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Whether your child is vegetarian because that is already your family’s lifestyle, or has chosen to become vegetarian due to their own beliefs, you can be heartened to know that vegetarianism offers a great start in life and opens the way to a healthy and ethically sound diet for any child.

Vegetarian & vegan food groups

Each day your child should have:

  • At least 5+ servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  • 4-5 servings of grains/cereals
  • 1-2 servings of pulses, nuts and seeds
  • Serving sizes should be such that your child maintains a healthy weight.

Tips for feeding your vegetarian child

Growing children need foods that give them plenty of energy and that are dense in nutrients. Frequent, regular meals and snacks will help fillsmall tummies and provide energy for their busy days.

My vegetarian boys are healthy, intelligent and energetic. They also have a sound knowledge of
food and nutrition.

– Stephanie, mother of Tate (12), Dean (10) and Jake (8)

>We have 3 vegetarian children. All veggie from before birth, now age 22, 8 and 16 years all still staunch vegetarians with strong ethics and values around respect, dignity for life and peaceful tolerance. Beautiful examples of how the world could be.

– Lorraine Taylor

Balance & variety are the key

The foundation for a healthful adult diet is established in childhood, so include a range of foods from all the vegetarian and vegan food groups in your child’s diet. Whilst vegetarianism will offer some protection from the excesses of the meat-laden fast food industry, it is still important to think about the food choices your child is making, and to encourage them to eat a wide variety of foods.

It still takes me by surprise when I encounter people who think vegetarian kids would be anything but healthy.

– Tristan mother of Vancouver (5) and Nate (4).

Healthy options include:

Breakfasts: cereals (porridge, weetbix, muesli), wholemeal toast or rolls with fruit or savoury spreads, fruit and milk smoothies, yoghurt or non-dairy alternative, wholemeal pancakes, pikelets or waffles, fresh or stewed fruit.

Lunch: pita pockets, rolls or wraps with salad/vegetables, spreads, falafel, vege burgers, cheese, yoghurt or non-dairy alternatives, dips and chips, vegetarian pies and savouries, soup, baked beans, muffins, fresh fruit.

Dinner: rice, pasta, potatoes or noodles with a vegetable, bean or tofu casserole (or stew or stir fry), burgers, loaf or sausages with a nut or bean base, or pizza with salad/vegetables and fruit.

Snacks: crackers, hummus, dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, yoghurt or non-dairy alternative, popcorn, scones, sandwiches (try marmite or peanut butter), frozen banana or juice ice blocks.

Fussy eaters

It is natural to want your child to enjoy many different foods for the optimum nutrition to help them grow and thrive. However, some children – whether vegetarian or not – can be picky. They either reject your healthy offerings or choose the same “boring” familiar foods everyday. Relax. Avoid making food a battleground. Continue to offer healthy options to your fussy eater (even if it has to be drenched with tomato sauce!) and, if possible, negotiate a few “must haves” so you know they are gaining their nutritional essentials.

Other vegetarian considerations

Many vegetarians choose not to wear animal products such as leather, feathers or wool. Fortunately many alternatives, made from either manufactured fibres or from natural plant materials, are readily available and inexpensive.

Being different

Your child may be the only vegetarian child at school or in their extended family. They need not feel isolated, however. Help your child develop a sense of belonging to the wider vegetarian community.

There may be a vegetarian families group in your area where your child can make friends and enjoy shared food. Watching pro-vegetarian family movies such as Babe, Chicken Run and A Shark’s Tale can help build your child’s confidence in being vegetarian.

Contact your local branch or the National Office for more information on available resources – . Remind your child that everyone is “different” and unique.

Being vegetarian has made my daughters realise it’s okay to be different and they will be respected for standing up for what they believe in. Their school and the other parents have been very accommodating and happily provide suitable food for them.

– Julia, mother of Natasha (11) and Zoe (8)

I think an important part of a child’s character is the ability to withstand peer pressure. Already, at the ages of four and five, my kids have had plenty of practice saying “no” to pushy offers of meat from children their own age, older children and adults. I think my kids will benefit enormously in later years when they feel comfortable saying “no” to offers of drugs, alcohol and other dangerous pursuits.

– Tristan mother of Vancouver (5) and Nate (4).

Schools and health professionals

Schools try to support their pupils’ family values. They will appreciate being informed of your child’s vegetarianism, and will provide suitable alternatives for them on school trips or in cooking classes. You may want to write an information sheet on your child’s vegetarianism with a list of suggestions to go in your child’s file for future teachers.

Before choosing a health professional for your family, find out their views on vegetarianism. A helpful health professional will be up to date on vegetarian nutrition, positive about your child’s vegetarianism, and able to give correct information and support should any difficulties arise.

My kids are academic, sporty and have leadership skills. I don’t know how much of that I can put down to their being vegetarian, but there’s one thing I do – their compassion and awareness towards all living creatures.

– Tristan mother of Vancouver (5) and Nate (4)

Vegetarian Children (PDF)