Plant Based Diet for Children

Updated on May 24, 2012
A.S. asks from Glendora, CA
14 answers

My husband and I are moving towards a more plant-based, whole foods diet. Heart disease runs rampant in both sides of our family so we would like to try to stop this pattern and hopefully give our children the tools to live a long, healthy life. The only thing that concerns me is that many people say that children cannot get all that they need from a vegan diet and I obviously do not want to put my children's health at risk but I really feel that this is the way we "should" be eating... I do not have a problem including fish but would like to omit the other animal-based foods. Does anyone's family eat this way or anyone have any advice?

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answers from Albuquerque on

People are idiots, and they all have opinions. Of course you can have a plant based diet that will be healthy for both adults and children. Millions of people in other countries do it! It's worth researching exactly what nutrients growing children need, and then carefully planning a week's worth of meals to see if you can do it, and if your children will eat the food. We rely heavily on plant based foods, but one of my daughters simply will not eat beans so her protein options are too limited without some animal protein. She loves hard boiled eggs and cheese, so we do have those.

Here are a couple of resources to start you out:
Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World: A Complete Guide for Parents (a book)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

you just have to be very vigilant about making sure they're getting sufficient protein and minerals from a wide variety of plant sources. i know several raw and vegan families in our homeschool co-op and their kids are flourishing. it's a lot of work and i'm impressed by the creativity of the moms, but they're doing it. you can too.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

My girls have eaten similarly all their lives. We aren't totally veggie. They do eat a little dairy and occasionally eggs and we eat fish a couple of times a week. They get protein from beans, whole grains and vegetable sources.

Now that they're older they make their own choices but still don't eat meat. The oldest has had pepperoni pizza a couple of times in her life and will eat a bite of bacon on occasion but that's it in 13 years. At 9 the little one has never had any meat. She is very healthy and both my kids have very "adult" tastes in food. We eat very well at our house.

I don't think meeting with a nutritionist is necessary at all. Do a little research about high protein plant based foods and you'll do fine. Reading some of these responses I realize many people have no real experience with this sort of thing. Changing your diet isn't something you do overnight. You start moving in the nutritional direction you want and adjust as you go. You'll learn what works and what doesn't for your family and trust me unless you're talking about a very strict, total vegan diet with no fish, dairy or eggs then it will be very easy & healthy for your family.

Below is link to an article written by a little girl who is vegetarian discussing the enviromental impact of a meat based diet. If we all thought more about what we're eating, where it came from and it's impact on the earth we would ALL lead better lives.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Good for you for adjusting your diet so that you and your kids can live healthier, longer lives.

You can emphasize a plant-based whole foods diet without completely eliminating all animal based foods. That's how we eat at my house.

A good place to start is to try ethnic dishes. Asian cooking traditionally uses small amounts of meat for flavoring as well as tofu and fish for protein. You will avoid animal fats like butter and cheese. East Indian dishes use alot of legumes and yummy spices. For summer, a Mediterranean diet with lots of vegies and salads and a little fish will let you make use of all the fresh produce in the farmers markets.

I have heart disease in my family, too. My doctor wanted to put me on lipitor but I was able to drastically lower my LDL by eating this way. You really can change your health with your diet. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Do you have netflix streaming? Watch "Forks Over Knives". I think your children will be just fine with the occasional fish plus all the other plant-based foods. Plenty of people raise thier children vegan and they grow just fine. I think their diet includes a lot of legumes. They get their protein and calcium from veggies and nuts and such that contain the nutrients they need. Watch the film. It was educational for me. But I am not Nixing the meat from my diet anytime soon. I am an omnivore for sure.

@Mishy - Ha. I admit. I DO say "Finish eating your meat!" to my son all the time. He won't eat beans. He loves his veggies. He'll ask for fruit for dessert. And he likes meat, but sometimes I have to remind him to eat it so he can get his protein!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Wait until they are at least 12 yrs old.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

The only "people" you should be listening to are health professionals. I would meet with a nutritionist, just to make sure you understand what you (and especially your kids) need to stay healthy. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Bravo for you. The other thing you'll want to omit is sugar. Many vegetarians are not healthy because they live on peanut butter and twinkies. Sugar increases heart disease, cancer and obesity.

Unless you are doing raw dairy, you really don't need it. Once dairy is pasteurized, it burns everything out of it....which is why it has to be fortified with so many nutrients. Not to mention that California allows something like 1 million PUS cells per OUNCE of milk. Nice, huh?

Kale and broccoli alone will decrease the estrogenic impact of everything around us and will decrease the risk of cancer. Steaming for 4 minutes and adding some coconut oil and sea salt is great.

