Fostering a Gentler, Healthier and more Compassionate World for all Living Beings

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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.

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