By Simon Knutsson
First written: July 22, 2016; last update: Dec. 20, 2017 (and a few minor updates Feb. 27, 2020)


Linda and I have a daughter who is 4 years old and a son who is 2 years old (born 2013 and 2015).1I first published this text when she was almost 3 years old and he was 9 months old, and I have updated parts of the text after that. Both children have eaten a vegan (plant-based) diet since birth.2With the exceptions of the government-provided vitamin D (d-droppar), which may not be vegan, and Semper porridge (gröt) and gruel (välling), which may also contain a non-vegan vitamin D3. I haven’t looked into thoroughly whether these products are vegan or not. Friends who had their first child asked for advice on feeding so I wrote this web page rather than a long email. My advice is based on reading about feeding vegan children, and on talking to three dietitians, a nurse and a doctor. Some of the advice is about vegan nutrition and some is about feeding children in general, whether they eat vegan or not. Some advice is specific to Sweden and some is universal.


I’m not a dietitian (dietist). Please see this essay as advice from a non-professional and see the section below with further readings. Moreover, I don’t guarantee that the products I mention are vegan. I link to products that seem vegan, as far as I can tell from the list of ingredients, but I don’t know much about exactly which ingredients are made from animals.

Breastfeeding is important, if possible, and vegan women who are breastfeeding should have reliable sources of vitamin B-12 every day. That said, the information below on nutrition and feeding is only for the child.


Ensure sufficient intake of Vitamin B-12, vitamin D and iron. In Sweden, manufactured instant porridge (grötpulver) and gruel (vällingpulver)3I’m not sure what the English word for ‘välling’ is, perhaps ‘gruel’ or ‘instant cereal.’ In any case, it is like porridge but more liquid and one usually drinks it. are fortified (berikade) with B-12, iron, and many other vitamins and minerals. Some plant-based milks (e.g. some oat milks) and yogurts are fortified with B-12.4A friend in Sweden asked about B-12 supplementation for children. If it’s needed, I prefer “B-vitaminkomplex” capsules by Helhetshälsa, because it’s easy to unscrew and open a capsule, use a part of the content and then screw it back together again. All children in Sweden get vitamin D in bottles (d-droppar) from the government (BVC) until they are two years old. However, this vitamin D may not be vegan. Now when our children have turned two years old, we use this vegan vitamin D3, which can be bought online in Sweden here.5Three printed pages that we received from a Swedish government dietitians’ office (dietistmottagningen, primärvården, Göteborg) around 2014-2015 about vegan diets for children says about vitamin D that “there is no vegan ‘option.’ The vitamin D that works well comes from animals.” In Swedish: “Brist på D-vitamin kan orsaka rakit (engelska sjukan) hos barn. Det finns inte ‘veganalternativ.’ Det D-vitamin som fungerar bra är av animaliskt ursprung… D-droppar måste ges.” I assume they are skeptical at least of vegan vitamin D2, which other sources say the body does not absorb as well as vitamin D3. I don’t know whether they wrote this because they were unaware of vegan vitamin D3, because vegan vitamin D3 didn’t exist when the text was written, or because they were skeptical of vegan vitamin D3. In any case, we use vegan vitamin D3 now when our children are two years old and older. One can read more about vegan vitamin D at the website of The Vegan Society. And in 2020 Livsmedelsverket in the text “Vegansk mat till barn” mentions vegan vitamin D3 as a source of vitamin D without caveats: “Vitamin D3 för berikning utvinns ur ullfett, men det finns också en variant av vitamin D3 som utvinns ur lav och som kan användas för vegetabiliska produkter.”

A nutritionist recommended eating two servings of manufactured porridge (gröt) or gruel (välling) per day because they are fortified (berikade) with many vitamins and minerals, and they are, according to the nutritionist, at least in Sweden, more controlled than vitamin supplements, so the amounts of vitamins and minerals should be more exact. If a child eats two servings of such gruel per day, the dietitian says she does not need any more supplements (besides vitamin D and maybe Omega 3). To our daughter during age 1–3 years, we gave one serving for breakfast and one before bedtime (we offer more regular food if she is still hungry after that serving). At age 4 years and 4 months, she still drinks half a serving in the morning when she wakes up and one serving before bedtime. When our son was 9 months, he did not eat two full servings, but we introduced porridge at age 4–6 months and for the last months before he was 9 months old, we offered him porridge for breakfast and in the evening. Dr. Reed Mangels told me that The World Health Organization recommends waiting to introduce solid foods until age 6 months. If breastfeeding, choose porridge over gruel until the child is 1 year old (or until she stops breastfeeding if that occurs earlier), because otherwise the child may prefer gruel to breastfeeding (because the gruel comes faster and makes her more full.)

