Warning to parents over feeding kids vegan diet as 'trendy choice'
Parents have been warned over introducing their children to a vegan diet as a "trendy" option without proper monitoring or advice.
Ireland has experienced an upsurge in the popularity of vegan diets but nutritionists have warned people not to take the decision lightly.
The American and British dietetic associations point out that a well-planned vegan diet can decrease the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and lower cholesterol.
However, experts have disagreed on whether it is suitable for children.
In January 2008, the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition stated that infants on a vegan diet have a higher risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.
Mary Carmody, who was awarded the nutritional consultant of the year prize for 2019 by the Irish Enterprise Awards, believes a vegan diet can be introduced to a child of any age so long as it is monitored properly.
She is urging that such diets need to be backed up with appropriate vitamins and minerals as they can be "harder to attain in vegan diets".
"It's fine [the diet] but if it's just being done as a trend or the cool thing to do, like gluten-free diets were being done a few years ago, that's where the problem is," said Ms Carmody.
"By following it properly and adding in lots of vegetables and pulses in the diet along with any nutrients needed, it will be fine.
"It's important for growing kids and teenagers to get these vitamins, minerals while they're still growing."
She said it is possible that some teenagers might turn to veganism "as a trend", or if they have received advice to improve their medical symptoms.
"The real dangers are not getting sufficient nutrients for the body and a balanced diet to support good health and growing kids."
Her comments follow political controversy surrounding veganism and people starting to eat less meat for environmental reasons.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was criticised by farmers organisations for revealing he was trying to reduce his meat intake.
The Government also came in for criticism after a schools document had suggested 'meat-free Mondays' for pupils.