What do you feed vegan babies and kids? See our meal plans

What do you feed vegan babies and kids?

Given that many scientific studies by reputable international nutrition organizations have already confirmed that a vegan diet is suitable for people at all stages of life, including infants, children, teenagers, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and athletes, and that it has a major impact on the prevention and reduction of modern diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, certain types of cancer, etc.), there is no reason not to raise a vegan child.

If you still have doubts, I suggest you read my post on whether vegan diet is appropriate for children.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Should parents raise their children vegan?

Yes. By raising children vegan, we give them the opportunity to live healthier, to become more compassionate, ethical, caring, responsible and, at the same time, to help the survival of our planet and the next generations.

We have an obligation to raise children who will live in a different way, the only way that is optimal for the whole planet, including our health.

Can you raise healthy vegan children?

I often hear phrases such as: “A vegan diet is not suitable for children!” Science disagrees with this phrase and has been debunked many times. Still, you can find articles that are scientifically unfounded and only vegan parents are ever being singled out.

Most vegans are well informed about their plant-based nutrition, since they made a decision to go vegan on science-based facts. And since I mentioned facts, the fact is, that many omnivorous parents need to learn about the basics of a healthy diet, as there are many health problems that can arise from an unbalanced omnivorous diet that are not even talked about.

With all these obstacles, can you raise healthy vegan children?

Yes, you can. Make sure you feed them well-balanced wholefood diet with enough caloric intake. Given the risks of an omnivorous diet, it is much easier and safer to put together a healthy vegan diet than an omnivorous one.

What do you feed vegan babies?

Babies under the age of six months only require breast milk. If the mother does not have her own milk, she can use soy formula or, even better, milk from another mother.

As children are breastfeeding during this period, the diet of the breastfeeding mother is also very important. Her plant-based diet should contain enough foods with omega 3, iodine, zinc, B12, D3 (sun or a supplement if they are not exposed to enough sunlight).

For nursing infants, the government suggests taking vitamin D drops daily. Vitamin D2 is safe for vegans, while D3 may be derived from sheep’s wool. However, lichen based and other plant-based D3 supplements are also available. Make sure you read the label to know the origin.

At six months, you can introduce solid foods to your baby, but don’t anticipate them to eat a lot. It is important to acclimate them to varied tastes and textures, as milk is their primary source of energy and nutrition.

The amount of food will be determined by the child, there is no need to force the child to eat and drink, as this is a way of inhibiting the child’s natural instinct to perceive the correct amount of food and drink.

Here are some general pointers about feeding vegan babies:

  • Introduce new foods gradually (each new food every 4 to 5 days)
  • Do not offer food that is not freshly prepared
  • Don’t add salt until the baby is nine months old
  • The baby drinks water and breast milk

Vegan diet for children aged 7-9 months

Foods:

  • Cereals: brown rice, sweet rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, gluten-free oatmeal
  • Vegetables: carrots, onions, pumpkin, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, avocados, parsnips, cabbage, kohlrabi, chard, spinach
  • Fruit: apple, banana, pear, peach, apricot, mango
  • Legumes (pureed legumes): azuki beans, lentils (red, yellow, black, green, brown), chickpeas
  • Other: small amounts of hazelnut butter added to food, small amounts of dried fruit soaked in hot water for at least 1 hour (raisins, apricots, dates), chia and flax seeds and oil (from 7 to 8 months)
  • Breast milk: four feedings (approximately 600 ml) plus three meals a day

Meal examples:

  • Breakfast: porridge of peeled fruit (apple) after 15 minutes cereal porridge, breast milk
  • Lunch: cereal porridge with vegetables, boiled broccoli floret, breast milk
  • Dinner: mashed sweet potato, sliced avocado, breast milk
  • Bedtime: breast milk
Vegan baby meal with peaches, vegan yoghurt and porridge
Vegan baby meal example: Peaches, vegan yoghurt and porridge

Vegan diet for children aged 9-12 months

Foods:

