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Health TipsRecipe

How to Ensure My Toddler Gets Adequate Nutrition Eating a Vegetarian Diet

By 28/03/2016May 23rd, 2017No Comments

There may come a time in your little ones life where meat simply no longer appeals or meat never appealed to begin with. This can cause pangs of worry for many parents but rest assured your little one can meet their nutritional requirements by following a vegetarian diet.

It’s important to keep a close eye on common nutrient deficiencies, which may result if a vegetarian diet isn’t balanced, namely, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Being aware to ensure protein at each meal and snack is equally as important.


Protein plays an important role in development and repair of major muscles, organs, glands and cells. Most plant-based proteins are considered incomplete, as they do not provide all of the essential amino acids. However, the body maintains a pool of amino acids, this means as long as a variety of plant-based proteins are consumed day in day out, proteins needs will be met.

Protein sources: legumes, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, quinoa and dairy (cheese, yoghurt, milk).

Infants – Adequate Intake daily

  • 0-6 months 10g (1.43g/kg body weight)
  • 7-12 months 14g (1.60g/kg body weight)

Children – RDI

  • 1-3 years 14g/day (1.08g/kg)


Iron is important for transport of oxygen around the body, cell growth and energy production.

Iron sources: legumes, wheatgerm, rolled oats, tahini, apricots, sunflower seeds, almonds, tofu, spinach and brown rice/quinoa and amaranth.

Infants – Adequate intake

  • 0-6 months 0.2mg/day
  • 7-12 months – RDI is 11mg/day

Children – RDI

  • 1-3 years 9mg/day

Tips on increasing iron absorption

  • Limit calcium rich foods around iron, calcium can interfere with absorption.
  • 50mg of vitamin C per meal can increase iron absorption by three-to six fold. 


Zinc helps support the immune system, skin integrity and is an antioxidant.

Zinc sources: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, egg yolks, wholegrains, legumes and dairy.


Infants – Adequate intake

  • 0-6 months 2mg/day
  • 7-12 months – RDI is 3mg/day

Children – RDI

  • 1-3 years 3mg/day


Polyunsaturated essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be consumed within the diet. Fatty acids are important for brain and nervous system development and function.


Omega-3 sources: tofu, chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds and eggs.


Infants – Adequate Intake

  • 0-6 months 0.5g omega-3 polyunsaturated fats
  • 7-12 months 0.5g omega-3 polyunsaturated fats


Children – boys and girls – adequate intake

  • 1-3 years 40mg/day total omega-3 polyunsaturated fats 


Balancing out the Plate – Vegetarian Meal Ideas

To ensure a vegetarian diet meets your toddler’s needs, its important to encourage a wide variety of foods to be eaten daily, paying particular attention to iron, zinc, omega-3 and protein. To lend a helping hand at balancing out your toddler’s plate, here are some vegetarian meal ideas:


  • Rolled oat bircher muesli soaked in freshly squeezed orange juice with ground up pumpkin and chia seeds
  • Rafferty’s Garden Multigrain Banana and Apricot Cereal – rich in iron
  • Soft boiled eggs with cheese and avocado soldiers
  • Vegetarian Breakfast Smoothie – recipe below


  • My lentil, kale and cauliflower spelt pasta (recipe below), provides a healthy combination of iron from the lentils and vitamin C from cauliflower, tomato and parsley – for bubs puree sauce and serve sauce on top of small sized pasta
  • Rafferty’s Garden Tuna, rice and Veggies – natural source of protein
  • Roast pumpkin, spinach and feta slice, try adding cooked quinoa to the mixture before baking 


  • Rafferty’s Garden sweet potato, carrot and apple smooth – source of Vitamin C
  • Sunflower seed and parsley pesto with steamed vegetable fingers
  • Yoghurt with home-made strawberry puree and puffed amaranth grains


Recipe – Lentil Kale and Cauliflower Spelt Pasta



Vegetarian Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 1-2



  • 1 x Rafferty’s Garden Blueberries, Banana and Apple Smooth pouch, cooled
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tsp wheatgerm
  • 2 tsp ground chia seeds
  • ice, optional



  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blitz until well combine and smooth



Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (AGDHA) 2005, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, Australian Government.