Finland Provides Sound Nutritional Advice for Vegans

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Finland, a country in northern Europe, has done something
that few other countries have – issued nutritional guidance for vegans. The
Finnish Food Authority, which issued this guidance, is a government entity
under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. According to its website, the
Finnish Food Authority “works for the good of humans, animals and plants,
supports the vitality of the agricultural sector, and develops and maintains
information systems.”

The Finnish Food Authority recommends that a vegan diet
“contains cereal products, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, berries and
vegetable fats as well as a nutritious milk replacement drink.” A vegan plate
is described as consisting of one third foods supplying protein including whole
grains and legumes, one third raw and cooked vegetables, and one third
additional carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, or barley. Supplements of
vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iodine are recommended. A “carefully composed”
vegan diet can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and teens.

These guidelines are complemented by a section in Eating Together,  the national food recommendations for families
with young children. This section provides additional information about vegan
diets in pregnancy and lactation and for infants and young children. According
to this text, vegan infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 4-6
months with breastfeeding continuing at least until age 1 year. After 1 year,
the recommendations call for use of a drink made from soy, oats, quinoa, or
other grains (excluding rice) that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D and
designed for young children. Vegan families shall be provided with guidance by
a nutritional therapist and children’s growth should be monitored.

These sensible guidelines should be adopted, with
modifications for country-specific foods, by other countries, including the
United States.

References

Finnish Food Authority. Vegan diet. https://www.ruokavirasto.fi/en/themes/healthy-diet/nutrition-and-food-recommendations/vegan-diet/.
Last updated April 2019.

National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland. Eating Together – Food Recommendations for
Families with Children.
https://www.julkari.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/137770/URN_ISBN_978-952-343-264-2.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
2019.