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Is a vegetarian diet suitable

for infants and children?


A vegan diet is not recommended for
infants and young children. With good
planning, other vegetarian diets can
meet your childs nutrition needs.
Children are more likely to meet
their nutrient needs and grow
well on a vegetarian diet that
includes milk, cheese and eggs.
Children eating a vegetarian diet
may have diffculty getting enough
of some nutrients. The chart below
provides examples of food sources for
these nutrients.
Feeding your
vegetarian child
What is a vegetarian diet?
There are different types of vegetarian diets:
Semi-vegetarians
Avoid meat but include fsh, poultry,
milk products and eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians
Avoid meat, fsh and poultry but
include milk products and eggs
in their diet.
Lacto-vegetarians
Avoid meat, fsh, poultry and
eggs but include milk products
in their diet.
Vegans
Avoid all animal products including
meat, fsh, poultry, milk products and eggs.
Nutrient Vegetarian food sources
Protein Legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), peanuts/peanut butter*, other nuts and seeds*, hummus, soybeans
and soy products (tofu), cows milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs see the back page of this resource for important
information about protein.
Calcium Cows milk or fortifed soy beverage, tofu with calcium sulphate, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables*
(e.g., broccoli, cooked spinach and kale, bok choy), calcium enriched orange juice, salmon or sardines
with bones, almonds*
Vitamin D Cows milk, fortifed soy beverages, margarine, egg yolk, fatty fsh e.g. salmon
Iron Whole grain or enriched cereals, breads and pastas, legumes, nuts*, tofu (serve food
rich in vitamin C at the same time to help the body use the iron in these foods.)
Zinc Eggs, whole grains, tofu, nuts*, legumes, milk, yogurt, cheese
Vitamin B12 Eggs, cows milk, cheese, yogurt. Talk to your health care provider about
a vitamin B12 supplement if your child does not eat any animal products.
Ribofavin Cows milk, bread products, fortifed cereals
*Do not serve whole nuts, seeds, hard raw vegetables or fsh with bones to children under four years old due to risk of choking.
Feeding your vegetarian
baby (612 months)
Breast milk should still be the main source of nutrition for your
baby. Breastfeeding is recommended until your baby is two
years of age or older.
At six months of age, most babies
are ready for solid foods and
need the extra iron that
solid food can provide.
Vegetarian babies are
introduced to solid foods
the same way as other
babies. Typical frst solid
foods would include iron
fortifed infant cereal, tofu,
pureed well cooked legumes,
vegetables and fruits.
For information about feeding your baby and the
introduction of solids, see the resource Teddy
Bears Picnic.
It is recommended that babies be fed only breast milk for the frst six months of life, with
the addition of nutrient-rich solid foods at six months and continued breastfeeding for up
to two years and beyond (World Health Organization, 2002; Health Canada, 2004).
Feeding your vegetarian
baby (06 months)
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed babies, providing
many benefts for both baby and mother. Breast milk is all
your baby needs for proper growth and development for the
frst six months of life.*
If unable to feed only breast milk to your baby, talk to your
health care provider about artifcial baby milk (formula) for
your baby.
*It is recommended that all breastfed, healthy term infants
in Canada receive a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU
(Health Canada, 2012).
For more information about
feeding your baby, call
Region of Waterloo
Public Heath to talk
with a Public Health
Nurse at 519-575-4400
(TTY 519-575-4608).
Eating for vegetarian,
breastfeeding moms
Eat a healthy diet by following the recommendations in
Eating Well with Canadas Food Guide. Breastfeeding
women need more calories and should include an extra two
or three Canadas Food Guide servings each day. (www.
healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide.)
Vegetarian women who are breastfeeding need to
take special care:
Eat iron rich foods every day
Eat vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C to help
use the iron in foods
Vitamin B12 is only found in foods that come from
animals. Check with your health care provider
to determine if you need to take a vitamin B12
supplement
Drink plenty of healthy fuids like water, milk,
fortifed soy or rice beverages
Take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic
acid everyday
When can I give my baby
cows milk or vegetarian
beverages?
Pasteurized whole (3.25% MF) cows milk can be introduced
between nine and twelve months of age, once
your baby is eating a wide variety of foods
from the four food groups of Canadas
Food Guide.