  • Cereals: brown rice, sweet rice, amaranth, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, gluten-free oatmeal
  • Vegetables: carrots, onions, pumpkin, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, cabbage, kohlrabi, chard, spinach, vegetable juices, green beans
  • Fruit: apple (peeled), banana, pear (peeled), peach (peeled), apricot (peeled), berries (raw after 1 year)
  • Legumes (pureed legumes): azuki beans, lentils (red, yellow, black, green, brown), chickpeas, kidney beans, black soy beans, tofu, soy yoghurt (soy beans can only be added after 1 year of age, and mainly in fermented form, in small quantities – 1 tbsp) and not so often (tempeh, soy yoghurt, fermented tofu).
    The first time a soy product is added, it should be for breakfast or lunch for two days in a row, and then no soy products for four days (in between, monitor the reaction, as sometimes the child may be allergic or intolerant to soy). Otherwise, each new food is added every four to five days.
  • Other: small amounts of hazelnut butter added to food, small amounts of dried fruit soaked in hot water for at least one hour (raisins, apricots, dates), tahini, sunflower seeds, olives, basil, no more than 1 g salt.
  • Breast milk: 3 feedings (approximately 400 ml) plus three meals a day

Meal examples:

  • Breakfast: fruit, followed after 15 minutes by oat yoghurt, a piece of 100% yeast-free buckwheat bread with tahini, breast milk.
  • Lunch: pea and cauliflower puree with quinoa and vegetable half pesto
  • Dinner: lentil stew, cooked green beans, breast milk
  • Bedtime: breast milk

At the age of 9 to 12 months, food does not need to be mostly pureed. It can just be finely chopped or blended to get the child used to chewing. It is always good to have small pieces of food (finger food) that he will hold in his hands and eat himself (fresh fruit and vegetables, some crunchy food, etc.), for example a piece of apple, pear, banana, half a cherry or grape, cucumber, carrot, pepper, cooked green beans, dried fruit, or even a piece of potato, sweet potato, cracker, etc.

Watch out for allergenic foods: wheat and other gluten-containing cereals (spelt, kamut, rye, barley – oats are usually OK), peanuts, maize, soy, citrus fruits, nuts.

In principle, gluten cereals can be introduced from the tenth month onwards, but it is necessary to check how the child reacts to gluten (you can also wait until the age of one year to introduce gluten cereals). Potentially allergenic foods are usually added after the age of one year.

Vegan toddler meal - oats with currant
Vegan baby meal example: Oats, banana and currant

Vegan diet for children aged 1 to 3 years

During this period, it may sometimes be difficult to feed your baby, as he may not want to eat enough. On such days when he doesn’t eat much, he should be given foods that are more nutritious and calorie-rich (bananas, avocados, fortified soy or other nut drinks, wholegrain cereals, and some nut spreads (especially for older children in this period) spread on wholegrain bread. The child will need between 1000 and 1500 kcal.

FoodAmount
Cereals6 or more servings (servings: 1/2 to 1 piece of bread, 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked cereal or flakes or pasta)
Legumes/seeds and nuts2 or more servings (servings: 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked legumes, tofu or tempeh, 50 to 90 g various meat substitutes, 1 to 2 tablespoons seeds or nuts or seed and nut butters)
Fortified soy milk, formula, or breast milk3 cups (serving size: 1 cup)
Vegetables2 or more servings (servings: 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked or 1/2 to 1 cup raw vegetables)
Fruit3 or more servings (servings: 1 medium fruit, 1/2 to 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup fruit juice)
Fats3 servings (servings: 1 tbsp cold-pressed oils, 1/2 to 1 tbsp linseed oil or chia seed oil for higher omega 3 content, seeds can also be used – then increase to at least 1 tbsp per day, grind immediately before use and do not add to hot dishes)

Of course, foods fortified with vitamin B12 should be added or consumed. Vitamin D3 can be added if the child does not get enough sun.

To learn, why B12 is important, you can read in my article on why do vegans need to take B12 supplements.

Ensure sufficient and regular intake of foods rich in omega 3, iodine, calcium, iron, zinc, etc., or let the child eat a variety of vegan foods. If the child has digestive and metabolic problems, then the menus should be designed accordingly, adding some of the nutrients the child needs (this also applies to omnivorous children who have these problems).

