Veggie Health for Kids
Every nutrient a child needs and
how to get it.
A guide for parents showing why vegetarian/vegan diets are the healthiest
option for children.
World turned upside
down! / What You Need and Where You
Get It / How Animal Products Affect
Children / How Animal Products Affect
Adults / Conclusions
What You Need and Where You Get It
All diets need to be properly planned - for vegetarians no more and no
less than meat eaters. All the food you eat - fat, carbohydrate, protein
- provides calories. Calories equal energy and so all foods are referred
to by the amount of energy (calories) they provide. That’s why it’s
meaningless when food manufacturers make claims such as ‘Less than
five per cent fat’. That amount of fat probably accounts for one-third
of the calories in the sausages or whatever it is they’re urging
you to buy.
Recommended total daily calorie intakes:
1-3 yrs 1165-1230
4-6 yrs 1545-1715
7-10 yrs 1740-1970
11-14 yrs 1845-2220
15-18 yrs 2110-2755
Adults 19-49 yrs 1940-2550
About 50 per cent of all this energy should come from carbohydrates.
For a girl aged 7-10 years that means 870 calories (about 220 grams (g)
of carbohydrate per day).
Carbohydrates are our main and most important source of energy. There
are three types: 1) fast-releasing, such as table sugar, honey, white flour,
sweets and syrups; 2) slow-releasing complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrains
(oats, bread, rice, pasta, rye); and 3) fibre - the indigestible part of
fruits, vegetables and grains, essential for the digestive system to work
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reckons we should all be eating far
more slow-releasing carbohydrates than we do. A vegetarian diet - based
as it is on carbohydrate-rich plant foods - is the perfect way of doing
Two slices of bread (about 100g) contains 45g carbohydrate; 50g serving
of breakfast cereal 47g; 150g serving of lentils (cooked) 26g.
Adults are urged to eat 18g per day yet the average intake is only
about 12g! Fibre is found only in plant foods and not in meat or dairy,
so vegetarians tend to be well supplied. Fruits, vegetables, pulses and
wholegrain bread, pasta, rice and oats provide it in abundance. Fibre
is essential as it helps to prevent constipation, reduce cholesterol
levels, makes us feel full (so helping to avoid overeating) and evens
out blood sugar levels. It may also help to prevent some types of cancer.
200g can baked beans contains 7.4g fibre; 200g cooked wholewheat pasta
7g; 50g average-sized apple 1g.
Daily intake - 14.5g (toddlers) to 55g (adults).
About 15 per cent of our energy should come from protein, which is
needed for growth, repairing the body and fighting infection - and
there is more nonsense talked about it than any other nutrient. Vegetarians
get all they need simply by eating a variety of different foods -
and its healthier than meat protein. The bonus for veggies is that
they also get more fibre and far less saturated fat.
Good sources of protein are pulses (beans, lentils), dairy products, free-range
eggs, nuts, seeds, cereals and grains (bread, pasta, rice). Soya beans
- in the form of soya milk, tofu (soya bean curd), imitation meats and
soya sausages - are equivalent to meat in the amount and type of protein
they provide. They also have the advantage of containing strong antioxidant
(disease-busting) properties, are rich in fibre and phytoestrogens - chemicals
that are thought to have anti-cancer properties - and are high in the essential
fats lacking in many people’s diets. Not only does soya contain no
cholesterol it can actually help lower cholesterol levels in the body!
The large amount of evidence linking soya to good heart health has even
led the US and UK to allow health claims on certain food products containing
200g (about half a can) baked beans contains 10.4g protein; 200g cooked
pasta 8g; 150g cooked kidney beans 10.4g; 25g almonds (small packet) 5g;
1 slice bread 4g.
Fat should make up no more than 30 per cent of your energy intake.
Of this, no more than 10 per cent should be saturated fat, the remainder
being a combination of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (see
Fats are essential for repairing body tissue, carrying some vitamins
around the body and for manufacturing hormones. They also help lubricate
our joints. Fats are either saturated (mainly animal fats) or unsaturated.
