Raising Vegetarian Children

Does the pediatrician, child care provider, your mother, or total strangers look at you skeptically when you say you are raising your children vegetarian? Registered Dietitians writing this blog will provide nutrition expertise to make sure your vegetarian children are healthy and growing just as they should.

How can vegetarians get enough Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tingling
  • Feeling of pins and needles
  • Decline in brain function often manifested in speech and memory impairment,
  • Inability to maintain balance
  • Disorientation
  • Reckless behavior
  • Agitatation

Discover the how to make sure everyone in your family receives adequate vitamin B12 when consuming a vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet by downloading B12 in Vegetarian Diets from the website Resources Page.

Raising Vegetarian Infants

Vegetarian Infants RD ResourceCan I raise a vegetarian baby?
What foods can I feed my vegan baby?
How do make sure my baby is healthy?

If you are asking these questions then you need the resource Vegetarian Infants (PDF). This 2-page downloadable sheet offers tips for breastfeeding and formula feeding during the early months of a life. When it is time to add solid food, parents will discover lists of the foods that provide the best sources of iron, zinc, calcium, Vitamin B12 and other nutrients essential for a growing vegetarian infant.


How To Feed A Vegetarian Teenager

  • Vegetarian Teens ResourceDid your teenager recently become a vegetarian?
  • Will your teenager no longer eat your meatloaf, baked chicken, or fish?
  • Do you want to support your teenager’s pursuit of a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet?

Then check out the resource Vegetarian Teens (PDF). This guide provides the tools teenagers (and their families) need to choose healthy foods that insure their diet supplies the nutrients needed to continue growing well.

Chocolate Banana Nut Leather

Chocolate Banana Nut LeatherCreate your own healthy snacks with a food dehydrator.  When making fruit leathers you need a special thin tray that allows you to spread out the sauce so it will dry evenly.  Make your next food adventure this chewy, naturally sweet fruit leather.


  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/8 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Oil a fruit leather tray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, peanut butter, and applesauce until well blended.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Using a spatula, spread thinly over fruit leather tray.
  5. Dry overnight (10-12 hours) on fruit/vegetable setting (135◦F) or until leather is no longer moist and can be peeled from tray.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and bag for quick access.

Yield: 1 tray of fruit leather

Lunches Children Will Devour

For little kids – They love to open small containers. I bought some 2 ounce containers with lids and used them for a few slices of cucumbers, nut butter or tofu spread for dipping baby carrots, 2 small ginger snaps, a couple of grape tomatoes, grapes and a couple of walnuts. Every one was like a small present.

For children 6 to 10 – School lunch is short. Some schools have a snack time or a snack that can be eaten while in class. Sandwiches are great, but everyone wants hot food in the cold weather. Heat up a thermos with hot water. Heat up a soup or stew at the last minute. Drain the thermos. The soup or stew will stay hotter in the heated thermos. Put a napkin between the thermos and any cold items. Don’t forget something crunchy to go with it – crackers or celery work fine. For the snack – a small container of apple sauce with cinnamon, snack bar or celery with nut butter and raisins work great.

For children 11-13 – Have them make lunch with you. They are beginning to need their independence. It will also get them in the kitchen and learning how to feed themselves. Set some guidelines – protein source, grain, fruit and drink. With the fall weather, you can alternating soy milk with local cider. If they have after school activities pack a snack and include water to drink.

For Teenagers – getting them to eat lunch at all is a good trick. However, either make it at home with guidelines or ask what’s available at school. Most schools have a card to swipe for purchased lunch. You set the cash amount for the card. Many food service directors will allow for specifics on purchases, such as “school lunch items only.” This means they can purchase any items designated as lunch for the school and not a la carte items such as french fries. Have your teen make their lunch. They can shop with you or make their own list of foods for lunch. Again, you are teaching them ready to feed themselves. If they have after school activities pack a snack that includes a beverage so they stay hydrated.

Hungry kids are grumpy kids. At every age, packing or purchasing enough food and drinks is the key. When you including your children in the process the food packed will more likely be eaten.

After School Quick Snacks

healthy snacksCreate a snack shelf for your child/children. They can reach it, and eat what is there until a time you set before meals. Ours closes two hours before dinner.

  • Apples, carrot and celery sticks and nut butter – you can make your nut butters if you have a food processor, it is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen.
  • Dates ripped and rolled in coconut
  • Dates with toasted almonds inside
  • Store bought tofu salad on crackers
  • Carrot/Raisin salad with OJ concentrate, lime juice and sesame oil
  • Hummus with whole grain crackers or celery sticks
  • Guacamole with unsalted pretzels

How to Create a Vegetarian Lunchbox

Vegetarian Nutrition for School-Aged ChildrenDoes the pediatrician, your child’s teacher, or total strangers look at you skeptically when you say you are raising your children vegetarian?  Rest assured you are not alone.  Choosing to feed your children a vegetarian can provide all the nutrients for them to grow and be healthy.

