Plant-based eating offers a number of health benefits when done correctly, including improved long-term cardiovascular health and gut health, and can reduce your footprint on the environment!

As the name suggests, plant-based eating focuses on eating foods/products which are of plant origin, and reducing/eliminating animal-based products.

A plant-based diet can increase the risk of deficiencies, due to cutting out animal products, so below are some key tips to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

Get your protein

Ensure at each meal you include one plant-based protein option, such as legumes/beans, nuts, or soy-based products such as tofu etc. Also include a wholegrain option to have alongside it such as bread, rice, pasta or another grain.

Ensure variety

Variety is essential when it comes to protein sources AND cereals/grains with plant-based eating. Make sure you are mixing up what you are consuming at each meal to meet your essential protein needs across the day.

Embrace the wholegrains

Wholegrain options are preferred over white varieties, due to the higher fibre & micronutrient content (the darker and seedier the better!). 

Sometimes these options are more filling, so if your child is struggling with growth or poor appetite, consult a dietitian.

Encourage healthy bones

Ensure you are choosing calcium-fortified varieties of plant-based milk and yoghurt, to maintain healthy bone development and growth in children.

Healthy fats are key

Including healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts/nut butters and seeds is also important in each meal. It’s great for heart health, but also helps meet your child’s energy needs.

Don’t overdo the coconut

Be mindful of coconut-based products – they are high in saturated fat which can have negative impacts on heart health if consumed in excess for long periods.

Get those leafy greens in!

The iron in plant foods is harder for the body to absorb, so be sure to include lots of dark leafy greens and pair these with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, capsicum, etc.

B12 is your friend

Nutritional yeast, fortified cereals and vegemite/marmite can help ensure you meet your child’s needs for key micronutrients such as Vitamin B12.

Keep an eye out for deficiencies

Annual blood tests from your GP will help screen for deficiencies and be sure you’re meeting your needs.

Balance is key

Having small amounts of animal products is still okay if this is what you prefer – you will still get the benefits of plant-based eating, even if you choose to occasionally include some none plant-based items.

It just takes some planning

With a bit of forethought and well-thought-out meals, children can enjoy a well-balanced plant-based diet with ease. As long as you ensure your child is getting the right nutrients, they should thrive on a plant-based diet. 


Early Start Australia is a national organisation committed to delivering evidence-based early intervention and therapy services to children, young adults and families.