Vegetarian Children

What is a vegetarian/vegan child?

A vegan avoids consuming any animal products (meat, fish, dairy produce, eggs and even honey).

Others are less strict, and may eat dairy produce, eggs, fish or a combination of these. These are vegetarian or pescatarian (includes fish)

Is it safe for children to be vegetarian or vegan?

Simply, yes, it is perfectly safe for children to be vegetarian or vegan. Generally vegan diets need to be more carefully planned than vegetarian or pescatarain diets, mostly to ensure your child is getting enough energy from their food.

Well-planned vegetarian diets are usually more varied, have less saturated fat, more vegetables and fruits and are usually nutritionally better than an omnivore (meat eating) diet.

As long as children are eating enough calories, their diets should be sufficient in protein and all other nutrients; this includes children that have vegetarian and vegan diets.

It is possible that a child who has a vegan diet may grow more slowly than vegetarian or meat-eating children – this effect is usually small and temporary. It is usually because they are not eating enough calories (rather than not having enough protein). These children usually “catch up” with other children later in childhood.

But vegetarian and vegan children do not eat enough protein, iron, zinc, Vitamin A and vitamin D.

As with any type of diet, a child’s eating should be planned, even a meat eating child could be lacking in these things.

Generally, the things that any child is most likely to be deficient in (not getting enough of) are: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Iron and Zinc. If your child is vegan, then Vitamin B12 is also at risk.

In the UK, it is recommended that all children older than 6 months are given a supplement of Vitamin drops, which include Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 Iron and Zinc, as well as other important vitamins and minerals.

For infants this is usually in the form of Vitamin Drops, and for older children in the form of chewy, sweet Vitamin Chewable Tabs.

Both of these can easily be purchased on Amazon, or in a pharmacy. They are especially recommended for vegan children.

Protein: The Protein Myth

In the 1950’s and 60’s there was a wide belief that children required very high protein diets, and that protein ‘deficiency’ in children was common and was bad for their health.

Millions of dollars was poured into the “protein industry” to grow intensively farmed meat and to educate professionals and the general public about the importance of protein.

In 1969 it was proved that this information was very incorrect, and that almost all dietary staples, even “low protein” dietary staples (rice, potatoes etc.) contain enough protein to meet the protein requirements of children. In other words, even a child living in a third world country, consuming only rice, will eat enough protein provided they eat enough calories.

This is now common knowledge amongst Clinical Nutritionists, unfortunately, other clinical professions like Doctors, nurses etc. and educators (teachers), receive no nutritional training, and are not qualified to give nutritional advice: Many of them still think the “old school” way – that protein is key, and that every child should eat meat and drink milk. This thinking is incorrect and could also be harmful when giving advice.

Protein: How much do children need?
1 – 3 years 14.5g/day
4 – 6 years 19.7g/day
100g egg 12.3g
100g wholemeal bread 8.8g
100g cornflakes 8.6g
100g cod (white fish) 17.4g
100g peas 5.8g
100g lentils 23.8g
100g peanut butter 22.4g
100g potato 2.1g
100g banana 1.1g


As you can see, it is not difficult at all for children to get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet!

It is recommended that vegetarian and vegan children are given 2 – 3 portions of vegetable protein everyday, such as beans, pulses, lentils, eggs, soya, tofu, nut butters.

It is important that a variety of different vegetable proteins are used – this is important to ensure that your child gets all 9 essential amino acids in their diet. For example, legumes have different amino acids to cereals, so it’s important to use a combination of these. Eggs contain all essential amino acids.



There are plenty of sources of Iron that are meat free.


Iron: We need it for energy, blood health, healthy physical growth and mental development.
How much do children need?
0 – 3 months 1.7mg/day
4 – 6 months 4.3mg/day
6 – 12 months 7.6mg/day
1 – 6 years 6.5mg/day
1 egg 1.1mg
1 serving tinned sardines 3.9mg
1 portion broccoli 1mg
1 serving spinach 5.2mg
1 slice wholemeal bread 1mg
Other sources: green vegetables, fish, cereals, meat



As long as your child has a varied diet including a variety of whole-grains, they are probably getting plenty of zinc!


Zinc: We need it for growth, good immune function, skin healing (cuts), and healthy hair.
How much do children need?
0-6 months 4mg/day
7 months – 3 years 5mg/day
4 – 6 years 6.5mg/day
1 slice wholemeal bread 0.7mg
1 portion frozen peas 0.5mg
Other sources: wholegrain (brown) cereals (wheat, rice etc.), pulses and lentils, and seafood.



