Plant Based Diet for Kids: Can Children Be Healthy and Thrive on A Plant-Based Diet? ( PART 1)

By Team Ahimsa



Time to Read: 7 min

Plant Based Diet for Kids

By: Dr. Derek Kwan

Plant-based diets have seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the past few years. This is not surprising since climate change is a growing concern and one of the biggest ways to reduce our carbon footprint and improve the health of our planet is to adopt a plant-based diet. Not only would a plant-based diet be better for environmental health, but it could also improve our health. Poor nutrition from the Standard American Diet increases the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States.  

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

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Standard American diet chart shows that 63% is processed food, 25% animal food, 6% whole plant food, and 6% processed plant food

Both our health and the planet's health can get better on a plant-based diet, plus it is much kinder for the animals. It is a win-win-win situation.

We all want to take better care of ourselves and also be good stewards of the earth. Adopting a more plant-based diet makes complete sense. Sure, a plant-based diet can be a healthy lifestyle choice for adults who want to reduce harm to the environment and decrease their risk of chronic disease. But is it healthy for children?

As a loving parent to a three-year-old daughter, I understand the concern. I get it.

But the short answer is yes, children can be healthy and thrive on a plant-based diet! 

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets

At first, I was skeptical. I had many questions. Can my child meet her nutritional needs solely on a plant-based diet?

After doing a little research, I found that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics unequivocally states that plant-based diets are nutritionally adequate, appropriate for all stages of life, and may also provide a variety of health benefits.

Below is a direct quote from the abstract of their position statement:

"It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and athletes."

Designing An Appropriately Planned Plant-Based Diet

Yes, an appropriately planned plant-based diet can be nutritionally adequate for everyone, even children. But the key operative words here are appropriately planned.

So, what exactly is an appropriately planned plant-based diet?

First, I will tell you what is not. A diet of processed vegan junk food is NOT an appropriately planned diet. For example, feeding your child cookies, chips, fries, and vegan chicken nuggets every day is not going to fulfill her nutritional needs.

An appropriately planned plant-based diet consists primarily of unprocessed, whole plant foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

A Healthy Plant-Based Plate

A healthy, appropriately planned plant-based diet should consist of the following:

  • Healthy fats. This should come from whole foods that are naturally rich in unsaturated fat such as avocados, hummus, nuts, nut butter, and seeds such as flax, hemp, and chia seeds.
  • Protein from plant-based sources. An excellent source of plant-based protein is legumes and beans. Examples include tofu, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
  • Non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Complex carbohydrates from starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots as well as from whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, wild or brown rice.
  • Fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut can be an excellent source of probiotics that support gut health.
  • Fruit. Examples include berries, oranges, apples, bananas, mangoes and so much more. Choose an assortment of different colors to consume a variety of phytonutrients. Kids are encouraged to eat the rainbow!
  • Plant-based milk can also be included, but it is not necessary. This includes plant milk made from soy, almond, rice, oat, and hemp. Soy milk is a popular alternative to cow’s milk because it is smooth, creamy, and is often more nutrient-rich compared to other plant milk alternatives. 

This is what a healthy plant-based plate looks like.

This is what a typical meal for us looks like. A plate that contains many of the components of a healthy plant-based diet.

Mealtime Essentials

Following the guidelines above should fulfill a child’s nutritional needs and more.


Final Thoughts

The food we consume plays a key role in our health and happiness. Our food can make us feel nourished and give us energy. Or it can make us feel lethargic and give us brain fog. 

As parents, we should make it a priority to eat well and teach our kids good nutritional habits.  It is important to show our kids how empowering and fun preparing healthy meals can be! A plant-based diet will certainly help in accomplishing these goals. 

Finally, don't miss out on PART 2 where we will be talking about frequently asked questions, making healthy plant based meals at home, and quick tips to get you started.

Dr. Derek Kwan MD is a husband, father, anesthesiologist, and interventional pain specialist in San Diego, California. He works at Kaiser Permanente where he is a physician wellness champion and lead project manager of the physician wellness committee. San Diego Magazine has listed Dr. Kwan as one of San Diego’s Top Doctors. 

Dr. Kwan is also the founder of Dr. McFrugal, a lifestyle website dedicated to helping people in various realms of life including personal finance, investing, health, wellness, plant-based diet and nutrition, travel, minimalism, environmentalism, and non-toxic clean living. He is also a Climate For Health Ambassador as well as the host of the Finding Meaning In and Out of Medicine wellness podcast. When he’s not at work, he really enjoys spending quality time with his wife and daughter, reading, working out, writing, and traveling. 

To learn more about Dr. Derek Kwan, visit him on Instagram @DrDareWreck or check out his website

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

About Ahimsa Founder Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Mealtime Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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