A whole-food, plant-based diet is healthful, nutritious and appropriate for all ages and all stages of the life cycle. These include infants, children, adolescents, athletes, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and older adults. There are a myriad of health benefits to those who adopt such an eating pattern, including the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. The Position Paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Vegetarian Diets provides a good summary of the advantages of this eating approach:

“Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease.”

What about for children? In addition to the health benefits listed above, are there specific advantages to such an eating approach for children? According to the same Position Paper, there are many additional benefits to being on a balanced vegetarian diet early in life in childhood and adolescence. These include the following:

  • The establishment of healthful lifelong habits
  • A greater consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Fewer sweets and salty snacks
  • Lower intakes of total and saturated fat
  • Lower risk than non-vegetarian peers for overweight and obesity
  • More probability of maintaining Body Mass Index (BMI) values in the normal range as adults, leading to less risk for future chronic disease

(Source: Melina, V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. Link to article. Accessed March 1, 2018.)