Your pregnancy and baby guide

Vegetarian and vegan babies and children

Introducing your baby to solid foods from around 6 months is the same for vegetarian and vegan babies as it is for other babies.

Offering your baby a variety of foods will help make sure they get all the nutrients they need to grow and develop.

Read more about your baby's first solid foods.

Iron

You can make sure your child gets enough iron by giving them:

  • fortified cereals
  • dark-green vegetables
  • wholegrains, such as wholemeal bread and brown rice
  • beans and lentils
  • dried fruit, such as apricots, figs and prunes – offer these with meals, rather than as a snack between meals, to help prevent tooth decay

Protein

Your child needs 1 or 2 portions of protein-rich food every day to make sure they get enough.

Good sources of protein for children who eat some animal foods include:

Plant foods that contain protein include:

  • beans and lentils, and foods made from them – such as tofu, hummus and soya mince
  • seeds
  • finely ground nuts or smooth nut butters

It's not safe to give children younger than 5 whole nuts, as they could choke. Grind nuts finely or offer your child smooth nut butters.

Peanuts and allergies

If your child already has a diagnosed food allergy, or there is a history of allergies in their immediate family – including asthma, eczema or hayfever – talk to your health visitor or GP before offering them foods containing peanuts for the first time.

See food allergies in babies.

Calcium

Whole milk and full-fat dairy products are a good source of calcium, which is important for bones and teeth.

Whole cows' milk can be used for cooking from 6 months and offered as a drink from 1 year old.

Some foods are also fortified with calcium, so check the labels.

You can give your child unsweetened calcium-fortified milk alternatives, such as soya drinks, from the age of 1 as part of a balanced diet. Rice milk isn't suitable for children under 5 years because it may contain high levels of naturally occurring arsenic.

Other sources of calcium include bread, leafy green vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra – and almond nut butter.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods including eggs, cheese and milk.

If your baby or child has a vegan diet, they will need to eat foods fortified with B12 or take a supplement that contains it.

Foods that may be fortified with vitamin B12 include baby and breakfast cereals, soya yoghurts, and non-dairy milks such as soya, oat and almond.

Vitamin B12 is also found in yeast extract, which is suitable for vegans – choose a brand with no added salt for your baby.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel. If your child doesn't eat fish, other sources of omega-3 include:

  • flaxseed (linseed) oil
  • rapeseed oil
  • soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu
  • walnuts – offer these ground or as a nut butter for children under 5 to reduce the risk of choking
  • eggs enriched with omega-3

Is your child getting enough calories?

Young children need lots of energy to grow and develop. Vegetarian and vegan foods can be higher in fibre and lower in calories than a diet that includes meat.

When it comes to starchy foods, in addition to wholegrain and wholemeal versions, your child needs some lower-fibre foods, such as white bread and rice, until they are 5 years old.

This is because wholegrains are high in fibre and can fill your child up before they have taken in enough calories and nutrients.

If you're concerned your child is not getting enough energy, offer them higher-calorie foods, such as hummus, bananas, and smooth nut and seed butters.

Vitamins for children

The Department of Health recommends that all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

It's also recommended that babies who are being breastfed are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether or not you are taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself.

Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day don't need vitamin supplements because formula is fortified with vitamins.

Vitamin D2 is suitable for babies and children who have a vegan diet, and you can also get supplements containing vitamin D3 derived from lichen.

Your health visitor can give you advice on vitamin drops for babies and young children.

Read more about vitamins for children.

Media last reviewed: 22/12/2017

Media review due: 22/12/2020

Page last reviewed: 16/01/2018
Next review due: 16/01/2021