Can a child be a vegetarian?

Everyone understands the fashion for a healthy lifestyle in different ways. Some families teach their children to be vegetarian from birth until the child can make an independent choice. We talk about the types of vegetarianism, the pros and cons, and the consequences of a “vegetarian” diet. 

What happens

Vegetarianism – eating mainly or exclusively plant foods. There are types of vegetarianism, which come down to two directions: with the complete exclusion of animal products or with the use of eggs or milk in addition to plant foods.

In the literature, researchers need more information about the impact of a vegan and vegetarian diet on a child’s health. Dietary restriction is always regarded as a health risk factor. At the same time, European and American studies show that the level of health and development of children who follow a vegetarian diet from birth does not differ from children who eat animal food. 

Nutrition, which includes lean meat, should be varied and cover the needs for nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Today, studies show that a planned vegan and vegetarian diet is suitable even for breastfeeding women and young children. In our country, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare recommends a vegetarian diet for children only on prescription. Medical indications for vegetarianism: Wilson’s disease – Konovalov, some types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and several other diseases.

There are the following options for vegetarianism:

  • veganism – avoiding animal products, including milk and eggs
  • Ovo Lacto -vegetarianism – excludes meat but includes eggs and milk
  • Ovo -vegetarian – excludes meat and milk but includes eggs
  • Lacto -vegetarian – excludes meat and eggs but includes milk
  • raw food diet – eating raw plant foods that have not been processed.

Types of food that are not vegetarian:

  • Pescatarians – the rejection of the meat of land and warm-blooded animals
  • Pollotarianism – abstaining from meat other than poultry
  • Flexitarianism is the moderate or infrequent consumption of meat.
Can a child be a vegetarian?

A dangerous type of “vegetarian” diet with risks of developing micronutrient deficiencies is strict vegetarianism and completely rejecting animal products. In other types of vegetarianism, it is easy to balance products and create a rational, correct menu for a child. 

Benefits and disadvantages

Vegetarianism, like any diet, has its pros and cons. It is important to weigh all the pros and cons for the child of such a diet and decide on the need for a pediatrician.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Cleansing the body, stimulating the proper functioning of the intestines due to foods rich in fiber 
  • Replacing harmful sweets and fast food with fruits, vegetables, soups, and cereals 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight with low-calorie plant foods. 
  • Conscientiousness in nutrition and  the choice of natural products
  • Avoidance of canned foods, which excludes flavor enhancers and flavors from the child’s diet
  • The incidence of coronary disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes is lower than for those who do not follow a vegetarian diet.
Can a child be a vegetarian?

And here are the cons:

  • The development of metabolic disorders with an unbalanced diet 
  • Difficulty in planning a diet for the intake of essential vitamins and microelements into the child’s body
  • Lack of quality fruits and vegetables in winter conditions
  • The occurrence of health problems with a sudden change in diet
  • Development of anemia in vitamin B12 deficiency 
  • Impaired vision, skin, bones, and teeth with a deficiency of vitamins A and D
  • The need for additional vitamins
  • Difficulty with a variety of diets due to the selectivity of the child’s nutrition

A vegetarian diet is safe for children, and it is balanced. The downside is that such a diet leads to a need for more trace elements and calories. This will lead to disease and developmental disorders. In the case of infants, illnesses can be life-threatening. The impact of a vegetarian diet on a child’s health has yet to be fully understood. Consequently, doctors may still need to learn about this diet’s consequences. 


You should immediately consult a doctor if at least one of the following symptoms appears after switching to a vegetarian diet:

  • rapid weight loss
  • lethargy
  • irritability 
  • coldness
  • hair, nail, and skin problems 
  • developmental delay
  • frequent viral infections
  • muscle weakness
  • behavioral problems.

These symptoms occur due to a deficiency of vitamins, trace elements, and protein, including essential amino acids. Thus, the protein content in plant products is usually lower than animal products. In addition, plant proteins’ digestibility is worse than animal proteins due to some compounds found in plants. Therefore, during periods of increased need (pregnancy, breastfeeding, the period of active growth in children), it is especially important to pay attention to its sufficient consumption. 

A deficiency of essential amino acids can lead to weight loss and lethargy and contribute to frequent viral infections. It is recommended to vary the different plant protein sources to ensure you get enough essential amino acids. Vegetarians’ richest sources of protein, including essential amino acids, are legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals, and buckwheat. 

Coldness, problems with hair, nails, skin, and developmental delay are often associated with iron deficiency in the body. Iron in plant products is absorbed worse; therefore, the need for iron may be higher than that of omnivorous people. 

Parents of young vegetarians often seek to monitor vitamin levels through blood tests. But such tests are not necessary for children. They are only sent for examination if the pediatrician doubts that the patient is receiving enough vitamins. Taking tests with a doctor’s appointment is a good use of money.

If a child follows a vegetarian diet, he needs to be shown to the doctor at least once every six months to control weight and growth. If a teenager follows a vegetarian diet, it is important to ensure that there are no manifestations of an eating disorder behind this desire. Constant nutrition monitoring and drawing up a menu with a nutritionist are important when a child follows a vegan diet. 

Can a child be a vegetarian?

There are no insurmountable obstacles to vegetarianism or even veganism from childhood. It’s harder to be a vegetarian. It is important to get enough of the necessary nutrients; human health depends on how varied the diet is. 

It is safe to switch to a vegetarian diet with a child than when the child has most of the foods introduced into the diet and eats sufficient portions of food with pleasure. Then a full-fledged menu is compiled containing the necessary micro- and macronutrients. Situations where a child eats, for example, only three foods (pasta, cucumbers, cookies) are called an eating disorder, not vegetarianism. 

Important to remember

  • Medical indications for a vegetarian diet for children: Wilson-Konovalov disease, certain types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis
  • It is possible to transfer a child to a vegetarian diet if the child has been introduced to most foods and eats sufficient portions with pleasure.
  • A pediatrician and a nutritionist control the child’s condition when using a “vegetarian” diet.
  • If a small vegetarian has the following symptoms: rapid weight loss, lethargy, irritability, coldness, problems with hair, nails, and skin, developmental delays, frequent colds, muscle weakness, and behavioral problems, it is important to consult a doctor urgently. 

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