If you want to know more about calcium in vegan diet, I suggest you read my article: Does vegan diet lead to calcium deficiency. And you can find out if vegans get enough zinc in my other article.

Make sure that your child’s diet is free of additives, colors, preservatives, artificial and other sugars, that he/she does not eat industrially processed foods and lots of sweets (healthier, home-made desserts may occasionally be on the menu), store-bought juices, very salty foods, and snacks. It would be ideal if your vegan child eats a whole-food plant-based diet.

Meal examples:

  • Breakfast: oat porridge with banana and no added sugar, chickpea flour and vegetable omelet, homemade granola with unsweetened soy yoghurt and fruit, etc.
  • Lunch: vegetable stew with black beans, rice and salad, small veggie burger with salad, rice with vegetables, wholemeal pasta with vegan sauce and small salad, bread with hummus and vegetables, ratatouille with tofu, mashed potatoes with beans, etc.
  • Dinner: vegan pizza, vegetable stew, vegetable soups with cereals, etc.
  • Snack: sliced vegetables with hummus, small avocado sandwiches, fruit, sugar-free oat biscuits with nut spread, etc.
Vegan toddlers menu with pasta, cashew sauce, avocado and bean patties
Vegan toddler meal example: Wholemeal pasta with cashew sauce, avocado and bean patties

What do you feed vegan kids?

Childhood is the time when eating patterns are entrenched, the rate of physical development is at its peak, and when, to a significant extent, the body’s capacity to retain important nutrients like calcium and iron is largely determined.

Learn more about vegan iron sources in my article: Where can vegans get iron.

Experts say a well-planned, diversified vegan diet is appropriate for all individuals, including kids.

Such diet has all the necessary healthy fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals, but there is no unhealthy saturated animal fat, hormones, or other unwanted components.

To learn more about protein in vegan diet, you can read my article: Do vegans have protein deficiency.

You must have a basic understanding of what to feed vegan children if you want to ensure they receive the finest.

Vegan diet for children aged 4 to 8 years

It can also happen during this period that we have problems with the child’s pickiness, where the child does not want to eat enough vegetables and fruit and, consequently, enough nutrients (this is also a problem faced by omnivorous parents and their children).

It is very important that everyone in the family eats in the same way, that the child is not offered processed foods and lots of sugars from the start and that he is around children who like to eat foods that your child does not want to eat.

Care should be taken to ensure a sufficient intake of plant foods, which are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, etc. If there are no specific health problems in the child, this can be achieved with a proper and varied plant-based diet, which is also rich in the nutrients mentioned.

Meals should be composed in such a way that there are enough of these foods in the diet. However, if the child’s inedibility and refusal of specific foods does not result in sufficient nutrient intake, foods fortified with these nutrients should be considered, or supplements should be added if necessary. This also applies, of course, to omnivorous children who do not eat enough calories and a variety of foods.

Children should also regularly consume vitamin B12 supplements.

Calorie requirements are between 1200 and 1400 kcal. It all depends, of course, on the activity level of the child. If the child is more active, he/she will also need a few more calories.

FoodAmount
Cereals8 or more portions (portions: 1 piece of bread, 1/2 cup cooked cereal or pasta and 3/4 cup cereal)
Legumes/seeds and nuts5 servings (servings: 1/2 cup cooked legumes, tofu, or tempeh, 1 cup fortified soy milk, 30 g various meat substitutes, 1/4 cup nuts or 2 tbsp seeds or nuts or seed and nut butters)
Vegetables4 or more servings (servings: 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables)
Fruit2 or more servings (servings: 1 medium fruit or up to 1 cup berries or 1/2 cup fruit juice)
Fats2 servings (servings: 1 tbsp cold-pressed oils)
Omega-3 fatty acidsat least 1 serving per day (serving: 1 tbsp cold-pressed linseed or chia seed oil or 1 tbsp freshly ground linseed or chia seeds or 1/4 cup walnuts)

Meal examples:

