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Meal Plan for Vegetarian or Vegan Infants and Toddlers
Can infants and toddlers safely follow a vegetarian or vegan diet?
Some families choose to avoid all or some animal products, and with some planning, a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet your infant or toddler’s nutrition needs.
Read on for meal, snack, and recipe ideas that will help your little one get the nutrients needed for their growth and development.
What is a vegan and vegetarian?
Vegan: Someone who avoids all animal products (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy)
Vegetarian: Someone who avoids meat and poultry, but may eat fish (pescatarian), eggs (ovo- vegetarian) and/or dairy (lacto-vegetarian).
Ensuring complete nutrition for your vegan or vegetarian child
When cutting out animal products, there are certain nutrient requirements that are more difficult to meet. Falling short of these nutrients could interfere with optimal growth and development.
Nutrients that could be lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet include:
Foods that will help your child meet their nutrient needs
Offering a variety from each food group below will help your little one thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Be sure to provide the foods in the texture your child can handle for their age and stage of eating. And as always, avoid choking hazards.
Protein: Eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, legumes, tofu, seitan, tempeh, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.3
Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, flax oil and ground flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts/walnut butter, canola oil, soy, and algae.4
Iron: Lentils, kidney beans, black beans, dark leafy greens, raisins, tofu, and fortified grains.5
Including fruits or vegetables high in vitamin C can help plant-based iron (non-heme iron) to be absorbed better.6
Pair iron-containing foods with vitamin C-rich foods such as: Red bell pepper, orange, grapefruit, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomato.7
Calcium: Whole milk dairy products (milk [not for baby under 1 year], cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese), dark leafy greens, tofu, baked beans, almonds, sesame seeds, and figs. Fortified plant-based milk alternatives like coconutmilk, soymilk, and almondmilk can also provide calcium.8
Zinc: Fortified grains, fortified veggie burgers, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, almonds, tempeh, tofu, tahini, yogurt.9
Vitamin D: Sunlight, salmon, egg yolk, and fortified dairy and dairy alternatives.10
Note that getting enough B12 is particularly important for vegan children and adult, as this vitamin is primarily found in animal foods and is very difficult to get through plants alone. Speak with your child’s pediatrician for more information.
To help your little one get the nutrients they need, provide a variety of nutritious plant-based foods. Aim for all different colors of fruits and vegetables, an assortment of whole grains, healthy fats, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds; as well as dairy, eggs, and seafood should you be including those in your family’s eating pattern.
Don't be concerned if your child doesn't like a certain food at first. It can take up to 10 or more tastes of a food before they begin to accept it. So be sure to continue offering disliked or new foods repeatedly!13
Meal Plan for Vegetarian or Vegan Infants and Toddlers
Choosing meals and snacks from the options listed below will help you consume nutrients needed for optimal health while following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Make sure to alter the below foods into textures appropriate for your baby’s age and stage of eating.
Some examples below are vegan while some are vegetarian. Choose the options right for your family.
Option 1: Oat Breakfast Bites
Option 2: Rolled oats (ground in blender/food processor for under 9 months) made with whole milk (if older than 12 months) or fortified plant-based milk, nut butter of your choice or ground flax seeds.
Option 3: Smoothie made with whole milk yogurt (or calcium and vitamin D -fortified plant-based milk alternative), ground flax seeds, berries and / or banana, baby spinach, nut butter, fortified Brewer’s Yeast (splash of water or milk if older than 12 months or plant based milk if needed for consistency)
Option 4: Silver Dollar Pancakes
Option 5: Amaranth cereal topped with ground chia seeds, sliced banana, and diced figs.
Option 1: Quinoa mixed with shredded nori (dried seaweed), sesame seeds and black beans.
Option 2: Hard-boiled egg, thinly sliced with sautéed thinly sliced bell peppers, whole grain toast or fortified cereal.
Option 3: Edamame + Yogurt Puree
Option 4: Shredded baked potato (without skin) topped with cottage cheese or shredded cheese, chopped herbs (parsley, chives)
Option 5: Southwest Black Bean Stew
Option 1: Quinoa pasta, spaghetti sauce with diced seitan, finely chopped and sautéed kale (or finely grated zucchini added to the spaghetti sauce)
Option 2: Lasagna roll-ups: (cooked lasagna noodles wrapped with thin layer of the following: tomato sauce, whole milk ricotta cheese, and cooked chopped spinach. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Broil in oven until cheese is melted, ~3 minutes. Cut the roll ups into a size your child’s chewing ability can handle.
Option 3: Thai Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu
Option 4: Baked tofu, baked sweet potato (without skin), thinly sliced roasted or steamed cauliflower.
Option 5: Acorn or spaghetti squash stuffed and baked with black beans, quinoa, ground walnuts, chopped figs, chopped spinach and chopped tomatoes.
Option 1: Tropical tofu smoothie: ½ cup diced frozen mango, ½ frozen or fresh banana, 1 cup pineapple juice, ¾ cup silken tofu, ¼ cup ground flax seeds.
Option 3: Cucumber, plain whole fat yogurt, and finely chopped fresh mint: Shred cucumber with grater and add yogurt with mint. Refrigerate and allow flavors to meld about 30 minutes. Can be eaten with a spoon or used as a dip.
Option 4: Avocado Green Smoothie
Option 5: Baby’s guacamole served with size appropriate whole grain crackers: 1 large ripe avocado, ½ cup peeled and seeded cucumber, and ¼ tsp ground cumin. Pit avocado, scoop out avocado and add to food processor with cucumber and cumin.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET) Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles and recipes:
Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions for your child. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for your child. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for your child.