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Feeding Your Vegetarian Child

There are different types of vegetarian diets:
  • Semi-vegetarians avoid meat but include fish, poultry, milk products and eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid meat, fish and poultry but include milk products and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarians avoid meat, fish, poultry and eggs but include milk products in their diet.
  • Vegans avoid all animal products including meat, fish, poultry, milk products and eggs.
A vegan diet is not recommended for infants and young children. With good planning, other vegetarian diets can meet your child’s nutrition needs. 
When can I give my baby cow’s milk or vegetarian beverages?
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for infants for their first six months. After six months infants should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.
Pasteurized whole (3.25% milk fat) cow’s 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 Canada’s Food Guide. 
After age two, a healthy child can enjoy the same milk or fortified soy beverage as the rest of the family.  Rice and nut milks are not suitable for growing children.  
Introducing solids
At 6 months of age, most babies are ready for solid foods.  Vegetarian babies are introduced to solid foods the same way as typical babies.   
Children aged two years and older can get the nutrients and energy they need by following Canada’s Food Guide.  Children eating a vegetarian diet may have difficulty getting enough of some nutrients.  The chart below gives examples of food sources for these nutrients.
Vegetarian Food Sources
Legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), peanuts/peanut butter,* other nuts and seeds,* hummus, soybeans and soy products (tofu), cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs
Cow’s milk or fortified soy beverage, tofu with calcium sulphate, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables (i.e., broccoli, cooked spinach and kale, bok choy*), calcium enriched orange juice, salmon or sardines with bones, almonds*
Vitamin D
Cow’s milk, fortified soy beverages, margarine, egg yolk, fatty fish (i.e. salmon)
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)
Eggs, whole grains, tofu, nuts,* legumes, milk, yogurt, cheese
Vitamin B12
Eggs, cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt. Talk to your health care provider about a vitamin B12 supplement if your child does not eat any animal products.
Cow’s milk, bread products, fortified cereals
*Do not serve nuts, seeds or raw vegetables to children under four years old due to risk of choking.
Learn more about:
Source: Region of Waterloo Public Health. 2012. 'Feeding Your Vegetarian Child'.