Enago is a Swedish company run by two dietitians (dietister) that makes vegan porridge and gruel.6The products are likely only available in Sweden. Semper, another Swedish company, also makes several such dairy-free products, although someone told me that they contain a vitamin (D?) made from animals.7Semper dairy-free products include porridge 4 months, porridge 6 months, two gruels 6 months. These may only be available in the Nordic countries, and perhaps the Baltics. I haven’t looked into that. The recipes on the porridge and gruel boxes say to mix with water, which we do until age 12 months. A nutritionist recommended that we mix with plant milk instead to get more calories. We mix with 2/3 soy milk and 1/3 oat milk after age 12 months.

Iron: The government informs especially about ensuring getting sufficient iron (for children in general, not only for vegans). It is good to complement meals with food rich in vitamin C. We try to offer a slice of orange or home squeezed orange juice for dessert at lunch and dinner, or we might, during roughly age 5–12 months, squeeze some orange juice on the food. If breastfeeding, the iron in the breast milk may not be enough from age 4–6 months.8Mangels, Reed, Simply Vegan, 5th ed. Available online. We use an iron supplement (Järnsaft från Helhetshälsa) during age 5–12 months, but a nutritionist says that no iron supplement is needed for our older daughter, who eats two servings of gruel (välling) per day.

Avoid too much fiber. Vegan food is rich in fiber, which can make the child full too quickly. The child’s stomach is small and it’s a challenge to fit all needed nutrients and calories. When we have a choice, we select the low fiber option:

  • Plain rice, pasta, cereals, bread, etc. rather than their whole grain (fullkorn) versions.
  • Fruits with relatively low fiber content, such as grapes (vindruvor), raisins (russin), melons, bananas, apples, rather than raspberries and the like, which have high fiber content.
  • The porridge and gruel that works from age 4 or 6 months, rather than the fiber fortified (fiberberikade) versions that can only be taken from age 12 months.
  • Dense food with much calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc.: Tofu is a good example (less fiber than e.g. beans). Red lentils (röda linser) are peeled (skalade), and thus have less fiber than green lentils. Nuts are good, as are peanut, cashew, almond or hazelnut butter (we use versions with 100% nuts, and no salt or sugar). Tahini is made from sesame seeds, has much calories and can have little fiber.9The tahini we use (Alwadi) has 0 gram fiber per 100 grams of tahini. On the other hand, another brand (Kung Markatta) made from unpeeled (oskalade) sesame seeds has 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams of tahini, so we don’t use it. Soy and oat milk are more calorie dense than, for example, almond milk.

Folic acid (folat/folsyra) is something my doctor said vegans should ensure to get enough of. Since the porridge and gruel are fortified with folic acid, we have never supplemented it.

Avoid sugar. We choose unsweetened porridge, gruel, bread, cereal, soy and oat yogurt, soy and oat milk, etc. We avoid candy, ice cream and cookies and instead eat a fruit salad for dessert. The main reason is that sugar makes the child full without providing needed nutrients, so sugar takes up valuable stomach space. In addition, avoid salt until the child turns 1 year old (except the tiny amounts the child eats when she tastes very small amounts of food for adults).

We supplement with plant-based Omega 3. The liquid form is easiest to give (we simply spoon-feed once every day), and we started giving at around age 6 months. We buy NORSAN Omega-3 Vegan. The point of this supplement is to get the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA. The Omega 3 fatty acid ALA exists in vegetables, such as rapeseed oil (rapsolja), flax seeds (linfrön) and walnuts (valnötter). ALA may be converted to DHA (and EPA) in the body, but I’m not sure, so we supplement with DHA to be safe. There is no Swedish government guideline that supplementing with DHA (or EPA) is needed, and a nutritionist said it may not be needed but that it in any case doesn’t harm.

Selenium (selen): The gruel and porridge are not fortified with selenium, so we shred (river) 1/2 or 1 Brazil nut (paranöt), which have high selenium content, into the porridge or gruel every day.

Avoid too much rice. It is fine to eat rice from time to time, but avoid porridge and gruel with high rice content. Avoid serving rice milk, rice bread (t.ex. riskakor), rice noodles, etc. as the standard. The reason is that rice can contain high levels of arsenic.10See e.g.

