M.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200
Andie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Consultant, and Certified Personal Trainer who thinks of nutrition counseling as equal parts science and sensitivity. She specializes in lactation, sports nutrition, exercise fitness, and weight loss programs.
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Some families choose to avoid all or some animal products, and with a little 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.
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).
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: Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.1, 2
Offering a variety from each 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.
Read more: Preventing Choking in Infants and Toddlers
Protein: Eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, legumes, tofu, seitan, tempeh, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.3
Omega-3 fatty acids: Flax oil and ground flax seeds, walnuts/walnut butter, canola oil, soy, algae, and fatty fish such as salmon.4
Iron: Lentils, kidney beans, black beans, dark leafy greens, raisins, tofu, and fortified grains.5
Including a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C can help plant-based iron (non-heme iron) to be absorbed better.6
Pair the above 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 milks like coconut, soymilk, and almond milk can also be good sources.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
Vitamin B12: Soy products (tempeh), fortified brewer’s yeast (nutritional yeast), eggs, wheat grass juice, fortified meat alternatives/analogs.11, 12
Read more: Meeting Your Needs and Baby’s on a Vegetarian Diet
Read more: Meeting Your Needs and Baby’s on a Vegan Diet
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 actually 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
Read more: The Division of Responsibility: Helping Avoid Picky Eating
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 Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians 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-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
Vegan Meal Plan for Breastfeeding or Pregnant Women
Meeting Your Needs and Baby’s on a Vegetarian Diet
Meeting Your Needs and Baby’s on a Vegan Diet
Introducing Solids: Different Approaches and Strategies
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.
1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Feeding Vegetarian and Vegan Infants and Toddlers. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/vegetarian-and-special-diets/feeding-vegetarian-and-vegan-infants-and-toddlers
2. Mangels AR, Messina V. Considerations in planning vegan diets: infants. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001 Jun;101(6):670-7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11424546/
3. The Vegetarian Resources Group. Protein in the Vegan Diet. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php
4. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
5. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
6. Hallberg L, Brune M, Rossander L. The role of vitamin C in iron absorption. Int J Vitam Nutr Res Suppl. 1989;30:103-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2507689/
7. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Accessed 14 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
8. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
9. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
10. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
11. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B12. Accessed September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
12. Aiza Qamar, Farhan Saeed, Muhammad Tahir-Nadeem, et al. (2018) Exploring the phytochemical profile of green grasses with special reference to antioxidant properties, International Journal of Food Properties, 21:1, 2566-2577 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2018.1540990
13. Mura Paroche M, Caton SJ, Vereijken CMJL, Weenen H, Houston-Price C. How Infants and Young Children Learn About Food: A Systematic Review. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1046. Published 2017 Jul 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524770/
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Our Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler is chock-full of yummy, easy-to-prepare meals your whole family will love.