  • Breakfast: vegan muffins, pancakes with homemade jam, various porridges with seeds, sandwiches with lots of vegetables and good fats (avocado, nut spread, sunflower seed spread, etc.), millet pudding, etc.
  • Lunch: vegan curry with salad, casseroles with salad and wholemeal bread, roast potatoes and vegetables with bean sauce, tofu and spinach quiche, vegan pizza with lots of seasonal vegetables, wholemeal pasta with salad, etc.
  • Dinner: various soups, stews, salads, falafel with hummus and vegetables, etc.
  • Snack: chia pudding, vegetables with hummus or other legume spread, fruit, bread with spread, vegetable yoghurt with seeds, kale chips, green smoothie, etc.
Vegan kids meal - fruit with bread and pb
Vegan kids meal example: Wholemeal bread with peanut butter and fruit

Vegan diet for children aged 9 to 13 years

From the age of 9 to 13, a child enters adolescence. If we have not laid the right foundations, there are likely to be some challenges in terms of nutrition, especially if we want our child to eat healthy foods that are not processed and do not contain a lot of sugars and other processed foods.

It is important to have a good example at home and to allow the child to eat occasionally foods that are vegan “junk food”. For example, set days when the child can eat these foods.

It is very important that the child eats enough calories. Here you have to pay attention to the self-image of the child, because it may happen that they refuse food and do not eat enough calories (which also means less nutrients) if they have the impression that they need to be slimmer, which is basically a psychological problem and has to be addressed in the right way.

In addition to all the nutrients mentioned for the previous periods, there should also be enough beta carotene, vitamin C and other B-complex vitamins. Ensure a sufficient intake of plant foods rich in protein. Consist of meals rich in good quality fats (seeds, nuts, avocados, etc.) so that at least 25-30% of the daily requirements come from fats.

Take special care to ensure sufficient omega-3 essential fatty acids. In terms of calories, at least 2000 (girls) or 2300 (boys) should be consumed. Again, this is by adding a few more calories per day if the child is involved in sport. Just make sure that the amount of calories is adjusted to the intensity of the activity.

FoodAmount
Cereals10 or more servings (servings: 1 piece of bread, 1/2 cup cooked cereal or pasta and 3/4 cup cereal)
Legumes/seeds and nuts6 or more servings (servings: 1/2 cup cooked legumes, tofu or tempeh, 1 cup fortified soy milk, 30 g various meat substitutes, 1/4 cup nuts or 2 tbsp seeds or nuts or seed and nut butter)
Vegetables4 or more servings (servings: 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables)
Fruit2 or more servings (servings: 1 medium fruit or up to 1 cup berries or 1/2 cup fruit juice)
Fats3 or more servings (servings: 1 tsp cold-pressed oils)
Omega-3 fatty acidsat least 1 serving per day (serving: 1 tbsp cold-pressed linseed or chia seed oil or 1 tbsp freshly ground linseed or chia seeds or 1/4 cup walnuts)

The menu is similar to the examples described above for the previous age group. It is just important that your child eats enough calories – appropriate to their age, activity and health needs.

Vegan kids meal - vegan pizza
Vegan kids meal example: Vegan pizza

Conclusion

As the science realized a long time ago, we don’t need to worry if we want to feed our child a vegan diet. A vegan diet contains all the essential nutrients, but, as with any other way of eating, we need to make sure that we are eating real food and not highly processed foods that are stripped of nutrients and not suitable for anyone.

If we want to be healthy. This, of course, also applies to our children. It is important to follow some of the key pointers, read a useful book on the subject, socialize, and share experiences with vegan parents, monitor your child’s development, observe him or her, ask doctors to educate themselves on the subject and help you along the way, or to find nutritionists or dieticians who are familiar with the vegan way of feeding children.

Raising a vegan child means taking an active part in the changes you want to see in this world. Congratulations to all the parents who are creating new generations of wonderful children who can bring light into all the dark corners of this world.

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Gregory Knox
Gregory Knox

I'm Gregory, a father and animal lover. Ex vegan store owner and a foodie. My fascination in researching and pushing the limits of vegan nutrition takes me to new heights.