Need some nutritional knowledge or answers to niggling questions? Drop an email to the VVF's veggie health experts.

Do Kids Need Meat?

Mum wants me to eat meat for my health
I have just become a vegetarian but my mother is insisting I should eat meat. She says it's essential for someone of my age and sex (I'm a 15-year-old girl). Is she right?


No! - and what's so great about meat anyway? It's linked to a string of diseases, including some cancers, heart disease. It also lacks essential nutrients - fibre, calcium and complex carbohydrates. It's desperately short on vital antioxidant vitamins that protect you against disease - vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, being the main ones and found almost exclusively in fresh fruit and veg. As for fear of iron deficiency (which is clearly on your mother's mind), it's no more likely to afflict a veggie than a meat eater. Having said that, it's important for everyone to have iron-rich foods in their diet - green leafy veg, baked beans, dried fruit, cocoa and lentils are good sources. The other big concern is usually protein - bizarre since plant foods provide all you need and it's far less damaging than animal protein. A good vegetarian diet is based around complex carbohydrates from whole foods such as wholemeal bread and pasta and brown rice, potatoes and other starchy foods, with a good mix of fresh fruit and veg, grains and pulses and some seeds and nuts. It gives you more of all the nutrients you need and less of those you don't. If you want to know more, read our guides Nutrition in a Nutshell and Veggie Health for Kids.

My mum has advised me not to go vegan saying that I will lack amino acids in my diet. Is this true?


No, it is most definitely not true! A good, plant-only vegan diet can easily provide all the amino acids your body needs. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are required for growth and repair of all body cells and they come in two varieties - essential and non-essential.

Adults need to include about eight essential amino acids in their diet as the body can't make them. There are 12 other non-essential ones - those made in the body. On top of the eight which adults need, children also need an amino acid called histidine in their diets, as they are unable to make enough to meet their needs.

You can get all of these amino acids from plant foods such as nuts, seeds, grains and pulses (peas, all types of beans and lentils). Simply eating a normal variety of foods throughout the day guarantees that all amino acids are provided.

And there is no need to combine different plant proteins at each meal. This is because the body has an amino acid 'pool' which collects all the different types. Going vegan is one of the healthiest moves you can make!

The VVF can provide all the information you need in the form of guides and fact sheets. Click here - and pass them on!

September 2008

Vital veggies for kids, Yoga & Health

Recipes and advice on how to get kids to eat more veg!

July 2008

Veggie health for kids, Yoga & Health

Slimming and healthy eating advice for the whole family

June 2008

Statement from the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation (VVF) about children and vegan diets

Winter 2006

The great school dinner makeover: how to make a lunchbox as healthy and tasty as possible

September 2006

Clever capsules may spell disaster for kids...

April 2006

Health charity rejects claims that ditching milk 'stunts infant growth'

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The Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation is a registered charity, number 1037486

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