Low fat milk (skim, 1% or 2%) and
vegetarian beverages (soy, rice or nut
milks) are not recommended for children less
than two years of age because they do
not provide enough energy and some
nutrients in the amounts needed
for proper growth. After the age
of two, a healthy child can enjoy
the same milk or fortifed soy
beverage as the rest of the
family. Rice and nut milks are not
suitable for growing children.
If you are not planning to give cows milk to your child, continue to give
breast milk until your child is at least two years of age.
Feeding your vegetarian
toddler (1224 months)
Food begins to replace milk as the main source of nutrients for
children in the second year of life. Offer your toddler a variety
of foods from the four food
groups of Canadas Food
Guide every day.
Vegetarian sources
of protein may be
given instead of
meat, fsh and
poultry (see
chart on the
frst page for
vegetarian food
choices of protein).
For information
about feeding your
toddler see the resource Teddy
Bear Toddlers.
Tips for happy mealtimes
It is your job to provide healthy foods at regularly
scheduled meals and snacks
It is your childs job to decide whether or not to eat
and how much to eat
Serve small portions of food. Offer more if your child
is still hungry
Serve new food along with familiar food. It may
take many tries before your child will taste a new
food. Dont pressure your child to eat
Feeding vegetarian children
(2 years old and up)
Children aged two years and older can get the nutrients and
energy they need by following Canadas Food Guide
(www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide)
Look for the suggested total amount of food to offer your
child from the four food groups according to your childs age
Choose foods from each of the four food groups every day
Simple meal planning
Meals should include a variety of foods from all of the
four food groups
Try to include foods from at least
two food groups for snacks
Choose foods rich in the
nutrients your vegetarian
child may have diffculty
getting enough of (see frst
page)
Choose your vegetarian
foods wisely, to provide
complete protein (see back page)
This resource is not a detailed guide to feeding children.
Please use it along with the suggested feeding guides which may be
ordered from the Public Health Resource Centre at 519-575-4400 or
go to www.regionofwaterloo.ca/phrc
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Teddy Bears Picnic Your guide to introducing solid foods to your baby
Teddy Bear Toddlers Guide to feeding children ages 1236 months
Eating Well with Canadas Food Guide Guide to feeding those two years of age and older
Make mealtime a pleasant family time; eat at a table
together. Turn off the TV
Encourage your child to be active between meals and
snacks so your child comes to the table hungry and
ready to eat
To talk with a Registered Dietitian about feeding
children, call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-5102 or
go to www.eatrightontario.ca
Proteins are needed to build muscle and other tissues
and are made of building blocks called amino acids. Some
amino acids are made in our body while others we can
only get from food. These are called essential amino acids.
All plant proteins are missing or are low in one or more
of these essential amino acids. It is best to combine plant
foods to make a complete protein with all the essential
amino acids.
Offer a combination of plant foods every day, so your
childs body will get all of the amino acids it needs.
1. Grains + legumes
2. Legumes + nuts or seeds
3. Combining any of these
plant proteins with some
animal protein (such as
dairy products or eggs)
always provides a complete
protein.
Sample menu for children over two years of age
Getting the most from plant proteins
Breakfast Morning snack Lunch Afternoon snack Dinner
Hot or cold cereal +
milk or fortifed soy
beverage + toast with
peanut butter + fruit or
fruit juice
Hummus + toasted pita
wedges + carrot sticks
(or grated carrot) +
water
Cheese sandwich with
whole grain bread +
lentil soup + milk or
fortifed soy beverage
+ fruit
Raisin bread + orange
slices + water
Pasta with tomato/
vegetable sauce +
bean salad + yogurt
with fruit + milk or
fortifed soy beverage
Grains Legumes Nuts and seeds*
Barley Kidney beans Almonds
Corn Chick peas Cashews
Oats Lentils Chesnuts
Rice Split peas Coconuts
Rye Peanuts* Pecans
Wheat Pinto beans Pumpkin seeds
Buckwheat Soybeans (tofu) Sesame seeds
Tricale Fava beans Sunfower seeds
Wheat germ Soy beverage
*Nuts, seeds, or peanuts can be a choking hazard do not give
to children under four years of age.
Distributed by Region of Waterloo Public Health
Revised September 2013
For more information contact:
Region of Waterloo Public Health
519-575-4400 (TTY: 519-575-4608)
www.regionofwaterloo.ca/ph