child sitting next to a plate of veggies while eating a tomato

Meal Plan for Vegetarian or Vegan Infants and Toddlers

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child sitting next to a plate of veggies while eating a tomato

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.

Definitions

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).

Foods that will help your vegetarian or vegan child meet their nutrient needs

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

Vegetarian and vegan food sources of these nutrients 

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

Pro Tip:

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

Meal Plan Notes

  1. Make sure to alter the below foods into textures appropriate for your baby’s age and stage of eating.
  2. Some examples below are vegan while some are vegetarian. Choose the options right for your family.

Breakfast

  • 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 dairy alternative), ground flax seeds, berries and / or banana, baby spinach, nut butter, brewer’s Yeast (splash of water, 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.

Lunch

  • 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

Dinner

  • 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.

Snacks

  • 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 2: Carrot, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Baby Puree or Toddler Dip
  • 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.

Let’s Chat!

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! 

 

For more on this topic, check out the following articles and recipes:

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.

Sources

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