Do you want the facts on how to plan a healthy vegetarian diet? Download the FREE Vegetarian Diets for School-aged Children (PDF) resource. In it you will find —

  • Good food sources of important Nutrients
  • Calorie needs for a growing child
  • Meal Ideas
  • Tips on creating a menu

Print your copy of Vegetarian Diets for School-aged Children today and you will have the tools to win over your toughest skeptic.

Feeding Healthy Vegan Infants and Children

Reed Mangels, PhD, RD shares the science of feeding vegan infants.

I am deeply saddened when I see headlines such as “Vegan Baby Hospitalized for Severe Malnutrition” or “Vegan Couple Sentenced to Life over Baby’s Death.” These tragedies are needless and could easily be prevented by following some basic guidelines for infant feeding.

infantFor the first 6 months after birth, babies should ideally be given breast milk and only breast milk. That’s according to not only the American Academy of Pediatrics but also the World Health Organization. If breast feeding is not possible, a commercial infant formula is the only other alternative. That’s it, for the first 6 months. Juice, cereals, plant milks, even soy milk are not the right foods for young infants and can lead to inadequate nutrition. Breast milk and formula contain readily absorbed nutrients with ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrate that support the baby’s growth. Breastfeeding should continue at least through the first year with infant formula the only safe alternative as a primary beverage. When solids are introduced, after age 6 months, vegan infants should be given nutritious foods such as pureed fruits and vegetables, strained or mashed beans, tofu, and infant cereals. Vegan diets can easily meet an older infant’s or toddler’s needs for protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If we look closely into the news reports of malnourished “vegan” infants, we see that they’ve been given “mainly soy milk and apple juice” or that they have “multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies.” Infants whose mothers are well-nourished and who are breastfeeding successfully or who are getting adequate infant formula are not going to have multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Just as for any other infant, breastfed vegan infants need supplements of iron and vitamin D. Deficiencies of iron, calcium, and other nutrients that are reported in sensational news stories point to a lack of knowledge on the part of parents about what constitutes a healthy diet for an infant. Yes, it does take time and thought to feed infants and young children nutritious diets but the result is worth it.

For more information download our  simple guides for feeding vegan or vegetarian infants and toddlers.

Vegetarian Infants RDVegetarian Infants (PDF) offers tips for breastfeeding and formula feeding during the early months of a life. When it is time to add solid food, parents will discover lists of the foods that provide the best sources of iron, zinc, calcium, Vitamin B12 and other nutrients essential for a growing infant.

Vegetarian Toddlers Preschoolers RDVegetarian Nutrition for Toddlers and Preschoolers (PDF) provides information for parents and childcare providers who are planning vegetarian meals for toddlers and preschoolers.

After School Fruity Roll-Ups

No cooking required!

Whip these up in the time it takes for the kids to walk from the bus to the kitchen! Though grape is a favorite, feel free to use berries, bananas or sliced peaches. Kids can enjoy this treat on-the-spot or you can wrap in foil and take them for the road.


  • 2 Tablespoons chunky peanut butter (no sugar or oil added)
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 100% whole grain wrap (10 inch)
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • ground cinnamon


  1. Stir together peanut butter and chia seeds (if using).
  2. Spread peanut butter mixture evenly on wrap, leaving 1 inch around the outside.
  3. Line grape halves up the middle of the wrap, leaving 1 inch at each end.
  4. Sprinkle grapes lightly with cinnamon.
  5. Roll tightly into a wrap making sure to fold the ends in.


  • Chia seeds add extra nutrients and your kids won’t even notice them. Another nutritious option is stirring ground flaxseed into peanut butter.
  • For a peanut-free wrap, substitute almond butter or sunflower seed butter.

Cookie Dough Nice Cream

A kid-friendly treat, perfect for a hot summer day!

Cool off this summer with a vegan “nice cream.” This recipe is a plant-based version of “cookie-dough” ice cream and you will be asking for more after one bite.

Ingredients for Cookie Dough

  • 1 15oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 pitted dates
  • 2 Tablespoon peanut butter (no sugar added)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cacao nibs

Ingredients for Nice Cream

  • 6 medium bananas, peeled, halved and placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours
  • ¾ – 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions to make Cookie Dough

  1. In a food processor, blend garbanzo beans, dates, peanut butter, vanilla extract and cinnamon until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
  2. With a spatula, stir in cacao nibs.
  3. Flatten dough onto a piece of parchment paper until its’ about ½ inch thick.
    I lined a 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, added the dough, put another piece of parchment paper on the top and then pressed it flat to fill the pan.
  4. Place flattened dough into freezer for 3 hours or more.
  5. When ready to make the Nice Cream, remove dough from freezer and cut into ½-inch squares.