Extra fat: The Swedish government says that one can add 3 teaspoons (tesked = 5 ml), that is, 1 tablespoon (matsked = 15 ml) oil per day until the child turns 3 years. I assume one should introduce it gradually from around age 6 months, but I’m not sure. A nurse said we can give our 10-months-old the full extra fat dosage. The recommended oil in Sweden is rapeseed oil (rapsolja), which is common and cheap in Sweden (the government says it need not be any fancy version). I assume some other oil with good fats would be recommended outside Sweden (rapeseed oil has high Omega 3 content). The oil can be poured on a meal or be spoon-fed.

With all the above said, standard meal compositions are recommended. That is, with carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice, bread, etc.), protein (tofu, beans, lentils, etc.) and vegetables, in roughly the proportions of a vegan plate model (Tallriksmodellen).11In Swedish: Remember carbohydrates. When we counted our daughter’s nutrition intake for a day when she was slightly over 1 year old, she got too much fat (125% of recommended intake), enough protein, but too little carbohydrates. The nutritionist recommended more potatoes, pasta, and the like, and said that standard meal compositions are good: For example, if a meal includes a soy sausage, it is fine if it just includes pasta and vegetables. One need not serve quinoa with the sausage to increase the meal’s protein content. Moreover, she got too much fiber, despite that we already tried to reduce fiber intake.

Finally, pancakes are great because it’s easy to make them fairly healthy and children still usually like them. We use about 1/2 chickpea or quinoa flour (kikärts- eller quinoamjöl) and 1/2 wheat flour (vetemjöl). We mash some banana into the batter (smeten) to make them sweet and moist. As “jam” (“sylt”), we heat some frozen strawberries and put them in the blender. Similarly, one can make child-friendly smoothies in a blender with, for example, broccoli, cashew nuts, soy milk and fruit.

In Sweden, one can ask the government health care provider (BVC) to speak with a dietitian (dietist), and they may be able to arrange at least one meeting at no or low cost. Such dietitians employed by the county (landstinget) have also helpfully been available to answer our questions and once analyzed our daughter’s nutrition intake during a typical day.

Tips for eating more

Under one year old

This subsection is about feeding babies, say 4–12 months old, and young children who need help eating, for example by being spoon-fed. The age below 12 months is not a strict dividing line; what I have in mind here is a small child who cannot use a spoon, perhaps eats purée or finely chopped (finfördelad) food, cannot clean her own face with a napkin, might have no or only some teeth, and so on.

  • Before wanting to eat a food item, the child may need to explore the food in different ways. Perhaps smelling, touching the food with the tip of her tongue or feeling the food with her hands, which is all fine. For example, it can help appetite to put a small amount of food directly on the table so that she can play with it. This may cause a mess (stök och söl), which is OK.
  • We have found that the baby eats more if she holds a separate spoon, even if she can’t use it, or holds almost anything else, such as a sealed bag of almonds.
  • Avoid cleaning the baby during the meal. For example, avoid using napkins around her mouth during the meal. This can be unpleasant and it is better to clean after the meal. For the same reason, avoid using the spoon (too much) to, for example, put food from the chin back in the mouth.
  • Babies can eat food with flavors, spices, herbs, etc. The food need not be bland.12I’m not sure from what exact age this is appropriate, but I would guess from at least 6–7 months.
  • The Swedish government recommends not to getting children used to flavor enhancers (smakförstärkare), such as glutamate (glutamat).

One year and above

This subsection is more about children one year and upwards, who can, for example, eat by themselves using a fork, but parts of it also apply to babies.

