Vegan Diet for Toddlers & School-aged children


Toddlers and preschoolers (children from age 1 to 5) are notorious for strong food preferences, and vegan children are no exception. Raising a child on a vegetarian diet does not assure that the child will like all plant-based foods. Vegan toddlers can have the same dietary issues as omnivore toddlers such as a dislike of vegetables and/or selective eating habits. Practical information for vegetarian families with picky eaters has been published elsewhere.

Young children need more than three meals a day. Nutritious snacks consisting of the same foods that would be served at meals-beans, grains, fruits and vegetables- add significantly to the nutrient intake of the vegan child. Many vegan toddlers are still nursing, which aids in the intake of calcium, protein and other nutrients.

A common misconception is that vegan children will have poor growth. The FARM study examined a vegan community in Tennessee. A sample of 404 children, vegan from birth, was slightly shorter than controls at age 1 to 3, and was comparable in height at age 10. Studies of British vegan (non-macrobiotic) children showed they were taller than controls, and weighed slightly less.

School-aged children

Many school-aged children (ages 5 to 12) have been following a vegan diet from birth. However, it is becoming more common for children as young as 7 or 8 years old to select this diet for themselves.

School snacks and lunches will probably need to be brought from home, as school lunches may have limited vegan choices. However, schools may offer juices, vegetables, fruits, dairy free breads, baked potatoes and even bean burritos on occasion.

While some people express concern that children who are vegan may find the diet socially difficult, that is not necessarily the case. Many children avoid food items for religious reasons or food allergies/intolerances, not to mention simply disliking the food.

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