Vegetarian and vegan kids
If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat (vegetarian) or without any food from an animal (vegan), they’ll need two or three portions of vegetable proteins or nuts every day to make sure they get enough protein and iron.
Don’t give whole nuts to children under five years old as they could choke. Grind nuts finely or use a smooth nut butter.
See food allergies for important information about peanut allergy.
The advice on introducing solids is the same for vegetarian babies as for non-vegetarians. However, as your child gets older, there’s a risk that their diet may be low in iron and energy and too high in fibre.
You can help make sure that your child is getting all the nutrition they need by giving them smaller and more frequent main meals, with one or two snacks in between. You’ll also need to make sure they’re getting enough calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Vitamin drops are especially important up to five years of age.
If you’re breastfeeding and you’re on a vegan diet, it’s important that you take a vitamin D supplement. You may also need extra vitamin B12.
Care should be taken when giving children a vegan diet. Young children need a good variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.
A vegan diet can be bulky and high in fibre and this can mean that children get full up before they’ve taken in enough calories. Because of this, they may need extra supplements. Ask a dietitian or doctor for advice before introducing your child to solids.
Young vegan children need high-calorie foods to give them energy. Try tofu, bananas and smooth nut and seed butters (such as tahini and cashew or peanut butter).
They still need starchy foods but it’s best if these are eaten in moderation. For extra energy, you could add vegetable oils or vegan fat spreads to foods.
Pulses and food made from pulses are a good source of protein. Breastfeeding until your child is two or more, or giving them soya-based formula milk, will help ensure they get enough protein.
Always ask your GP for advice before using soya-based formula. Nut and seed butters also contain protein (but always use smooth versions for babies and children under five year old).
Fortified soya milks are rich in calcium, low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. Some foods are also fortified with calcium, so always check the label.
Fortified breakfast cereals and some yeast extracts contain vitamin B12. Your child may also need a supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Some omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed, flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed. Evidence suggests that these fatty acids may not offer the same protection against coronary heart disease as those found in fish.
Published Date 2010-07-23
Last Review Date 2009-07-28
Flickr Audrey Elizabeth