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How to Keep Your Vegan or Vegetarian Child Healthy

Maryam Malekian • MS, Registered Dietitian • Sep 30, 2012

Are you raising a vegetarian or vegan child? Are you concerned that your child may not be getting the essential nutrients in their diet?   Well, the good news for parents of vegetarian or vegan children is that a healthy vegetarian diet can provide the key nutrients needed for optimal growth and nutrition.

A vegetarian-vegan diet is rich in fruits and vegetables which provides so many of the essential nutrients a child needs.  However, there are a few nutrients that parents should take care to ensure their child is receiving as part of their regular diet.

The most important nutrients that parents should take extra care to ensure a child is getting in their diet is:

Here are the most important nutrients that vegetarians or vegans should get and some of their best food sources:

Food Sources For Proteins:

Proteins are involved in nearly every function of human body and keep the body functioning properly by supplying essential aminocombined protein for vegetarian children acids. Without sufficient amounts of daily dietary protein a child can have stunted growth, poor health and low energy levels.

Although animal proteins such as milk, egg, and meat are consider high quality sources of protein, but that doesn’t mean a vegetarian diet is protein-deficient. Parents of vegetarian kids need to ensure that their child receives a rich source of protein and a good balance of essential amino acids in a daily basis.

All plant proteins contain some of the essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that our body cannot manufacture by itself, and must be consumed in the diet over the course of the day in order to complete our protein intake.

In general, protein intake should come from more than one source--for example, combining cereal products like wheat and rice with legumes such as dry beans, soybeans and peas.

The best food sources of proteins for lacto-ovo vegetarians are:
  • eggs
  • low-fat milk
  • tofu
  • nuts
  • dried beans
  • whole grains

If you are raising a vegan child, soy products and legumes are good options for maximizing your child's protein intake. Whole grains and some vegetables, like potatoes and spinach, also are high in protein. As long as you frequently include these foods into your child's meals, they should be getting enough protein to meet their daily needs.

Read good food sources of calcium for the vegetarian-vegan child

Protein Requirements for Children

In general, daily protein requirement is based on your child's age.

  • Healthy kids between the ages of 1 and 3 need 0.55 g of protein per pound of body weight.
  • As a child getting older, protein needs decrease. Children between 4 and 6 need 0.5 g of protein per pound of body weight.
  • Children between 7 and 14 require 0.45 g of protein per body weight.


It’s worth to mention that depending on the nature of vegetarian diet chosen, children may fail to benefit from some of essential nutrients if their diet isn't supervised by the parents. The more restrictive the vegetarian diet, the harder it will be for your child to get enough of the important nutrients. If parent are not sure whether their kids are getting enough nutrient, fortified foods or supplements should be taken in to consideration. With a well-planned vegetarian diet, your child can even benefit from a meat-free diet, especially considering that vegetarians often eat more of the foods that most kids don't get enough of like fruits and vegetables.


See All Our Nutrition Articles


Written by Maryam MalekianWritten on Sep 30, 2012Last updated on Oct 16, 2013




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