Children / Youth

Balanced and health-promoting - this also applies to children's nutrition. Age-appropriate and balanced nutrition for children is essential for healthy child-oriented development. During childhood, an important foundation is laid for later nutritional behaviour. During this phase, eating habits and healthy behaviour are significantly shaped. Parents, caregivers, other children and caregivers influence the eating behaviour of children and play an important role in food selection through their role model effect and by providing food.

Avoiding certain food groups, such as any animal foods, can increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and thus the risk of health disorders. Therefore, a vegan nutrition is discouraged throughout childhood(1). Even the suspicion of a food intolerance alone does not justify a long-term avoidance of food.

An unbalanced nutrition with little fruit and vegetables often lacks vitamin C, iron, zinc, calcium and selenium. It is a fact that about 30 % of children are overweight, to which a high-fat and high-sugar nutrition as well as too little exercise contribute. Overweight children have twice the risk of suffering from significant overweight (obesity) in adulthood. Their risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease is also increased.

(1)Nationale Ernährungskommission (NEK). Vegane Ernährung. Wien.
https://www.sozialministerium.at/Themen/Gesundheit/Lebensmittel-Ernaehrung/Ernaehrungsstrategien-und-Gremien/NEK/Empfehlungen-der-NEK.html (access on 23.03.2023)

Basically critical are vitamin B2, vitamin D, iodine and calcium

The VeChi-Youth study provided 2022 data on the care of children who ate vegan, vegetarian, or conventional diets.(2) Vitamin B2, vitamin D, iodine and calcium were found to be critical nutrients in all three diets. The blood tests showed a significantly lower iron supply in vegans and vegetarians than in children on a mixed diet. In contrast, the intake and blood concentrations of folate in the vegans were significantly higher than in the other two groups. The parameters of vitamin B12 supply were predominantly within the normal range for all diets. The sufficient vitamin B12 supply in vegans is due to the fact that 88% supplement as recommended. Since vegetarians tended to have a lower vitamin B12 supply, the authors recommend at least occasional supplementation for this type of nutrition as well. Regardless of the type of diet, the supply of iodine and calcium in children and adolescents should be improved.

(2) - https://www.vechi-youth-studie.de/ergebnisse/ - (access on 22.3.2023)

Drink enough

The cornerstone of nutrition that meets needs is to drink enough. As is the case for adults, children should drink mainly (tap) water, unsweetened herbal and fruit teas as well as vegetable and diluted fruit juices (2 parts water, 1 part juice). Children and adolescents should consume at least six portions of water and other low-energy drinks daily. The size of a portion depends on the age of the child. For example, one portion for a 4- to 6-year-old child is 135 ml (that's about 800 ml for six servings a day) and for an adolescent aged 15 to 18 years it is about 250 ml (about 1.5 litres a day). As a "hand measure", one glass is considered to be one portion.

Fats and oils

Although fat is considered a calorie bomb, it is nevertheless a very important food component. However, both the quality and the quantity of the fat used are important. Animal fats such as butter, lard or high-fat dairy products such as whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche should be used less frequently and in moderation. As a matter of principle, use fat sparingly, watch out for hidden fats (e.g. in desserts such as curd cheese kolaches or breadcrumbs) and cut away visible fat. One portion corresponds to about 1.5-2 tablespoons. For adults, 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oils, nuts or seeds should be consumed daily; the same applies to children.

Tips for everyday life

Take your time and create a pleasant atmosphere - eating is something pleasurable and should not only serve the purpose of calorie intake, but also be fun. Therefore, plan enough time for the preparation and consumption of meals.

Together instead of alone - Enjoy your meals together and consciously and use the moments to spend time actively with your family. 

Leading by example - Children learn by example - this also applies to eating and trying out new foods. Children copy the eating habits of their siblings, parents and peers - be aware of this. Therefore, set a good example and model healthy nutrition for your child. If necessary, change your own eating habits as well. Explain to your child why certain foods, such as fruit and vegetables, should be eaten in larger quantities and why sweets should only be eaten rarely.

"What the peasant doesn't know, he doesn't eat" - An initial rejection of new foods is normal for children. They often only accept them after they have tried them several times. Therefore, get your children used to different tastes as early as possible and don't give up too soon, because the foundations for later eating behaviour are laid in childhood.

Breakfast refusers - After a long night, we need energy again for the day. Breakfast therefore has a special significance. Make sure that your child has enough time for breakfast in the morning and get up a little earlier if necessary. Do not leave your child alone at the breakfast table, but have breakfast together. If your child is not hungry, at least offer him/her a cup of cocoa, a glass of milk, a drinkable yoghurt or diluted fruit juice or tea.

Few differences in energy and energy-providing nutrients

The VeChi Youth study (2) indicated: There were no significant differences between the three diets in terms of energy intake or energy density. In all three groups, the mean energy intake was below the DGE guideline value. Overall, there were few overweight (4 %) and obese (0.5 %) children in the total collective, which can probably be attributed to the high social status of the participants. The differences between vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous nutrition were also small in the nutrient supply of the children and adolescents. In all cases, the study participants were sufficiently supplied with energy-providing nutrients and most micronutrients. The high carbohydrate and moderate fat content of the energy intake was comparable in all groups and largely corresponded to the D-A-CH reference values for nutrient intake for this age group. However, the carbohydrate and fat quality differed between the study groups. Children and adolescents who ate a vegan nutrition had a particularly high fibre intake and ate less added sugar as well as saturated fatty acids. Their protein intake was lower than in vegetarian or omnivorous nutrition, but on average was still within the range of the D-A-CH reference values.