  • Eating should be a pleasant social experience. Keep the child company by eating with her (don’t leave her to eat alone). Try to create a calm atmosphere, for example by making it so that all food is put on the table, everyone sits down and no one runs around in the kitchen. Avoid talking on the phone, checking email, having the TV on, etc. In particular, do not let the child watch movies or the like on the phone, pad, TV or computer when eating. This may very well make her eat more in the short run, but the Swedish government advises against it to keep appetite in the long run.
  • Avoid nagging (tjata), being pushy about eating (truga), threats such as “if you don’t finish that you will not get dessert,” and bribes such as “if you finish that you will get dessert”. Treats and bribes can create unpleasant associations with the food that the child forces herself to eat. However, one can remind the child to eat, and encourage her verbally (to a moderate extent).
  • Avoid bringing up topics that are stressful or can lead to fights at dinner.
  • Eating is not a performance: avoid giving compliments like “well done” or the like when she has eaten much, while giving no compliments when she has eaten little.
  • Involve the child: Let her help cook the meal, make the table, put food on her plate herself, etc.
  • Eat at same times every day. We follow the day care (förskola) schedule (which a nutritionist has endorsed doing): 7.00-8.30 breakfast, 9.30 small amounts of fruit (e.g. 3 slices banana), 11.00-11.30 lunch, 14.00-14.30 snack (e.g. sandwich), 17.00-17.30 dinner, 19.00-19.30 evening snack, in our case gruel (välling).
  • Do not snack between the meal times. It lowers appetite at meal time and leads to less eating in total. For the same reason, drink only water between meals.
  • In general, do not offer an alternative meal if the child doesn’t want what you offer. It can lead to habits that cause trouble for the whole family. The child may start to refuse to eat what it is offered in order to get the parents’ plan B offer that she prefers. This is somewhat complicated though because if the child is given a new dish, one can expect her to be hesitant and not eat that much, in which case one should perhaps offer something more familiar as well (I’m not sure).
  • Involve the child: Let her help cook the meal, make the table, put food on her plate herself, etc.
  • Lunch and dinner should be bigger meals, so perhaps limit the amount eaten at 9.30 and 14.00-14.30 so that the child is hungry for lunch and dinner.
  • Many children prefer that different foods are kept separate, for example, that a sauce is on one side of the plate and quinoa is on the other (or even in two different bowls), as opposed to that, for example, rice is mixed with tofu, spices and vegetables.
  • If one wants the child to eat something new, say broccoli or peas, one can introduce it as the first thing that the child tastes when hungry. For example, put it on the table first or let her taste it when the food is prepared. The reason is that the food gets associated with the nice feeling of alleviating hunger.
  • Children may choose to eat only one thing, for example pasta, at one meal, and then only one thing, for example soy sausage, at another meal. We have heard from several sources that one need not worry about that the intake at each meal is balanced, because it usually balances over time.13This section draws on Backlund and Grafström (2011) and other sources.

Day care (förskola)

  • The Swedish website Veganföräldrar has a page (in Swedish) called “Förskola och skola.”
  • We found it useful to write a couple of pages about our daughter’s diet and give the text to the daycare’s teachers and cook.
  • The person responsible for food at day cares (förskolor) in central Gothenburg, where we live, has been helpful and said (if I recall correctly) that any day care here should offer vegan food, if possible. Managers and cooks at individual day cares may be more skeptical, but also know less in our experience. In such cases, it has been useful to contact higher management or the National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) to get their official diet recommendation and then point the day care personnel to it. The National Food Agency, and the health care sector in Western Sweden seem to have more positive official positions about vegan food at day care compared to only a few years ago. The personnel at day cares may not be aware of those developments. For example, we were once handed by the government health care provider a printed page where the phrase “A vegan diet is not recommended for children” had been stricken through (överstuken).14I am very grateful for help from Linda Knutsson with preparing this text. She pointed out several useful advice that I had missed. The title of this essay draws on Reed Mangels’ “Feeding Vegan Kids.”

References and further reading



  • Kylberg, Åsa, and Elisabeth Strindlund. (2012). Grön barnmat: Näringslära och vegomat: För barn 0-5 år, gravida och ammande kvinnor. Stockholm: Gothia. [I recommend this book.]
  • Ask, Sara, and Åsa Strindlund. (2014). “Vegetarisk mat är bra – även för små barn.” Läkartidningen. 2014;111:CMEA. 11/2014. Lä 2014-03-11 (updated 2014-09-22). Available online.
  • Backlund, Julia, and Lisen Grafström. (2011). “Tips och råd för att öka barnets matlust.” 1177 Vårdguiden. Available online.
  • Livsmedelsverket. “Vegansk mat till barn.” Available online.
  • Centrala Barnhälsovården, Södra Älvsborg. “Måltidsförslag under barnets första år.” Ursprungsidé Anna Klebom. Reviderad 2009 och 2012 av Julia Backlund. I uploaded a photo of this one-pager. [Not specifically for vegan diets.]
  • Västra Götalandsregionen, Centrala Barnhälsovården. (2010). “Introduktion av olika livsmedel.” [When during the first 12 months to introduce different foods.] I uploaded a photo of this one-pager. [Not specifically for vegan diets.]
  • BVC Göteborg gave us a brochure with a title roughly like “Råd vid låg aptit,” which was good, but I can’t find it.