Under-fives

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Well-planned vegan diets can meet the nutritional needs of every family member. You can give your child a great start in life by introducing them to a wide variety of plant foods, and teaching them to make compassionate choices.

Early days

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of your baby’s life. It is also recommended that you continue to breastfeed until your baby is at least two years old. Please go here for more information about breastfeeding and plant-based nutrition.

If your baby is breastfed, it is recommended that you give them vitamin D drops from birth. Vitamin D2 is animal-free. Vitamin D3 usually comes from sheep’s wool, but vitamin D3 from lichen is vegan-friendly.

If breastfeeding is not an option, infant formula is recommended. Soya-based infant formula can be fed to vegan infants when breastfeeding is not an option, but please speak to your health visitor or doctor before using it.

First foods

It is recommended that you wait until your baby is six months old before introducing food. However, every infant should be considered individually. If you are thinking about introducing food to your baby between four and six months, please speak to a health professional. Food should not be introduced before your baby is four months old.

Smooth or mashed foods can be fed to your baby using a spoon. Baby-led weaning is a different approach, which initially involves offering soft finger foods that your baby can hold in their fist, explore and chew. You may wish to use a combination of these two approaches. It is important that first foods include good sources of iron, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils and tofu. Avoid adding salt or sugar.

Following on from the recommendation about vitamin D drops for breastfed babies from birth, the Department of Health recommends daily vitamin A, C and D supplementation for all children aged six months to five years (unless they are drinking more than 500ml of infant formula daily). It is important to include a reliable source of vitamin B12 in your baby’s plant-based diet, such as fortified foods. Unsweetened fortified soya milk can be used in cooking, and plain fortified soya yoghurt can be offered at mealtimes. As your baby’s intake of breastmilk or formula decreases, the need to consider iodine supplementation increases. You may also wish to consider a supplement of long chain omega-3 fats from microalgae, although there is a need for research into how these supplements affect the health of vegans. Your child’s daily diet should include a good source of essential omega-3 fat, such as ground chia seeds, ground linseed, ground hemp seeds or ground walnuts.

Please read our PDF for more information about introducing food to your baby.

One to four years old

During this period of your child’s life, you will gradually adjust their diet so that it is balanced in a similar way to your diet by the time they are five years old. Young children need meals and snacks that provide lots of nutrients for growth, but sometimes have small appetites. Here are some tips about making the most of their food:

  • Lower fibre starchy foods may be useful sources of energy, such as white rice and pasta
  • Quinoa contains more protein than rice, pasta or potato
  • Add energy to meals and snacks by adding ground nuts* and seeds, nut* and seed butters, vegetable oil and vegan spread
  • Lower fat options are not recommended

*If your child already has a diagnosed food allergy, or there's a history of allergy in their immediate family (such as asthma, eczema or hay fever), talk to a health professional before giving them food containing peanuts for the first time.

Calcium is important for teeth and bones. Breastfeeding your child until they are at least two years old will help them to get enough. 300ml of unsweetened fortified soya milk provides a good daily intake of calcium. Plain fortified soya yoghurt and calcium-set tofu are also valuable sources. Other sources include kale, pak choi, okra, dried figs, chia seeds and almonds (ground or butter).

It’s also important to make sure that your child’s daily diet contains plenty of foods that are rich in iron. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, cashew nuts (ground or butter), ground chia seeds, ground linseed, ground hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds (ground or butter), quinoa, kale, raisins, dried figs, dried apricots and fortified breakfast cereals provide good amounts of iron. Adding vitamin C-rich food to meals helps with iron absorption. Good sources of vitamin C include pepper, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruits, oranges, strawberries and pineapple.

In the UK, the Department of Health recommends vitamin supplements for under-fives (see first foods section). Every vegan needs to obtain vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement. A reliable source of iodine is also important, and a supplement is recommended. You may also wish to consider giving your child a supplement of long chain omega-3 fats from microalgae, although there is a need for research into how these supplements affect the health of vegans. Your child’s daily diet should include a good source of essential omega-3 fat, such as ground chia seeds, ground linseed, ground hemp seeds or ground walnuts.

Please read our PDF for more information about plant-based nutrition for children aged one to four years.

Further information

  • Click here to read a nutritional guide for vegan infants written by Dietitian Dr Helen Crawley
  • Try Cooking Vegan by Dietitian Vesanto Melina and Chef Joseph Forest for nutritionally analysed recipes for all ages

Please talk to a health professional about supplements to ensure that they are suitable for your child.

If you have any concerns about your child’s diet, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian.

Thanks to Children’s Dietitian Angharad Banner for her expertise and support.

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