Vegetarian Eating for Children and Adolescents

Laurie Dunham, MS, RD, LD; Linda M. Kollar, RN, MSN


J Pediatr Health Care. 2006;20(1):27-34. 

In This Article


Protein is necessary for growth, tissue repair, and optimal immune function. Vegetarians who have completely eliminated meat from their diet need to be educated about alternative sources of protein. While meat provides an easily absorbed, concentrated source of protein, other foods such as dairy products, eggs, grains, legumes, and various soy foods (e.g., tofu, tempeh, and seitan) also are an excellent source of this macronutrient. It is possible to consume enough protein for proper growth and development by following a vegan or vegetarian style of eating. All of the essential amino acids can be consumed by plant sources if energy needs are met and a variety of plant foods are chosen (Messina & Burke, 1997; Young & Pellett, 1994). Because of the lower absorbability of amino acids from plant foods, vegetarians may require a higher intake of protein each day (Messina & Mangels, 2001). A registered dietitian can help determine exact nutrient needs and deficiencies, but in general, children and adolescents require two to three servings from the meat or meat alternate group per day.


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