Children 0–2 years

Vegeterian diets

If you are a parent wanting to provide a vegetarian diet for your child then you need to take particular care to ensure that your child has an adequate intake of the following nutrients:

Protein for growth

Eggs, cheese and beans are good sources.

Energy to fund growth and activity

These can be low because vegetarian diets tend to be bulky, high in dietary fibre and low in fat. Offer soy or canola oil rather than safflower or sunflower to provide linoleic acid essential for nerve growth and brain function.


Iron can be found in fortified cereal, dark dried fruit, baked beans and green leafy vegetables but remember to offer raw fruit for vitamin C as this increases iron absorption. Discourage children from consuming tea as it’s tannin content can inhibit iron absorption.


Low levels of zinc can reduce linear growth and decrease taste perception. Zinc is present in milk, legumes and nut pastes (after 2 years).

Vitamin B12 and Calcium

There are of concern when animal products (including milk and dairy products) are avoided. Supplements are recommended.

Introduction of solids to vegetarian babies

Start with rice cereals and then fruit and vegetables. At around 6-8 months when meats are usually introduced, alternative protein foods should begin such as lentils, beans, eggs, nut pastes and soy bean curd (tofu).

If there is food allergy in the family or you would like to check the adequacy of your child’s diet then contact us today

For more information and resources regarding the use of vegetables:

Organic food markets are gaining traction
The vegetarian society
NZ Vegetables


About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Showing 2 comments

Also in Children 0–2 Years View all »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).