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
Affect Children / How Animal Products
Affect Adults / Conclusions
World turned upside down!
Just imagine if you read of a diet that produced these headlines – Heart
disease rates tumble! 30,000 heart patients taken off critical list – misery
lifted for relatives and friends. Top heart surgeon says most heart ops
avoidable. Cancer deaths slump! Millions taken off ‘fatty’ list.
Diabetes figures fall for first time. Food poisoning cases tumble – records
no longer worth maintaining.
What diet could it possibly be? That’s easy! The same diet that
children should be eating now so they enjoy good health throughout their
lives – a well-balanced, vegetarian or vegan diet.
If statistics were reversed and 95 per cent of the population became vegetarian
or vegan, and only five per cent ate meat, these headlines could be accurate.
Unbelievable isn’t it? The scientific evidence to justify them is
there in abundance and this guide will show just how strong it is.
“People stumble over
the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry
off as if nothing happened.”
Sir Winston Churchill.
One thing is certain, research showing that a meat-based diet cuts cancer
or cuts heart disease by a quarter doesn’t exist. It does for vegetarian/vegan
diets. One by one, all the world’s leading health advisory bodies
have confirmed that avoiding animal products is the way to avoid – or at
least greatly reduce – the risk of many diseases, and that includes the
growing threat from obesity.
Although human beings eat meat, we are not natural carnivores. No
matter how much fat carnivores eat, they do not develop atherosclerosis
[clogged up arteries]. When we kill animals to eat them, they end
up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated
never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores.”
DR WC ROBERTS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CARDIOLOGY.
So what’s all this got to do with your littl’uns – those fussy
eaters, messy eaters, must-have-chips-with-everything eaters?
Every leading health advisory body is saying the same thing – what you
feed your children today will determine their health in the future. And
it isn’t going to change because the science is now just too overwhelming.
But fear not! By opening this guide, you’ve already taken the first
step in the right direction. It will take you through the science, much
of which may be new to you. Why? Because of the power of the vested interests
who profit from meat and dairy. If you think I’m exaggerating, remember
the tobacco industry. The damage that smoking does to human health has
been known since the 1950’s but it’s only recently that serious
action has been taken against it.
A vegetarian doesn’t eat red meat, white meat (poultry such as chicken,
duck and turkey), fish or other water life (prawns, lobsters, crabs, shellfish)
or slaughterhouse by-products (gelatine, animal fat, lard or animal rennet).
Most vegetarians are ‘lacto-ovo’, which means they don’t
eat meat or fish but do eat dairy products and eggs. Vegans don’t
eat any animal products at all and exclude meat, fish, dairy, eggs and
Although excluding things sounds as though we’re restricting our
choices, in fact it’s the opposite. Most meaty diets are based on
just three main food types – meat, dairy and wheat. By giving them different
names we kid ourselves we’re eating a huge variety but we’re
not. Pork, beef, chicken and lamb are in the same food group; cheese, yoghurt,
ice-cream and butter are in the same; and bread, rolls, buns, baps, crispbread,
pasta, pies, pasties, cakes and ‘baked goods’ are in the same.
Whichever way you list them, it’s still just three food types.
This isn’t the case with fruit and veg. – they are not two food
groups but several different ones. Diets based in part or entirely on plant
foods include hundreds of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses.
Judge vegetarian diets on what is included not what’s excluded and
you’ll see them through different eyes.
What foods should children eat?
Animal products actually promote disease. They are laden with artery-clogging
saturated fats, contain too much protein, have no fibre, no starchy
carbohydrates, no vitamins C, E or beta-carotene (the precursor to
vitamin A). A lack
of these antioxidant vitamins, low fibre, and high levels of saturated
fat and cholesterol are risk factors for some cancers, heart disease,
strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and several other diseases.
lunchbox is not the healthiest lunch-box by any stretch of the
A varied, veggie lunch-box based on fresh fruit and vegetables, beans,
grains, nuts and seeds is bursting with all the ingredients known to be
health promoting and health protecting. There’s loads of protein
in vegetables, particularly beans, lentils and pulses. Veggie diets also
contain essential ('good') fats, fibre, minerals and starchy carbohydrates,
antioxidant vitamins and minerals – all that’s needed to stay fit
What Foods do Children Eat?
June 2000 saw the publication of a national diet and nutrition
survey which looked into the eating habits of young people aged
4 to 18 years in Great Britain. It probably comes as no surprise
to most parents but makes for grim reading nevertheless. Roughly
80 per cent of kids are guzzling away on white bread, savoury snacks,
biscuits, chips and chocolate confectionery. Roughly 60-75 per
cent had not eaten any citrus fruits or leafy green vegetables
during the week of the survey.
The survey finds:
- Protein intake considerably too high for all ages.
- Sugar and honey intake too high.
- Fibre intake well below a healthy level.
- A third of children did not
have a daily bowel movement.
- Over 90 per cent were eating 20
per cent too much saturated fat.
- Cholesterol levels high or too
high in 10 per cent of children.
- One in five older girls grossly
deficient in vitamins A and B2.
- The disease-busting form of
Vitamin A intake (beta-carotene) was zero for 2 per cent of boys
- Folate levels too low in up to four per cent of all
- Too much vitamin C came from fruit juice and soft
drinks and not fresh fruit.
- Half of all older girls eat diets
grossly deficient in iron and magnesium.
- Nine per cent of older
girls suffer iron-deficiency anaemia.
- Calcium intakes were too
low for 11-18 year olds.
- Zinc intakes were too low for all ages.
- Over half of children consume
more than the recommended amount of salt.
As for physical activity – also important in maintaining healthy body
weight – 40 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had less than the
recommended one hour per day.
