How may a shift towards a more sustainable food consumption pattern affect nutrient intakes of Dutch children?

Public Health Nutr. 2015 Sep;18(13):2468-78. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015002426.


Objective: Food has a considerable environmental impact. Diets with less meat and dairy reduce environmental impact but may pose nutritional challenges for children. The current modelling study investigates the impact of diets with less or no meat and dairy products on nutrient intakes.

Design: Energy and nutrient intakes were assessed for observed consumption patterns (reference) and two replacement scenarios with data from the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey - Young Children (2005-2006). In the replacement scenarios, 30 % or 100 % of the consumed dairy and meat (in grams) was replaced by plant-derived foods with similar use.

Setting: The Netherlands.

Subjects: Children (n 1279) aged 2-6 years.

Results: Partial and full replacement of meat and dairy foods by plant-derived foods reduced SFA intake by 9 % and 26 %, respectively, while fibre intake was 8 % and 29 % higher. With partial replacement, micronutrient intakes were similar, except for lower vitamin B12 intake. After full meat and dairy replacement, mean intakes of Ca, Zn and thiamin decreased by 5-13 %, and vitamin B12 intake by 49 %, while total intake of Fe was higher but of lower bioavailability. With full replacement, the proportion of girls aged 4-6 years with intakes below recommendations was 15 % for thiamin, 10 % for vitamin B12 and 6 % for Zn.

Conclusions: Partial replacement of meat and dairy by plant-derived foods is beneficial for children's health by lowering SFA intake, increasing fibre content and maintaining similar micronutrient intakes. When full replacements are made, attention is recommended to ensure adequate thiamin, vitamin B12 and Zn intakes.

Keywords: Children; Food consumption; Health; Nutrient intake; Sustainability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects
  • Dairy Products / analysis
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Energy Intake
  • Environmental Policy*
  • Female
  • Food Supply*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects
  • Meat / analysis
  • Models, Biological*
  • Netherlands
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Patient Compliance
  • Program Evaluation
  • Sex Characteristics