By: Lisa Patel, MD, FAAP & Amanda Millstein, MD, FAAP
Eating a plant-based diet can be a beneficial choice for your family. It does not necessarily mean you stop eating all meat or
dairy products. It means that a majority of your food comes from plant-based sources such as
vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans, and grains.
Why choose a plant-based diet?
Choosing a plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean diet (which has a foundation in plant-based foods, but also includes
fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt a few times a week) or a vegetarian diet have been shown to have health benefits, such as lower risk of
high blood pressure.
Switching to a more plant-based diet not only may have health benefits, but can be good for the environment as well. Meat and dairy production require more water and land, and this contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions, which cause
How to follow a plant-based diet
General guidelines for a healthy plant-based diet include:
Make at least half of your plate vegetables at lunch and dinner, choosing vegetables that are a variety of colors. Also aim to eat green leafy vegetables at least once per day.
Eat smaller amounts of meat or eliminate meat altogether from 1-2 meals per week for your family. Plant-based protein options that can create a filling meal include beans, tofu, lentils, and nuts.
fats, which can be found in nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, and olive oils.
Make fruit the nightly dessert for your family.
Ensuring healthy growth for kids following a plant-based diet
A plant-based diet that includes eggs and dairy ensures your child will have the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. An egg- and dairy-free
vegan diet can also be healthy and complete, if sources of
vitamin D and
iron are maximized. Sources for these nutrients include:
Vitamin B12: vitamin fortified cereals, breads, soy milk, nutritional yeast, or in some supplements
Calcium: kale, broccoli, dried beans, calcium-fortified soy milk
Iron: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, tofu, dried fruits, whole grains, kale, cabbage, broccoli, iron fortified breads and cereals
Zinc: hummus, potatoes, nuts, fortified cereal, dried beans, pumpkin seeds
Vitamin D: fortified cereals, fortified milk substitutes, mushrooms, or in some supplements
Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your child's diet.
About Dr. Patel
Lisa Patel, MD, FAAP, is a community pediatric hospitalist for Stanford University, co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) California Chapter 1 Climate and Health Task Force and Advocacy, and Policy Lead at the Sean Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research.
About Dr. Millstein
Amanda Millstein, MD, FAAP, is a primary care pediatrician at UBCP Hilltop Pediatrics in Richmond, CA. She is a co-founder of Climate Health Now and a co-chair of AAP California Chapter One's Committee on Climate Change and Health.