of plant-foods per day. As lifelong dietary habits are started in infancy, a plant-based diet can set baby up for lifelong healthy habits,” says Caspero.
According to research, plant-based eating patterns may aid weight loss, reduce the risk of cardiovasular disease and lower blood pressue and total mortality.
So, if the baby is given a well-rounded nutritional diet, being plant-based is no reason not to be healthy and thrive. Still, this should make Christmas dinner with the Queen extra interesting next year.