Instructions to make Nice Cream

  1. Add frozen bananas, ¾ cup almond milk and vanilla to food processor and blend until smooth. Add an additional 1/4 cup of almond milk, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, if needed.
  2. Stir together nice cream and cookie dough chunk squares.
  3. Serve immediately, or, for a more firm texture, freeze in a sealed container 1-2 hours prior to serving.

Got Enough Protein?

No matter how prolific the evidence nor how well presented our website, there will always be someone who asks, “Can a vegetarian diet provide enough?” Enough might mean enough protein, enough variety, enough nutrients, enough of whatever the questioner fears might be lacking.

It’s not surprising that this question continues to be asked. The societal belief that a well-balanced diet must include meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods is deeply ingrained and has some roots in the association of these foods with an individual’s ability to procure them, that is, one’s personal affluence. During World Wars I and II, many foodstuffs were rationed including butter, sugar, meat, and coffee. Transportation of food was limited by fuel rationing and so people began to cultivate their own gardens and raise their own chickens. Thus, Victory Gardens appeared where flowers once grew or cars once parked. The ‘Eat locally’ movement had begun but with a slightly different intent than today’s locavores.

Naturally, with the rationing came a sense of deprivation that persisted until the end of the wars and the relative improvement of choices in the market. As people were able to add some of the former luxuries back into their regular diets, it wasn’t long before these luxuries became daily staples.

It’s worth noting here that as countries around the world become increasingly more developed and affluent, their diets also change to include the very luxuries mentioned above; fat, sugar, meat and another, alcohol. Patterns of disease in those countries parallel the dietary changes as both become more like disease and diets seen in Western countries.

So the question remains, “Does a vegetarian diet provide enough?”

Once again my dear photographer friend, who also happens to be a midwife, comes to the rescue with a delightful visual aid.

Take a look at the platter of food she compiled for her pregnant clients; its beauty belies its nutrient value. Not only colorful but also displaying the recommended plate proportions of protein, vegetables and fruits, this meal offers enough for an individual to meet nutrient needs as well as support good health. All the foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and fiber while being relatively low in calories and fat as well as being free of simple sugars and cholesterol. These characteristics help to maintain appropriate weight and reduce blood pressure as well as risks for heart disease and diabetes.

White lima beans are this meal’s primary source of protein, with one cup providing 16 grams or about 30 percent of an adult woman’s daily requirement. The limas’ 30 grams of fiber meet the daily recommendation for adults and do a great job of modulating blood sugar, providing satiety and maintaining intestinal health. Besides being rich in potassium, white lima beans pack iron to the tune of 60 percent of the adult recommended daily intake. There are 140 calories in one cup.

Sugar snap peas, which are actually a hybrid of English peas and snow peas, are completely edible. One cup has barely 30 calories but more than 60 percent of recommended vitamin C intake. This is a vitamin K rich vegetable, which is why it is so aptly included in the lunch for pregnant women.

The much-maligned watermelon also does its share to support good health by providing vitamins B6, C and K, plus potassium and lycopene, a beneficial phytochemical found only in red-pigmented fruits and vegetables. One cup has about 50 calories, a trace of protein but no fat or cholesterol. What is fascinating about the protein is that it is comprised of amino acids that can metabolize to nitric oxide, a substance that helps to maintain artery function and thus improve blood pressure.

Without examining the familiar nutrient gifts of the mixed greens and herb salad, you can see that a lunch comprised of what we have just discussed can be not only quite filling but also nutrient dense, providing almost a third of a woman’s daily protein needs, wrapped in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals as well as including enough fiber for the day.

These nutrients promote good health; the fruit and vegetable packages they come in are visually and gastronomically pleasing, and the relatively low caloric load helps to maintain a healthful weight.

Is this not enough to make you curious to learn more about a vegetarian diet?

Do vegan children get enough iron?

Iron in Vegetarian Diets ResourceIron deficiency anemia is a worldwide problem and often vegetarian and vegan diets are viewed as at risk for this nutrient deficiency.  Use Iron in Vegetarian Diets (PDF) to discover –

  • Evidence-based research on the iron status of vegetarians
  • The best plant sources for iron
  • How vitamin C increases iron absorption

Five Tips for Creating Meatless Family Meals

Healthy Tips for Meatless MealsCheckout Healthy Tips for Meatless Meals from Kids Eat Right a website sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In the Healthy Tips for Meatless Meals you will find five tips for feeding your family more fruits, vegetables, whole grains,  beans, and nuts every day. Also discover how easy it is to feed your family meals with out meat.

