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Is the veggie diet safe and healthy for children?

Can children follow a veggie diet without consequences for their growth? Do they need supplementation? The new episode of the A gust amb la Terra podcast addresses the nutritional needs of children and their compatibility with this type of food.

The veggie population keeps growing and the youngest are the main ones change engine. That is why it is not surprising that many families adapt for children the food model that they had followed at home for a veggie diet, greener, better for the planet.

But this means that doubts are also raised: Is this way of eating healthy? Does it affect your growth?

He accompanies us Noelia López, nutritionist at Nestlé Spain to help us clarify these doubts.

Time of change

In childhood, the physiological changes are unquestionable: the rate of growth increases and consequently the appetite and energy needs.

But we’re not just talking about physical changes, there’s also important growth on an emotional level: at this stage of life, ideals begin to be set and, as individuals, we look for a place in society.

It is at this moment, as indicated by Noelia López, when certain interests begin to emerge, such as sustainability or veggie food.

All changes, whether mental or physical, must be kept in mind when we want to assess whether our son or daughter eats variable, healthy and sufficient.

Can children follow a veggie diet?

But the question that arises is clear: Is a veggie diet compatible or not with the needs of children?

“It is if it is well planned and ensures the energy and nutritional needs specific to this stage”, assures the expert.

And it is a vulnerable period from a nutritional point of view, since eating habits are still being established, habits that accompany us throughout our lives and which can also be key to avoiding future diseases.

The fear of the unknown, adds the nutritionist, is what leads parents to be afraid of changes of this type, so knowing the reasons why the child wants to change his diet is essential.

Reasons for change

What can make it possible for the minor to want to make this change in diet? The truth is that it is usually associated with:

  • The increase in interest for the sustainability.
  • Respect for animals.
  • Health.

But we must be careful with the change of diet as a result of one eating disorder. In this situation, it is important for parents to be attentive and check that the food their children are eating is correct.

Planning a veggie diet

One way or another, like any diet, the veggie must follow a plan that should not differ much from a conventional one: in both cases, whether we are talking about children or adults, there must be a clear predominance of plant-based foods.

Thus, to avoid shortcomings we must take into account that:

  • 50% of our diet must be fruit and vegetables and we must consume a minimum of five daily portions.
  • 25% cereals and integral derivatives such as oats, wheat, quinoa or spelled.
  • The remaining 25% corresponds to proteins of high nutritional quality:
    • vegans-legumes, nuts and seeds
    • vegetarians-eggs and dairy products.
nutriplat childhood obesity
The nutriplat, photo provided by Nestlé.

Key nutrients in the veggie kids diet

In case of following a veggie diet, Noelia López points out a series of nutrients that will have a special role in children’s nutrition.


B12 supplementation is necessary in these cases, as folic acid is crucial in this growth phase for the correct development of the nervous system.

In this sense, going to a professional will be very useful, because in this way we will guarantee a balanced diet.

This vitamin is present in:

  • Green leafy vegetables raw or cooked with little water (steamed)
  • Products like chickpea flour

Iron and calcium

Within the processes of mineralization and bone growth the needs for protein, iron (especially from the first period in teenage girls) or calcium are important.

To ensure proteins you need to follow a varied diet, with one or two protein sources that we can find in…

  • Legumes such as lupins, soy, chickpeas or derivatives (such as pasta or flour).
  • products alternatives soy-based and fortified dairy products (such as nuts and seeds).
  • Mushrooms or the nutritional yeast they are also options to consider as they enrich creams and purées quickly and easily.

In the case of calcium…

  • Plant-based drinks and fortified yogurts are of great importance.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage…
  • Green leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard or spinach.
    • These vegetables sometimes contain oxalateswhich makes it difficult calcium absorption so it is necessary to use culinary methods that minimize it: roasting, cooking, soaking or fermenting.
  • White beans, almonds, tofu, sesame are also rich in calcium.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D participates in the absorption of calcium. Known as the vitamin of the sun, to absorb it you need to expose your face and hands to direct sunlight for two hours a week. In the case of children, for example, it would be enough to play outside for half an hour two or three times a week.

Of course, Noelia López emphasizes that the time of sun exposure necessary for its correct absorption will depend on the skin tone of the child: the darker it is, the longer it will take.


The Nestlé nutritionist touches on the importance of fats in our diet.

And the fact is that fat provides energy and helps to transport the different vitamins through the blood, not to mention that they give flavor and texture to our dishes.

The only thing to keep in mind in this regard is to make sure that you are consuming adequate amounts and quality fats, such as those provided by olive oil, avocado or chia. In short, mono and polyunsaturated fatslike those we find in acids omega 3.

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