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Vegetarian diet for babies and children: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Nutrition has a significant influence on health and development throughout a person's life, so it is very important to guide children on a path to healthy living through their diet. Importantly, eating habits formed early on do tend to stick with a person, so it is a good idea to get children off to the best possible start.

The consequence of a poor diet could be long-lasting, whereas a healthy, balanced diet can protect against illness and ensure the development of strong bones and teeth, firm muscles and healthy tissue.

Research has shown that a well-balanced, low-fat, high-fibre vegetarian diet is very healthy for adults and children and provides all the required nourishment. This is a widely acknowledged fact among health professionals, including organisations such as the British Medical Association.


When a baby is under four months, breast milk or infant formula should be given.

The gradual introduction of solids as milk replacement (weaning) should occur no earlier than three months, and no later than six. From about four months weaning usually begins for the majority of babies: rice-based or gluten-free cereals, puréed and sieved pulses, fruit (apples, bananas, pears) and veg (potatoes, carrots and spinach) are popular options.

It's best to introduce one food at a time and leave a couple of days in between, that way you will be able to monitor for any allergies should they occur, especially if there is a history of allergies in the family. A baby might reject stronger tasting vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, but might like them later on. You never can tell and parents can be driven to distraction because children can be very fussy and changeable when it comes to most things, including food.

At this stage, milk is still the most important food in your baby's diet, but gradually increase the number of times solid food is given, from once, to twice, to three times a day.

From six months onward, bread, wheat and oat-based foods (porridge), hard boiled eggs, cheese and cow's milk in cooking can be introduced.

It's recommended to start topping up iron stores with iron-fortified cereals (from six months your baby needs more iron than can be provided by milk, which is a poor source, generally speaking), beans and lentils -- puréed to begin with, then mashed with vegetable oil, also green vegetables and houmous. Solid foods should by now be eaten three times a day.

From eight to twelve months, baby will gradually be able to cope with lumpier foods, even from the family table, as long as they do not contain salt. Well cooked and mashed peas and beans can be introduced at around this time, as now they can be easily digested by the child's body.

Avoid sweets and biscuits -- instead, try small pieces of peeled apple or raw carrot or crusts of bread, as baby is now able to chew more proficiently. 

Sandwiches and toast can become everyday foods during this period. By the age of twelve months, your baby should be enjoying three meals a day.

Babies between six and twelve months require between 700 and 1000 calories a day, so they need concentrated sources of energy. Little people do not have the capacity to eat large quantities, they need small and frequent meals.

As a general rule, do not include foods which are either bulky or watery and sugar is not a good source of energy for babies. Serve concentrated energy foods such as lentils with vegetable oil, or avocado, cheese or smooth nut butter.

Breast milk or infant formula should be fed throughout the first year of a life. 

Babies under two should not be given semi-skimmed milk because not enough energy will be present. Children under five should not be given skimmed milk for the same reason. Soya milks should be specially formulated if used instead of breast milk -- if avoiding all animal milk products, it is