You do not need to eat saturated animal fat but you do need some
unsaturated fats - the so-called essential fatty acids or polyunsaturated
There are two types - omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fats are
found in dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, some nuts
(especially walnuts), seeds (especially linseed - also called flax)
and soya beans and oils extracted from them. Omega-6 fats are found
in seeds such as sunflower and sesame seeds, corn, some nuts (again
walnuts) and soya beans and their oils. The most common supermarket
oils - general vegetable oil blends - tend to be high in omega-6
fats but very low in omega-3 fats. Using only these types of oil
may mean you miss out on the vital omega-3 fats.
Walnuts and linseeds are rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
and in the right proportions that the body needs. Essential oils (especially
omega-3 ones) are easily damaged by light or heat so they should be refrigerated
and only used cold as dressings. It’s also best to refrigerate seeds
and nuts for obvious reasons. One to two handfuls of nuts and seeds or
two to four tablespoons of these polyunsaturated essential oils each day
is all you need. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and is great for cooking
as it is much less prone to damage. There’s also good evidence to
suggest that olive oil helps lower cholesterol and may be part of the reason
why traditional Mediterranean diets result in lower rates of heart disease.
And don’t believe the hype surrounding oily fish as a necessary
part of the diet for obtaining important dietary omega-3 fats. Government
surveys have found that all fish contain poisons such as mercury,
dioxins and PCB’s. Research also shows that it is plant oils, not
fish oils, that are most protective of the heart - in fact plant oils give
as much protection to the heart than do fish oils! (See
also VVF Fishing for
1 slice of bread contains 1g fat; 220g can baked beans 1g; 25g packet
of almonds 14g fat (most of which are the beneficial types).
Daily intake - 350mg (toddlers) to 700mg (adults).
Calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth - in fact, almost our entire
calcium supply is bound up in just these two areas of the body! Calcium
is also involved in the working of many hormones, blood clotting, regulation
of blood pressure, muscular contractions and the sending and receiving
of electrical nerve impulses. Although dairy products are well known to
be calcium-rich, cow's milk is not necessarily the best source as it also
contains saturated fat but contains no fibre, iron or vitamins C, E or
beta-carotene. And despite all you read, drinking cow's milk is no guarantee
of healthy bones (see Osteoporosis).
Vegan diets which include regular servings of dark green, leafy vegetables
such as broccoli, kale, watercress and parsley; pulses, seeds (especially
sesame and tahini - sesame seed paste) and nuts (especially almonds) are
unlikely to be calcium deficient. Most soya milk is fortified with calcium
and because it contains no animal protein, it doesn’t cause calcium
to be lost from the body like dairy and meat do (see Osteoporosis).
When you stop to think about it, drinking the milk of another species
is a very strange thing to do, particularly when no animal has a need for
it after weaning - and that includes humans. We do it out of habit and
because it is heavily promoted. Imagine drinking the milk of your pet dog
or an elephant. Sounds ludicrous - but no more so than drinking the milk
of a cow!
“Ideally the infant should be exclusively fed human milk for
the first year of life...After the first year of life the child requires
milk of any type. The child, like us adults, can thrive without cow
milk ever crossing his lips.”
FRANK OSKI MD, (1932 - 1996) SPECIALIST IN PAEDIATRIC NUTRITION AND
FORMER DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PAEDIATRICS, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL
OF MEDICINE AND PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, THE JOHNS HOPKINS CHILDREN’S
100g tofu (soya bean curd) contains 510mg calcium; 1 slice white bread
45mg; 100g broccoli 40mg; 25g almonds 60mg; 5g serving tahini (sesame seed
paste) 34mg; 100ml serving fortified soya milk 120-140mg. This compares
with 57mg for eggs and 115-120mg for milk.
Daily intake - 70mcg (toddlers) to 140mcg (adults).
Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones, which help to control metabolism
so determining how fast you burn up foods. In infants, thyroid hormones
are responsible for development of the nervous system, including the brain.
Dairy produce and seaweed (nori, kelp, etc.) are iodine-rich and so are
foods which contain seaweed, such as carrageenan, used as a thickening
agent. Other sources are Vecon vegetable stock and dark green vegetables.
10g dried seaweed contains 50mcg iodine; 5g serving Marmite 2.45mcg; 100ml
whole cow's milk 15mcg.
