Meatless Mondays are Good for Children’s Health and the Environment… Right?

Photo by Ella Olsson / Unsplash

What’s New!

  • Wondering where the Thoughts to Ponder section went? Check out the new Monday Meditation series; an Aurelius inspired reflection on some provoking and insightful thoughts and a review of what’s been on my mind. The most recent edition featured a few things I’m grateful for and quotes from Dr. Seuss and Freud.
  • Likewise, the former Trainer’s Corner section has been replaced with Training Tuesdays. In these posts I recap “news and research” relevant to sport performance and recovery as well as “locker room” reflections on my own coaching and training. The 11/30 edition covered some thoughts on cryostimulation, personal safety, and some of my older climbing training articles.

Things I’m Reading:

“Optimizing bone mass in this age group (5–15) requires attention to an overall healthy diet including adequate calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D. Special concerns may exist related to children who follow a restricted diet such as a vegan diet, those with intolerance or allergies to dairy, and those with chronic health conditions including young adolescents with eating disorders.” I’m glad this article points out the necessity for Vitamin D to (among many things) absorb calcium — meatless diets are likely to be deficient in both. They’re also likely to be deficient in (particularly bioavailable) protein which is also necessary for strong bones (not just calcium alone!). If we look at the other end of the age spectrum we see that sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and osteoporosis very, very commonly co-occur. This is worsened in childhood when the body is doing most of its (structural) growing. If it is growing at all and not stunted, it is growing frail, or dependent on pharmaceutical supplements — under these identified conditions. This doesn’t even account for hormonal imbalances by such nutritional protocols during this time.

Speaking of plant-based diets for children and bioavailability of protein sources… “Partial replacement of animal protein foods with plant protein foods led to marked decreases in the intake and status of vitamin B-12 and iodine.” This was an isocaloric (meaning overall caloric intake did not change for participants throughout the study) study comparing people who ate only animal sources of protein, only plant sources of protein, or a mix of both. While it was isocaloric, protein ratios did decline in the PLANT group to a pitiful 15% of calories — many recommendations are in the 20–40% range. Additionally, bioavailability of nutrients is an issue; “…despite the higher iron and folate intakes in the PLANT group than in the ANIMAL group, no differences in the indicators of iron or folate status among the diet groups were observed.” So, intake (what goes in your mouth / gut) is not the same as “status” (what ends up in your blood) which is needed for the nutrients to get where they need to go to do what they need to do. I’ll note as well that this was a 12-week RCT, very high quality study being long term, controlled (not correlated), and isocaloric (no variance in calorie intake and nutrients not supplemented synthetically).

While we’re talking about different protein sources… This is a 20-year epidemiology (correlation) study examining plant versus animal proteins and their relationship to all cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. Of course, epidemiology has it’s limitations, and as I’ve recently argued, the “correlations” should be used to inform further RCTs (randomized control trials) and from those we get meta-analysis. Just to note, this study also used food questionnaires, which I’ve been critical of in the past. The point is that we can at least compare “apples-to-apples” here since so many plant-based proponents tout around epidemiology as gospel.

At any rate, surprise, “ Animal protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.” This means that not only does animal protein not cause death and heart disease but it appears to protect against it. More animal protein being correlated with less overall death and cardiovascular (related) death. Further, “ Plant protein intake showed no association with any of the mortality outcomes…” In other words, Meatless Mondays aren’t helping you, your children (above), or the environment (below).

This is a fascinating review that illustrates how important it is for children to socialize with, not only adults, but older and younger peers (typically siblings since the reference group is age 3–6 years old). The first study reviewed showed a (statistically) significant difference in Theory of Mind (ToM = conceptualizing other people’s mental states as different from your own) scores between first born children and only-children.

What was also reviewed, was that training can be effective to improve ToM scores. This has extremely broad applications ranging from only children to schizophrenia, TBI, and while not mentioned in the review, I’d add autism as well. The long and short here seems to be that by being able to observe a sibling (younger or older) gives a child a reference point out of themselves regarding what an adult may be describing about the world. In other words, the child can observe something about me occurring in an other that is not me, but is more like me than an adult describing the thing to me.

Resources to Thrive:

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Originally published at on December 5, 2021.




Building better humans through animal-based nutrition, combat sports, and an examined life. | Instagram @savagezen | Twitter @carnivorebjj

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Building better humans through animal-based nutrition, combat sports, and an examined life. | Instagram @savagezen | Twitter @carnivorebjj

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