Plant Based Diet for Kids: Can Children Be Healthy and Thrive on A Plant-Based Diet? ( PART 2)

By Team Ahimsa



Time to Read: 9 min

Plant Based Diet for Kids

By: Dr. Derek Kwan

Is this your first time here? Go back to PART 1  of this blog and learn about plant-based diets for children with Dr. Derek Kwan one of San Diego’s Top Doctors. You will get a special view of some of his personal tips & tricks on how to design an appropriately planned diet, and the science behind a healthy plant-based plate.

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 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

Want to know more? Check out our story and our products


Frequently Asked Questions about Plant-Based Diets

Even though it is clear that an appropriately planned plant-based diet is nutritionally adequate for children, there will always be skeptics who have questions.

Let’s address some of the more common questions and concerns:

  • Protein. A lot of people wonder if it is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. The answer is yes, of course. Legumes and other plant-based sources of protein are more than enough to satisfy a child’s protein needs. In addition, plant proteins have the added advantage of not containing cholesterol and increased amounts of dioxins that are often found in animal protein.
  • Calcium. It’s a common misconception that calcium only comes from cow’s milk. But the truth is that plant foods such as tofu, beans, and greens are very rich in calcium. Not only that, they contain a lot of phytonutrients that improve calcium absorption and utilization.
  • Iron. For some reason, a lot of people worry about not getting enough iron when they adopt a plant-based diet. However, a variety of plant foods contain a lot of iron. These foods include leafy greens, tofu, beans, and lentils. When you pair these foods with other plant foods that are rich in Vitamin C (like citrus and berries), it further increases iron absorption.
  • Vitamin D. This is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. While busy adults who work indoors may find it challenging to get the sun exposure necessary to produce enough vitamin D, it’s often not a problem for kids. After all, it’s recommended for children to play outdoors for a few hours each day. This is usually enough exposure to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. If outdoor time in the sun is not possible, a supplement can be considered.
  • Vitamin B12. All people who follow a strict vegetarian plant-based diet need a reliable source of vitamin B12. Sure, this can be found in a lot of animal products; but the primary reason for this is because animals consume feed that is supplemented with vitamin B12. While it can often be found in fortified plant-based milk and nutritional yeast, most experts generally recommend vitamin B12 supplementation to ensure adequate intake.  
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential. Because our bodies cannot produce them, we must take them in through our food. This can certainly be achieved by consuming fatty fish and fish oil. However, consuming a lot of fish can potentially increase your exposure to microplastics and toxic heavy metals. One solution to this problem is supplementing with algal oil, which is an excellent plant-based source of EPA and DHA. It is important to note that various plant foods (including flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts) are rich in Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential fatty acid that is converted into DHA and EPA by the body. While it can be possible to consume enough ALA to produce adequate levels of DHA and EPA, it is more convenient to take an algal oil supplement. That’s what we do!

Making Healthy Plant-Based Meals at Home

Nowadays, making healthy plant-based meals at home is easier than ever. There are so many free recipe websites, blogs, and other online resources that make it incredibly simple and easy. Just type in your favorite dish or recipe and include the words “healthy”, “vegan”, or “plant-based” and you will undoubtedly get several different options to choose from.

Cooking our food at home is almost always healthier. This is because we know exactly what is in our food and how it is made. By only using whole plant food ingredients, we eliminate preservatives, colors, artificial flavors, or other chemicals that could be harmful to our health. When we control how food is prepared, we can use glass or stainless steel instead of plastic and non-stick cookware that can leach toxic chemicals into our food.

In addition, making food at home could be a lot of fun. It may even encourage young children to participate and help in food preparation. A perfect family activity!

My daughter loves helping out in the kitchen. One of her favorite foods to make and eat is sushi!

Mealtime Essentials from Ahimsa

Here are some principles that we generally follow:

  • Cook and eat minimally processed whole plant foods from all components of the healthy plant-based plate listed above.
  • Sparingly use salt and oil. Minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates. Avoid processed foods and animal products as best as we can.
  • Baking or steaming our ingredients using glass, stainless steel, or cast iron. No non-stick cookware. 
  • Use glass dishes as well as stainless steel containers and flatware, avoiding plastic as much as we can.
  • Regularly take Vitamin B12 and algal oil omega-3 fatty acid supplement daily. We also regularly take vitamin D. In addition, our daughter takes whole food multivitamin gummies made from organic fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Cook and eat dinner together as a family. This is our family bonding time.

Quick Tips For Beginners

Adopting a plant-based diet can be overwhelming at first. It could be quite a lifestyle change!

Here are some tips that could make the transition to a whole food plant-based diet easier:

  • Pick your favorite dish and look up a plant-based version of it. You are more likely to stick with it if you enjoy the food.
  • Keep meals easy and simple. Change is already hard. Don’t make it even harder by trying to cook complicated recipes.
  • After developing a repertoire of simple meals, pick 5-10 easy ones and cook them on an ongoing rotation. These recipes can also be used as a default fallback meal when you are undecided on what to cook.
  • Use plenty of herbs and spices. Not only do they make food taste more flavorful, herbs and spices also have phytonutrients that contain a variety of health benefits.
  • Make sure to change it up every so often. Children can be picky eaters. Adding variety and making them excited about trying something new can help with this.
  • Eat the rainbow. Children are naturally drawn to colorful things and a plant-based diet can incorporate a lot of color into your meals.

Final Thoughts

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.  

The answer is simple. Children can be healthy and thrive on an appropriately planned whole food plant-based diet. Look at my daughter. She is growing well and has boundless energy!

You can go all in like me and my family or you can take small steps and transition to a more plant-based diet. Take the first step by trying out some recipes and see how your kids enjoy and benefit from a plant-based diet!

Doctor Derek Kwan

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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