Daily intake - 6.9mg (toddlers) to 14.8mg (adults).
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body and everyone
needs a good supply. Leading health advisory bodies agree that iron deficiency
anaemia is no more common in vegetarians than meat-eaters. This is because
there are plenty of iron sources in a veggie diet - pulses (any kind of
bean, lentils, chickpeas, peas); dark green leafy veg. such as broccoli,
fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, dried
apricots, prunes and figs, black treacle and even plain dark chocolate
or cocoa. The body isn’t that great at absorbing iron but the great
thing about a veggie diet is that it is loaded with vitamin C from fresh
fruits and vegetables which can increase iron absorption sixfold. Drinking
tea can reduce iron absorption so avoid your cuppa when eating iron-rich
200g lentils contains 7mg iron; 200g baked beans 3mg; 2 slices wholegrain
bread 2.5mg; 50g serving fortified breakfast cereal 3.3mg.
Daily intake - 5.0mg (toddlers) to 9.5mg (adults).
Zinc is involved in growth, the health of the immune system (so helping
to fight infection) and plays a crucial role in enzyme activity. Enzymes
are chemicals which help speed up all the reactions that go on in the body
(eg digestion of food) and zinc helps keep these enzymes working properly.
Good sources include pulses, wholegrains, leafy green vegetables, nuts
200g lentils contains 2.8mg zinc; 200g wholegrain pasta 2.2mg; 25g brazil
nuts 1.05mg; 25g sunflower seeds 1.3mg.
Daily intake - 400mcg (toddlers) to 700mcg (adults).
Vitamin A is needed to maintain a healthy immune system, for the growth
and development of tissues, for vision and healthy skin. There are two
kinds - one found in plants, called beta-carotene, and one in meat called
retinol. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A and it acts as
an important antioxidant (see page 12). Animal vitamin A - retinol - is
not an antioxidant, is found mostly in liver and taken in large quantities
during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Foods rich in beta-carotene include
green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, apricots, watercress, spinach,
parsley, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and mangoes.
50g cooked peas contains 125mcg vitamin A; 10g cooked carrots 756mcg;
200g serving chickpeas 42mcg.
B Complex Vitamins
Daily intake - 0.40mg (toddlers) to 1.0mg (adults).
Vitamin B1 helps to release the locked up energy in carbohydrates and
fats, it aids the functioning of the brain, heart and nerves and helps
the body cope with stress. Good food sources include wholemeal bread, yeast
extract, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, oats, black treacle and fortified
breakfast cereals. When wheat flour is refined to make white flour, thiamin
is lost so it has to be fortified with it during manufacture
50g fortified cereal contains 0.50mg vitamin B1; 1 slice wholegrain bread
0.15mg; 25g sunflower seeds 0.40mg; 5g yeast extract 0.16mg.
Daily intake - 0.6mg (toddlers) to1.3mg (adults).
Riboflavin helps to release energy from fats, carbohydrates and protein
and aids healthy skin, hair and nails. It’s widely available in plant
foods such as yeast extract, wholegrains, almonds, seeds, black treacle
5g yeast extract (such as Marmite) contains 0.55mg riboflavin; 50g fortified
cereal 0.65g; 100ml fortified soya milk 0.24mg.
Daily intake - 6.6mg (toddlers) to 17mg (adults).
Niacin is needed to release energy from foods and for maintaining skin,
nerve, brain and digestive health. It is found in yeast extract,
wholegrains including wholemeal bread, dates, nuts and seeds, peas and
200g wholegrain pasta contains 2.6mg niacin; 2 slices wholegrain
bread 3.8mg; 5g yeast extract 2.9mg; 10g peanut butter 1.25mg.
Daily intakes - 0.7mg (toddlers) to 1.4mg (adults).
Vitamin B6 is needed for breaking down protein, producing red blood cells
and absorbing zinc. It is easily obtained from wholegrains, avocados, bananas,
prunes, beans, dried fruits, seeds and nuts.
100g banana contains 0.29mg vitamin B6; 100g avocado 0.36mg; 50g fortified
Folate (Folic Acid)
Daily intakes - 70mcg (toddlers) to 200mcg (11 plus).
