Due to the lack of current, large-scale studies examining their dietary intake and health, there are concerns about vegetarian (VG) and vegan (VN) diets in childhood. Therefore, the Vegetarian and Vegan Children Study (VeChi Diet Study) examined the energy and macronutrient intake as well as the anthropometrics of 430 VG, VN, and omnivorous (OM) children (1⁻3 years) in Germany. A 3-day weighed dietary record assessed dietary intake, and an online questionnaire assessed lifestyle, body weight (BW), and height. Average dietary intakes and anthropometrics were compared between groups using ANCOVA. There were no significant differences in energy intake or density and anthropometrics between the study groups. OM children had the highest adjusted median intakes of protein (OM: 2.7, VG: 2.3, VN: 2.4 g/kg BW, p < 0.0001), fat (OM: 36.0, VG: 33.5, VN: 31.2%E, p < 0.0001), and added sugars (OM: 5.3, VG: 4.5, VN: 3.8%E, p = 0.002), whereas VN children had the highest adjusted intakes of carbohydrates (OM: 50.1, VG: 54.1, VN: 56.2%E, p < 0.0001) and fiber (OM: 12.2, VG: 16.5, VN: 21.8 g/1,000 kcal, p < 0.0001). Therefore, a VG and VN diet in early childhood can provide the same amount of energy and macronutrients, leading to a normal growth in comparison to OM children.
Keywords: WHO Child Growth Standards; body height; body weight; children; energy; macronutrients; nutrient intake; vegan; vegetarian.