About a quarter of all children were unwell on at least one day during
the seven days records were kept. About five per cent had been diagnosed
by their GPs as having food allergies. About twice this number had
undiagnosed yet unpleasant reactions to food.
It’s clear that a large proportion of children are lacking many of
the vital vitamins and minerals needed to help combat disease. They are
eating a diet high in fat, salt and sugar largely due to convenience foods
based on processed meat and dairy products. Fresh fruit and vegetables
– along with energy-rich starchy foods such as unrefined cereals, breads,
pasta and rice – all take a back seat when it comes to young people's dinner
plates, if they appear at all.
Meat and dairy products take centre stage at every meal and, sadly, children
are likely to suffer the consequences in terms of poor health and a reduced
quality of life.
“The emphasis of our meals needs to be reversed; it is plant
foods that should be the focal point of our dinner plate, not meat and
WORLD CANCER RESEARCH FUND.
The survey also made clear that as children get older they are more inclined
to move towards a vegetarian diet. It seems that some older children, freer
of parental influence, are thinking for themselves and starting to choose
a healthier diet but the majority of children have a bad diet. The daily
pushing of the most unhealthy types of junk foods on TV and in magazines
is making profits for food manufacturers but is helping to destroy the
health of our children.
A recent report from the Cancer Research Campaign paints a similarly worrying
picture. One-in-20 of the 2,635 children questioned (aged 11-16) claimed
not to have eaten any vegetables in the previous week, with one in 17 not
eating any fruit. The recommended intake is 35 portions of fruit and vegetables
a week yet most children had eaten fewer than 13 portions. Vegetarian children
nearly always eat more fruit and veg. and a recent study found that vegetarian
pre-school children had a better intake of nutrients than meat-eating children.
They ate less fat overall, less saturated fat, cholesterol and salt and
had higher intakes of ‘good’ nutrients, such as potassium and
the vitamins C, E and beta-carotene.
Protect your child! Even more cancer deaths are thought to be caused
by bad diets than smoking.
Imagine finding that your child was smoking! You'd be understandably
horrified – and why? Because it’s now known that smoking is one
of the leading causes of cancer deaths in adults – a staggering 30 per
cent. Less known is that even more cancer deaths – about 35 per cent
– are thought to be caused by diet. What you and your children eat may
determine whether or not you become a future cancer statistic. A child
whose diet is based largely around animal products and is lacking in
fresh fruit and veg. is, quite simply, unprotected.
“Vegetarian diets (offer) a reduced risk for several chronic
diseases including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes
some types of cancer… Vegetarians often have lower morbidity and
mortality rates. …Vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits
because of their lower saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein content
and often higher concentration of folate, antioxidants such as vitamins
C and E, carotinoids and phytochemicals…”
AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION.
Eat veggie – live longer
Many of the ailments we associate with old age are not a result of
getting older but are caused by eating the wrong foods earlier in life.
High blood pressure is a good example – often seen as inevitable in old
people. Yet in countries where a plant-based diet is the norm, this simply
isn ’t the case.
A massive piece of research looked at the diets of 11,000 people over
a period of 13 years and found that vegetarians have a 20 per lower ‘premature’ death
rate than meat-eaters. They live longer! And it shows in lower life assurance
If we ate only meat and cow’s milk we would die – and pretty quickly.
If we ate only plant foods, we would be likely to live for a very long
time. People on the Japanese island of Okinawa are the longest-lived and
healthiest people in the world, according to a 25-year-long study. One
of the most important factors is their diet – based on wholegrains, vegetables,
fruit and soya products. One of their favourite foods has been dubbed ‘immortal
pate’. It is vegan and based on tofu (soya bean curd), miso (fermented
soya paste), mushrooms and garlic. It tastes as good as the good
it does you!
Lethal Double Whammy
Today's younger generation is facing a potentially lethal, diet-related
double whammy thanks to a diet centered around animal products.
Today’s disease statistics are alarming and although previous generations
may have had their own problems, rampant heart disease, obesity and cancer
weren’t among them. One reason why these diseases have become epidemics
is likely to be the diets people ate when they were young – the meat-and-two-veg
Even more disturbing is the fact that our children’s diets have
got worse since then. Thirty-odd years ago, fatty junk and convenience
foods weren't around to the same degree. Now, kids are eating the same
amount of meat and dairy their parents did when they were kids PLUS higher
quantities of saturated fat, animal protein, sugar and salt. Today’s
children will almost certainly face even worse health statistics when they
grow up than today’s adults. And kids don’t even have to ‘grow
up’ before they get diseases once only seen in adulthood – obesity
and type II diabetes are now afflicting teenagers.
Veggie Kids are Healthier
A vegetarian diet is very close to the official recommendations for
healthy eating. But is it suitable for children? Of course it is. After
the age of two, children should eat the same kinds of foods as their
parents. Below that age they need more fat than adults. (See Viva!/VVF
Vegetarian and Vegan Mother & Baby Guide for information on bringing
up vegetarian and vegan babies.)
“Appropriately planned vegan and vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient
needs of infants, children and adolescents and promote normal growth.
They are appropriate and healthful choices for adolescents and can meet
nutrient and energy needs of pregnant women.”
AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION.
There has been a wealth of research and it consistently shows that vegetarian
and vegan children obtain all the protein, energy and vitamins they need.
Fat intake is nearly always lower but adequate (particularly in vegan children)
and intakes of vital vitamins beta-carotene, C and E as well as fibre,
iron and folate are often higher.
The most recent research comes from the American Dietetic Association
and has the full backing of the American Academy of Paediatrics. It says
that well-planned vegan diets can provide all the nutrients infants and
children need, produces normal growth and may also reduce the risk of some
chronic diseases which show in later life. Their final point – and it’s
an important one – was that because vegan children eat a wider variety
of whole plant foods, it may help to establish healthy, lifelong eating