Vegan Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers, whether vegan or not, tend to
eat less than most parents think they should. This is generally due to a developing sense of independence and a
slowing in growth. While nutrient needs are also relatively lower than during infancy, an adequate diet remains
important to promote growth and development. These early years are also important for developing healthy eating
patterns that can establish a foundation for a healthful adult diet.
One important consideration for young vegan children is the ability to get enough
calories. Young children have small stomachs and too much high fibre food may make them feel full before they
get all the calories they need. Foods such as avocados, nut and seed butters, dried fruits, and soya products
provide a concentrated source of calories. If necessary, the fibre content of the diet can be reduced by giving
some refined grain products, fruit juices and peeled fruits and vegetables. Eating more frequent meals,
including nutritious snacks, can also help to ensure adequate energy intakes.
Growth of Vegan Children
If a child’s diet contains enough calories, normal growth
and development can be expected and studies of vegan children have shown that their caloric intake is close to
recommended levels and similar to intakes of non-vegan children of the same age(16,17).
Vegan children in the UK and the US have been found to be slightly shorter and
lighter in weight than average but appeared to be growing at a normal rate(15,16). Children need a lot of
energy in relation to their size and although healthy eating should be encouraged it is important that the diet
be energy dense. Including foods such as vegetable oils, avocados, seeds, nut butters and pulses can provide
both calories and nutrients. Dried fruits are also a concentrated source of energy and are an attractive food
for many children. Children from an early age should be encouraged to brush teeth after eating dried fruits and
other sweet foods to prevent tooth decay.
Key Nutrients for Vegan Children
Protein needs can be easily met if children eat a variety
of plant foods and have an adequate intake of calories. It is unnecessary to plan and complement amino acids
precisely within each meal so long as children eat a variety of foods each day. Sources of protein for vegan
children include pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soya), grains (wheat, oats, rice, barley, buckwheat, millet,
pasta, bread), nuts, meat substitutes and nut butters.