Children of lacto-ovo-vegetarians have the same growth and development rates as their non-vegetarian peers. There is very little information available on the growth and development of vegan children on a non-macrobiotic diet, but observations suggest that such children are slightly smaller than their peers, but still within the weight and height standards for children of this age. Poor growth and development have been documented among children on very strict diets.
Frequent meals and snacks, coupled with fortified foods (fortified breakfast cereals, fortified bread and pasta) will allow vegetarian children to better meet the energy and nutritional needs of the body. The average intake of protein in the body of vegetarian children (ovo-lacto, vegans and macrobiota) generally meets and sometimes exceeds the required daily allowances, although vegetarian children may eat less protein foods than non-vegetarians.
Vegan children may have an increased protein requirement due to differences in the digestibility and amino acid composition of proteins consumed from plant foods. But this need is easily satisfied if the diet contains an adequate amount of energy-rich plant products and their diversity is large.
Particular care must be taken to select the correct sources of calcium, iron and zinc, along with the selection of a diet that stimulates the absorption of these substances, when formulating a diet for vegetarian children. A reliable source of vitamin B12 is also important for vegan children. If there is concern about insufficient vitamin D synthesis, due to limited exposure to sunlight, skin color and tone, season, or use of sunscreen, vitamin D should be taken alone or in fortified foods.