Children’s Health Foundation recommends meat-free food for children
Vegetarian families should inform themselves about the nutritional requirements of their children
Vegan diet: If there is a lack of nutrients, there is a risk of the child’s development being impaired
Overall, meat consumption in our society is far too high and more and more people are consciously avoiding meat. The number of people following a vegetarian or vegan diet has increased significantly over the past ten years. But is such a diet also healthy for children?
In its latest announcement, the Children’s Health Foundation is certain: A child who eats balanced and plant-based products can demonstrably do without meat. The vegetarian diet corresponds to many recommendations of modern nutritional science: It weighs fewer calories and contains a lower amount of saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and animal protein. Vegetarians get more fiber from their diet and the beneficial antioxidants.
Children’s Health Foundation: Meat-free nutrition in children – what should be considered?
According to Prof. Berthold Koletzko, metabolism specialist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, parents should pay attention to two important principles, regardless of whether they are eating with or without meat:
The more food groups that are excluded from the diet, the greater the risk that the chosen diet will lead to malnutrition and thus to deficiency symptoms in the child.
The younger a child is when adopting a restrictive diet, the more likely it is that a deficiency symptom will occur that will damage the child’s developing organism.
The foundation emphasizes that with a meat-free diet, certain nutrients may have to be supplied in a targeted manner so that there are no deficiencies and normal development of the children is guaranteed. Much nutrients are only found in significant quantities in meat, fish or eggs. Families living vegetarian should therefore inform themselves very precisely about the nutritional requirements of growing children and adolescents and seek good advice.
To ensure a sufficient supply of vitamins B1, B6 and B12, as well as iron, zinc, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, a wholesome vegetarian diet should contain plenty of whole grains, pulses, nuts and oilseeds.
Impending nutrient deficiency in a vegan diet
For vegetarian families who supplement their plant-based diet with milk, dairy products and eggs (“lacto-ovo-vegetarians”), there is no risk of a deficiency if the overall diet is balanced. The lacto-vegetarian diet, which also does not eat eggs, could also be a wholesome diet.
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If the children follow a strict vegan diet (avoiding all animal products), the situation looks more critical, since a deficiency in vitamin B12 (cobalamin), iron, protein and trace elements threatens development. For example, some children lag behind the average in growth and develop their motor skills and language late.
“Especially families who follow a vegan diet should get intensive dietary and medical advice in order to prevent dangers for their child and to enable undisturbed development,” recommends Koletzko.