How to Raise a Healthy Vegetarian Child

How to Raise a Healthy Vegetarian Child—Without Worrying or Becoming a Short-Order Cook

By Elizabeth Jarrard


“I want to be a vegetarian/vegan”

If you’ve lived your entire life on the Standard American Diet, this simple sentence may feel loaded when stated by one of your children. Whether they’re 7, 9, or 15, a flood of questions may fill your mind. “Will they get enough protein and stay healthy?”  “What about strong bones?” “Is this the start of an eating disorder?” “What am I going to make??”

No need to fear. With the right information at your side, you can feel confident about your children becoming plant-based, healthfully, while you maintain your sanity (and without becoming a short-order cook).

The health of plant-based kids

Rest assured that a child can grow up plant-based and stay healthy and strong. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has stated that “appropriately planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian [eating only dairy], and lacto-ovo-vegetarian [eating dairy and eggs] diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth.”

Being vegetarian as a child or adolescent does not stunt growth, and has health benefits, since vegetarian diets are higher in fruits, vegetables and fiber, and lower in cholesterol than standard North American diets.


No need to fear. With the right information at your side, you can feel confident about your children becoming plant-based, healthfully, while you maintain your sanity (and without becoming a short-order cook).

If your child (plant-based or not) seems to be losing weight, lacking energy, or  trying to cut more foods out of their diet (signs of a potential eating disorder), you will want to meet with a dietitian or registered holistic nutritionist to assess their unique dietary needs for specific recommendations.

Top foods for plant-based kids

The nutrients that you have probably heard the most about as being lacking in a plant-based diet are calcium, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and protein. Encourage your plant-based child to eat more of these foods to ensure they get enough of those nutrients:

  • Tofu (complete plant-based protein, and yes it can be delicious. Start with these freeze ahead tofu recipes)
  • Beans (source of protein and iron)
  • Nuts (source of protein and essential fatty acids)
  • Pumpkin seeds (for protein and iron)
  • Sunflower seeds (for protein and zinc)
  • Fortified breads and cereals (for vitamin B12)
  • Spinach (for iron. To increase absorption, add in a squirt of lemon juice to a spinach salad, or drink a glass of orange juice with a meal that’s rich in spinach)
  • Fortified non-dairy milks and yogurts (for calcium)

While it’s easy for plant-based kids to fall into the routine of bagels, pizza and PB&Js, encouraging them to eat more vegetables and plant-based protein will help them to meet their nutrition needs.

Making a plant-based kid feel normal in a family of omnivores

No one wants to feel like the odd duck out. By understanding your child’s motivation to become plant-based, and taking the request seriously, it can be easy for a plant-based kid to feel normal. Jacqui Grimsey, Brand Manager has been plant-based since the age of eight, because she didn’t like the idea of eating animals. “My mum was extremely accommodating of this strong-willed little girl and immediately accepted my choice, cooking two different meals every night, ensuring that she always used different spoons to stir the veggie and meat dishes and generally being wonderful. My little brother (what a copier) decided to become veggie shortly afterwards so mum was now cooking veggie for us and meat for her and my dad. My mum managed to keep things manageable by replicating classic “meat” dishes with a veggie twist (think Shepherd’s pie with quorn mince instead of meaty mince). You can nearly always do a plant-based version of a meat dish if you’re struggling for inspiration.

“I am still amazed today that my mum was so accommodating, but I think it shows such an important level of respect for the choices that children are capable of making.  It wasn’t always easy, but I genuinely believe that both of us are healthier now for the choices we were allowed to make then.”

Cooking for a vegetarian—without making five separate meals

Being a short order cook for your family is a job no one wants. There are three tried-and-true methods to solve this issue. You can make a plant-based meal that the whole family will enjoy, make more substantial veggie sides (including at least one that is high in protein), or transform your staple meals into a plant-based version with simple swaps.

  1. Family Stamp of Approval

    Your whole family will approve of these recipes:
  1. Beef up your sides

    Make a veggie and high-protein side that everyone can enjoy. Like slow cooker baked beans(that can cook all day while you’re at work) with broccolini.

  1. Swap it out

    By swapping out staple ingredients in your favorite recipes you can get a familiar dish the entire family can enjoy.

  • Faux chicken strips (such as Beyond Meat Chicken Strips or Gardein)
  • Faux ground beef or sausage (Field RoastTofurky, and Beyond Meat are some of my favorites)
  • Silk or So Delicious almond, soy, cashew or coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • Vegan butter (Earth Balance can be found in almost all grocery stores)
  • Non-dairy cheese that melts (Daiya and Chao are the top of the pack—both are also soy-free)
  • Unsweetened, plain soy or coconut milk yogurt
  • Canned coconut milk in place of cream (scraping off the cream from the top)
  • For baked goods, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed or whole chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water per egg called for in the recipe. Let sit for 5 minutes before adding in with the other wet ingredients

Finally, rest assured that you are not alone. Feeding a plant-based child is a learning and growing experience, but you’re not the first one to have tried it out. Forums and Facebook groups can provide more tips and tricks to make this transition seamless.


Click Here To See Fantastic Vegertarian Supplements Suitable For Children And Adults!


Click Here To See Spectacular Whole Foods To Incoroporate Into Your Snacks And Meals!

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