How a Plant-Based Diet Can Help Children Thrive

by Ella

A growing number of families are adopting vegan diets, also known as plant-based diets, which consist of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds while excluding meat, poultry, seafood, and other animal-derived products such as milk, cheese, and eggs.

Embracing a diet free of animal products is not only ethical and environmentally sustainable but also offers numerous health benefits. These include better blood sugar control, improved digestion, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.


While adults who follow a plant-based lifestyle are often praised for their choices, there is ongoing debate about whether such a diet is healthy and safe for children. According to research and experts, the answer is a resounding yes.


A review of research papers published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2021 concluded that “vegan children showed normal growth and were less often obese.” The study also noted that “a well-planned vegan diet using supplementation is likely to provide the recommended amounts of critical nutrients necessary for normal progression of height and weight in children, and can be beneficial.”


Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) supports this view, stating that a well-balanced vegan diet supplemented with essential nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and D, is suitable for pregnant women and children.


Dr. Reshma Shah, a pediatrician in the United States and co-director of The Learning Center at Plant-Based Juniors, offers professional pediatric nutrition courses and engaging programs for parents and caregivers. Her book, Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families, provides detailed guidance for all stages of childhood, from pregnancy and breastfeeding to adolescence.

When introducing solid foods to infants, Dr. Shah emphasizes the importance of focusing on nutrition, safety, and variety.

Key Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet for Children

Healthy Growth: Research shows that children on well-planned vegan diets grow normally and have lower rates of obesity.

Disease Prevention: Plant-based diets can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Digestive Health: High-fiber foods in plant-based diets promote better digestion and gut health.

Ethical and Environmental Benefits: A vegan diet reduces environmental impact and supports ethical treatment of animals.

Essential Nutrients and How to Ensure Adequate Intake

For children to thrive on a plant-based diet, it’s crucial to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients:

Protein: Found in beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Iron: Present in spinach, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, and fortified cereals.

Calcium: Available in fortified plant milks, tofu, almonds, and leafy greens.

Vitamin B12: Must be supplemented, as it is not naturally found in plant foods.

Vitamin D: Obtainable through sunlight exposure and fortified foods or supplements.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Sourced from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and algae oil.

Tips for Encouraging Kids to Eat Plant-Based Foods

Start Early: Introduce a variety of plant-based foods early in life to develop their taste preferences.

Make It Fun: Use creative presentations and involve children in meal preparation to make eating plant-based foods enjoyable.

Be a Role Model: Show enthusiasm for plant-based eating and lead by example.

Provide Variety: Ensure meals are colorful and diverse to appeal to children’s senses and provide a range of nutrients.

Educate: Teach children about the benefits of plant-based eating for their health and the environment.

By following these guidelines, parents can ensure their children receive the full benefits of a plant-based diet, supporting their growth and health while fostering ethical and sustainable eating habits.



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