Toddler Fed Vegan Diet Was Malnourished After Sparse Meals

By Zachary Stieber

A toddler who was being raised on a vegan diet was found malnourished by the time she was 19 months old, it was revealed during a hearing for her parents.

The toddler’s parents, whose names haven’t been disclosed publicly because of Australia’s strict privacy laws, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide for her, causing danger of serious injury, reported the AAP.

Court documents showed that the girl was fed only oats, potatoes, rice, tofu, bread, peanut butter, rice milk, and fruit.

The toddler was 19 months old but appeared to be just three months old. She didn’t have any teeth when she was rushed to the hospital in March 2018 after suffering a seizure.

The girl’s former foster carer told the court that the girl could not sit up, roll over, or hold her own bottle despite nearly being 2 years old.

“I remember thinking how terrifying this must be [for her],” the carer said in a statement read out in court, adding that the toddler’s small stature continues to shock people.

The preschooler, who is now almost 3, is obese because her height is so disproportionate to her weight, the carer added.

“It’s like her body is storing calories in case she needs them in the future,” the carer said.

The parents are facing up to five years in prison.

Judge Sarah Huggett slammed the suggestion that the girl’s father wasn’t at fault for the malnutrition. The father’s lawyer had claimed that his client wasn’t vegan but left the girl’s diet up to her mother.

“She wasn’t walking or talking, she wasn’t hitting milestones,” Huggett said, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. “He did nothing. He could have picked her up and taken her to a doctor. He is older than the mother and could have just as easily have done something. I do not accept that he was powerless.”

Veganism involves not eating animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs.

The mother previously said her daughter would typically eat one cup of oats with rice milk and half a banana for breakfast and a piece of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch.

The family typically prepared tofu, rice, or potatoes for dinner but the girl was a “fussy eater” so she may have had oats again for the evening meal, reported the Daily Mail.

The toddler’s diet was so extreme that it resulted in severe deficiencies of a number of nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin A, and iron. The girl developed rickets.

“Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gastrointestinal tract. A deficiency of vitamin D makes it difficult to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels in bones, which can cause rickets.”

The lawyer representing the toddler’s mother, meanwhile, claimed that medical records showed that her client was suffering from depression, reported the Herald.

Psychologist Dr. Yvonne Skinner undermined that claim, telling the court that there wasn’t any evidence, based on medical records and personally speaking with the mother, that the accused was suffering from depression.