Download “Healthy Tips for Meatless Meals” »

Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy

Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy resourceCan I continue my vegan diet during pregnancy?
I’m vegetarian and pregnant what can I eat?

Making great food choices during pregnancy is vital for all women.  This includes eating a variety of foods, which are full of nutrients and calories to meet the needs of mother and baby. If you are choosing any type of vegetarian diet during pregnancy there will be questions about what you are eating.  Will you get enough protein, folate, iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, and other nutrients.  Be prepared to answer YES with this FREE on-line resource Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy.

Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy provides menu plans, how to stay hydrated, keeping a healthy weight, and staying active. It also provides how much of a nutrient is needed and what foods provide nutrient rich sources of:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc

Be prepared — download Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy today .  Then you will have the tools to make healthy food choices and answer “YES, a vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients and calories needed by mothers and babies.”

Also available in the Resources/FAQ section of this website are the following:

  • Dietas vegetarianas durante el embarazo  (Spanish version)
  • Vegetarian Diets in Lactation
  • Vegetarian Diets in Infants
  • Vegetarian Diets in Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • Vegetarian Diets in School-aged Children
  • Vegetarian Teens

Are you really eating for two?

Congratulations, I am sure you are excited to share your great baby-news!

eating for 2

But wait, will you really be eating for two? That phrase has been around for a long time and has been used to justify just about any eating advice given to a mother-to-be, including, “Be sure to clean your plate. Remember, you’re eating for two!” or “Oh, go ahead and have an extra scoop; after all, you’re eating for two, aren’t you?” The concept of ‘eating for two’, while probably well intentioned, has confused countless pregnant women. Let’s see what’s behind it.

While it is true that your baby is developing at a fantastic rate, initially your own stored energy is helping to support that rapid growth. If your pre-pregnancy weight was about average, your energy or caloric needs will not increase during the first three months; the first trimester.  During the next three months or second trimester, your energy needs increase by about 350 calories a day. You could cover this with an apple, a handful of walnuts and a glass of soymilk, for example. Increasing your intake by another 100 calories during the third trimester, to total 450 calories above preconception intake, will insure that your baby will grow well and that you will have sufficient energy for your own needs. These additional calories will support a total weight gain during pregnancy of 25 – 30 pounds.

If you were underweight prior to conception you will have higher energy needs. As well, if you are a teenager, your own body is still developing, in addition to the baby growing inside of you, and so your need for extra calories will be greater than outlined above. As a pregnant teen, more weight gain is quite normal and expected.

If you were overweight prior to conception, most likely you will be able to meet energy needs with fewer calories.

In all cases, your physician will be your guide as he or she monitors your baby’s growth and development.

So when they say ‘eating for two’ it doesn’t seem that they mean you should double your intake, does it?  What is definitely more likely is that it’s a reminder to consistently choose nutrient dense foods to support two humans; one who is trying to remain strong and healthy and one who is growing rapidly. If you eat a variety of whole, unprocessed vegetables, grains and fruits in smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day, you ought to be able to meet your energy and nutrient needs easily. Below is a short list of foods in 100-calorie portion sizes that you can choose from to build your meals and snacks.

  • One medium – large piece fresh fruit
  • ¼ cup dried apricots or figs
  • 2 TB raisins
  • 1 TB nut butter; almond, peanut, etc.
  • ½ oz. of most nuts; dry roasted, unsalted
  • 1-cup nonfat, plain yogurt
  • 2/3-cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup Muesli
  • 1 oz. most cereals (avoid pre-sweetened cereals)
  • 2 TB hummus
  • 1 oz. Whole grain crackers

Vegetables can usually be enjoyed raw or cooked without oil or butter, without having to count your servings. Vegetables will be rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that are essential to your healthy pregnancy.

Be sure to read your labels for more ideas of where the nutrients are and how big the serving sizes are!

Interested in more information on Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy, Lactation, or raising an infant? Download Resources in Frequently Asked Questions or click below:
Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy
Vegetarian Diets in Lactation
Vegetarian Infants

What do you feed a vegan toddler? Can a vegetarian preschooler get enough protein?

vegetarian toddlersToddlers and Preschoolers want to eat what their parents eat.  It is essential in these early years to establish healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. A vegan or vegetarian diet can provide all the protein, calcium, iron, and other nutrients needed by your growing child. 

Learn more about feeding all types of vegetarian diets to children from 1-5 years old in the colorful downloadable resource Vegetarian Nutrition for Toddlers and Preschoolers.