If you at organic you'll be getting WAY more nutrients and not so many chemicals.

Also, we take Standard Process supplements, as they are food based, not barcoded laboratory based. We can't possibly get ALL of our nutrients with the stressful, polluted lives we lead living where we do, but these organically farmed supplements will help. These just help with the nutrients we aren't getting, but we still eat better than 99% of the people out there.

Short funny. My daughter is 4 and we were at a friend's house. She saw some powdered donuts and asked me if she "could have one of those small circle things." She didn't even know what it was!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I am vegetarian with very little cheese, dairy and yogurt in my diet, my kids eat the same way. My kids are the healthiest I know, not kidding. Not only do we eat mostly clean I try to make it fun for them and I am a short order cook(for them, not for a living)You are what you eat and I want them to like the good foods and not force them. You can't really go wrong eliminating meat, eliminating all dairy might cause b12 deficiency, but you can handle that easily with a multivitamin.

Which in. America and how our farming is is a good idea for anyone. Our food is picked early and travels far.

You won't regret your decisions, this is the first generation on kids not living as long as their parents, that's scary and processed corn products and meat are largely to blame.cutting out the meat and boxed food is a good start

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We are vegetarians, and both of us, our roommate, and our son is very healthy. He eats oatmeal made with whole milk in the morning (he is 1.5 yrs old), pasta, potatoes, rice, or cous-cous with veggies for lunch, and maybe a scrambled egg also. Beans and lentils are great for protein, as well as cheese. I think being a vegan may not be that great for young kids, but if you cut out meat they should be really healthy. We offer fruit as a snack, and whole grain crackers, raisins, dried apricots and pineapple, slices of cucumber...
Some dairy should be fine and will not cause your kids trouble. I would always go for whole milk too - this skim milk thing is kind of an American trend, I think.
Junk food is really where the problem lies. Our son gets ice cream and cake and chocolate too, but not too often. And he is allowed to try meat at other people's places - we just don't have it at home.
I hope this helps!



answers from Kansas City on

You should consult with your pediatrician and a nutritionist. Good Luck:)



answers from Los Angeles on

Just make sure they get plenty of protein from beans, tofu, nuts, and dairy of you eat it. Fish needs to be carefully sourced to prevent excess mercury consumption, which children are much more susceptible to than adults. As for vitamins, B12 and iron are the most common deficiencies. B12 is not an issue if you eat dairy or eggs, but if you don't then supplement with a dissolvable sublingual. Iron can easily be gotten from kale, broccoli, seaweed but if not eating these multiple times per week, you may need supplementation. Buy a good book or use a reputable website and you will be just fine. Trust your body too. After eating that way for a while, I now crave kale sometimes. My favorite recipe,
Dino kale, sauté with garlic, lemon, and sesame oil. Top with sesame seeds at the end. Yum!



answers from Los Angeles on

Here is my 2 cents: I have been vegan for 3 years and vegetarian for 20+. I am also a competitive athlete. My daughter is almost 8 and for the time she is with me (50%) she eats vegetarian. I don't force it and let her eat hamburger or chicken outside of my house if she wants it (it's rare that she does.) At my home we regularly eat whole foods and a lot of vegetables and fruit. Kale and brussels sprouts are common! She requests fruit for dessert. And yes, I work full time, no cook-no cleaning staff.
I think the reason a lot of kids don't eat veggies is because parents (yes, us) make such a big deal about cleaning them off the plate. No one ever says, "You better finish off your meat!" If we as parents eat veggies first and often, our children will mirror us.

I'm 40, my cholesterol is under 100, and the rest of my bloodwork is great. I am never anemic and regularly donate blood to the Red Cross. I don't take any medications and have no health issues. I am not over- nor underweight and my daughter is thin and healthy as well.

I suggest consulting with a health professional however, doctors don't get a lot of nutrition schooling and are seriously lacking on vegetarian diet information. My daughter's ped regularly suggests she drink more cow's milk which I think is offensive. Check with a dietician or nutritionist as a starting point and good luck! Don't feel bad for 'falling off the wagon' your body will tell you what it needs. :)


answers from Chicago on

You have to be crazy strict about it ... and I suggest doing it under a doctor and nutrionalist's supervision for ALL family members. My mom and I tried a plant based diet (heart issues run in mine too) and we got VERY sick even under supervision. I will suggest only serving red meat once a week 2-4oz portions and white the same and include fish.

Red, Meatless, ML, Fish, ML, ML, White, ML, ML, Red. Something like that I think could be workable and you and your husband can eat/not eat the meat as you wish ... NO matter what I suggest you do this while under supervision.

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