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Plant-Based Diets: Are They Good for Kids?

Plant-Based Diets: Are They Good for Kids? Plant-Based Diets: Are They Good for Kids?

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 heart disease, diabetes and 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 climate change.

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 one or two meals per week for your family. Plant-based protein options that can create a filling meal include beans, tofu, lentils and nuts.

  • Choose healthy 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 B-12, calcium, zinc, vitamin D and iron are maximized. Sources for these nutrients include:

  • Vitamin B-12: 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 or health.

More Information

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.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health (Copyright © 2020)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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