Folate helps with the making of blood, forming DNA (your genetic blueprint),
using protein and is important in preventing defects in the developing
foetus. It is found widely in a vegetarian diet in dark green leafy vegetables,
pulses, avocado, nuts and beansprouts.
100g broccoli contains 64mcg folic acid; 25g hazelnuts 18mcg; 200g lentils
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Daily intakes - 0.50mcg (toddlers) to 1.50mcg (15 plus).
Cobalamin is essential for a healthy nervous system and blood formation
and is made by bacteria in the soil. Your liver has stores for up to three
years. Traces may be found on un-washed veg. but this isn’t a reliable
source. Vegetarians can obtain vitamin B12 from dairy products and free-range
eggs and there’s a growing number of products now fortified with
B12, including some breakfast cereals, yeast extract, some margarines and
soya milk. It’s thought that vitamin B12 from fortified foods is
better absorbed than B12 from meat, poultry and fish.
5g Marmite contains 0.75mcg vitamin B12; 100ml fortified soya milk 0.5mcg;
50g fortified cereal 0.85mcg.
Vitamins B6, B12 and folate are now thought to help keep the heart healthy
by lowering levels of a chemical in the body called homocysteine. High
levels of homocysteine have been linked to increased risk for heart disease
and strokes so it is vital that adequate amounts of these B-vitamins are
supplied daily in the diet.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Daily intakes - 30mg (toddlers) to 40mg (15 plus).
Your body can’t store vitamin C so it needs to be eaten every day.
It’s an important vitamin - involved in wound healing, maintaining
healthy skin, blood vessels and healthy gums. It is also an important antioxidant,
helping to keep the immune system fighting fit. Vitamin C also helps the
body absorb iron. It is present in a wide range of plant foods but there
is none in animal products. Rich sources are berry fruits such as blackcurrants,
citrus fruits such as oranges as well as green leafy vegetables, kiwi fruits,
broccoli and tomatoes. Potatoes contain some vitamin C and are an important
source, particularly in winter.
100g cauliflower contains 27mg vitamin C; 50g orange 27mcg; 100g banana
The main source of vitamin D is from that made in the body via the action of sunlight on the skin and it is needed for absorption of calcium. There is no recommended daily amount from the diet but estimates of 10 mcg per day are given for people who can't get out in the sun. Sun exposure on the hands and face for just 15 minutes each day is all that is required to make enough of this vitamin - even cloudy summers will suffice. The liver then stores the vitamin so ensuring a source through the winter.
However for children under five, the sun can't be relied on to supply all that is needed for the growing body so a dietary source may be advised - at least 7mcg per day. Some everyday foods are now fortified with vitamin D - margarines, some breakfast cereals as well as some brands of soya milk.
50g fortified cereal contains: 1.4mcg (Shreddies); 2.1mcg (Bran Flakes and Ricicles) and 4.15mcg (Special K) vitamin D; 100ml fortified soya milk contains 0.75mcg.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
There are no daily recommendations for vitamin E as it depends on
how much polyunsaturated fat you eat - vitamin E protects these fats
inside the body. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and protects cells
from damage, increases muscle strength and reduces the risk of blood
clots - protecting against heart disease and strokes. Only found in plant
foods, rich sources are vegetable oils, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds,
wholegrains, green leafy vegetables and wheatgerm.
200g cooked brown rice contains 0.60mg vitamin E; 20g serving peanut butter
1mg; 25g sunflower seeds 9.4mg.
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
These were only discovered in the 1980’s but what a discovery! Free
radicals are believed to play a part in causing 60 or more diseases and
are capable of wreaking havoc on healthy cells by causing damage to its
DNA. You naturally produce free radicals with just about everything you
do, such as breathing or digesting food. Even more of these unstable molecules
are created as waste products of pollution, smoking and cooking. But there
is a remedy - things called antioxidants.
The main antioxidants are beta-carotene and vitamins C and E and these
actually protect you against disease by neutralising free radical damage.
None of these vital protectors is found in meat or cow’s milk but
they are plentiful in plant foods. New antioxidants are still being discovered
and Flavenols are one such group. Again they are found only in plant foods.
One of the Flavenols is called lycopene, found in red foods such as tomatoes.