Calcium is a very important mineral for children, it works together with Vitamin D to build strong bones.


Calcium: We need it for healthy bones & teeth and nerve function
How much do children need?
0-12 months 525mg/day
1 – 3 years 350mg/day
4 – 6 years 450mg/day
20g almonds 50mg
1 slice wholemeal bread 19mg
1 serving broccoli 72mg
1 serving cabbage 40mg
1 portion grilled cod (white fish) 13mg
Other sources: Tinned fish, green vegetables, pulses, nuts, wholegrain cereals


Vitamin A (beta- Carotene):

Just one serving of broccoli (95g) provides enough Vitamin A for a whole day!


Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene): We need it for immune health, eye health, skin health and growth. This vitamin is fat soluble, which means our bodies can store it.
How much do children need?
0 – 12 months 350ug/day
1 – 6 years 400ug/day
1 banana 27ug
1 serving carrots 1300ug
1 serving broccoli 400ug
1 egg 110ug
40g cheese 150ug
Other sources: eggs, fatty fish, dark green vegetables, red and yellow fruits and vegetables


Vitamin D

We need very tiny amounts of Vitamin D, and the most important and best source of Vitamin D is the sun.


Vitamin D: We need it for healthy bone development, a healthy immune system and to absorb Calcium. This vitamin is fat soluble, which means our bodies can store it.
How much do children need?
0 – 6 months 8.5ug/day
7 months – 6 years 7ug/day
1 egg 1.2ug
100g fatty fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, sardines) 6 – 22ug
Other sources: Sunshine, all fatty fish, eggs, liver


All Vegans don’t get enough Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is rare, even in vegans, this is because the body stores B12, and we only need very, very small amounts. B12 can be obtained from supplements or from B12 containing vegetable foods, such a Tempe, or Nutritional Yeast Flakes with added B12.

Many vegan “milks” have B12, Vitamin D and calcium added to them.



But what about milk? All children need to drink (cow) milk!

This is simply not true, only baby cows must drink cow milk! As your child is not planning on growing into a 700kg cow, they do not have to drink cow milk!

For example, human milk, the perfect baby food, contains only 8% protein. Cow’s milk contains almost three times more protein that human milk. This means that babies’ bodies have to work harder to get rid of excess protein.

Milk is usually used because it is a good source of energy, that is easy to drink, but there are many alternatives to cow milk, such as goat milk, soya milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk and other vegan milks. Vegan milks, such as the ones listed here often have added vitamin and minerals (like calcium and vitamin D).


So it’s OK for my child to be Vegetarian or Vegan?

All of the risks listed above (not getting enough protein, iron, zinc, vitamin A,D 7 B12), do not actually apply to vegetarian children who consume dairy (cheese, yoghurts etc), eggs and fish: This type of diet provides adequate amounts of all nutrients, and does not have to be as well planned as vegan diets.

A vegan diet does need to be more carefully planned. The most important aspect is that your child is eating enough energy (calories). Many vegan diets are high in fibre, which is great for adults, but not as much for children.

Fibre makes as feel fuller, faster, and this may encourage children to eat less, and not get enough energy. Energy dense foods should be a priority, such as peanut butter and other nut butters, coconut milk and yoghurt, avocados, and healthy oils (such as olive oil, hemp seed oil).


Cereals: wheat, oats, corn (maize), barley, sorghum, rye, millet, buckwheat (kasha), quinoa, amaranth

Legumes: Chickpeas (hummus), beans (butter beans, haricot, navy, kidney, black-eyed, adzuki, cannellini, soy), lentils (red, yellow, green, black, puy), peas, lupins.

g/day: grams to be eaten each day

mg: 0.001 grams

ug: 0.000001 grams (tiny!)

Calories: It is a unit of energy. Calories are used to tell us how much energy is in a food, and how much energy we should consume. For example, a boy aged 1-3 years, should consume/eat 1230 calories every day.


Useful Links


Helpful Guardian Article: “Meet the Parents Raising Vegan Babies”


“Help Yourself Cook Book for Kids” Over 60 easy vegan recipes for children.


WellBaby Multivitamin Drops


WellKid Smart Chewable Multivitamin


Vegetarian Society – Resources for Parents


Vegan Society – Vegan diet for children & in pregnancy


This article has been written by Cassie Moore