(2) - https://www.vechi-youth-studie.de/ergebnisse/ - (access on 22.3.2023)

Vegetables, fruits and legumes

There should be five portions a day. Ideally, three portions of vegetables and pulses and two portions of fruit, whereby one portion can be replaced by a glass of juice. The size of a portion depends, of course, on the age and size of the child. As a rule, one portion is about the size of the child's hand. If your child is a vegetable muffin, it can be helpful to "hide" the vegetables and fruit in the food. For example, a vegetable sauce is suitable for spaghetti, in which the vegetables are puréed or cut into small pieces, or a fruit smoothie that looks tasty and can be garnished colourfully. Also arranging food in a child-friendly way - e.g. vegetable sticks with dip - in the shape of a face, for example, makes children want to reach for it more. Besides, plan conscious fruit snacks with your children. Let them cut the fruit themselves - bananas, for example, are suitable even for inexperienced kitchen helpers.

Split meals

The daily energy intake should roughly correspond to a certain ratio. Thus, ...

  • ... approx. 55 % of the food energy should be covered by carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables and fruit.
  •  ... about 30 % of the daily energy intake is provided by fat, especially of vegetable origin.
  • ... the usual energy (approx. 15 %) is covered by protein. Ideally, half of the protein consumed should come from animal sources (e.g. milk, meat, fish and eggs), the other half from plant sources (e.g. cereal products, potatoes and pulses such as lentils or beans).

To avoid a drop in performance, food should be divided into five meals per day. Ideally, there are then three main meals and two snacks, namely breakfast, school or kindergarten snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner.

Which micronutrients are important?


They are necessary for cell division and thus for growth and development. As a rule, children do not have a deficiency of B vitamins - with exceptions. This is especially true for vitamin B2 and occasionally B12 and folic acid, which are important for cell division and should be supplemented occasionally. Dosages of 200 to 400 µg of folic acid daily are recommended. If children and adolescents are only fed a raw food or vegan diet, a B-complex should be supplemented. In adolescents, an unbalanced nutrition, possibly combined with regular alcohol intake, can lead to an undersupply of B vitamins. If girls start taking the pill, supplementation of B vitamins may be advisable. As a rule, B vitamins for general supplementation should not be taken individually, but preferably in a complex.

Vitamin C

If children lack vitamin C, they may develop more infections, e.g. of the upper respiratory tract and the ears. This can continue into adulthood. Adolescents who are very well supplied with vitamin C are less likely to have blemished skin or acne during puberty. Sufficient vitamin C also promotes the absorption of iron and the healthy development of bones and connective tissue.

Vitamin D

It is not possible to cover the vitamin D requirement through diet alone, not for nothing is vitamin D also known as the sun vitamin in our latitudes. The vitamin is particularly important for bones and muscles and plays an important role in the immune system. Recommended daily intake for children is 10 μg, for adolescents 10 to 15 μg vitamin D - when using sunscreen even in the summer months. 


t is lacking in the soils of the alpine countries, which is why children and adolescents often do not absorb selenium in sufficient quantities. A sufficient supply is very important, especially for the immune system. Selenium can be supplemented if necessary.


Austria is an iodine deficient area, therefore our nutrition usually contains too little iodine. It can be supplemented in the necessary amounts via iodised table salt and other iodine-enriched foods. However, an oversupply should be avoided.


The requirement is increased by 25 % due to skeletal growth. Meat and meat products, spinach, savoy cabbage, lettuce, legumes and cereals provide iron. Iron is generally better absorbed from animal foods. Vitamin C helps to improve iron absorption from plant products. Some children lack iron, and often lack vitamin C, which contributes to the absorption of iron. Minor iron deficiencies can then often be compensated for with vitamin C supplementation.

Adolescents have an increased iron requirement due to their growth, which is often not covered by their nutrition. This is especially true for girls, who need more iron after they start menstruating. If possible, iron should be taken in with food and not supplemented in an uncontrolled way, as too high an intake can trigger oxidative stress.


Recommended for the prevention of caries, as fluorides harden the tooth substance. However, an overdose can cause tooth discolouration. The appropriate dosage depends on the regional fluoride content of the drinking water and the age of the children. Dosages range from 0.25 mg for one- to three-year-olds to 1 mg for seven-year-olds. If the regionally available drinking water has a higher fluoride content, the supplementary fluoride intake can either be dispensed with completely or the dose can be reduced.


The skeletal system needs a lot of calcium during the growth phase to achieve a high bone density. The more calcium children and adolescents take in, the better they are protected against osteoporosis as adults. There is a particularly high calcium requirement during puberty. Calcium is mainly taken in from milk and dairy products, which usually become less popular with children and adolescents as they get older.

Other sources are green vegetables, wholemeal bread and oranges, but they are often not among the most popular foods either. Therefore, calcium supplements may be recommended. It should be noted that too much phosphorus consumption can interfere with skeletal formation. Dairy products and vegetables contain phosphorus in acceptable proportions. Frequent consumption of cola drinks, which contain quite a lot of phosphorus, is not recommended.


Magnesium supplementation may be recommended for sudden growth spurts. This can reduce growth-related pain. If girls suffer from discomfort during menstruation, magnesium, preferably combined with calcium, can often help.


It is important for the immune system, but also for growth, which increases the need for zinc by 50 %. A sufficient intake should be ensured in childhood and adolescence.