A vegetarian diet can be started at any age, so long as you’re careful. Every nutrient your child needs is available in an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, but some of them are harder to come by than others (such as iron and zinc). Obviously, the more restrictive the diet, the greater the risk of cutting out an essential nutrient, but in most cases supplements are available. If you plan on raising a child with a vegetarian diet, the most important thing is just to know what nutrients they need and make sure all are accounted for in their daily diets. If you’re not starting them on a vegetarian diet from infancy, one of the hardest things can be getting them to eat certain foods (such as leafy greens or tofu) that are nutritionally important but not necessarily appetizing to a child. In that case, the best thing to do is probably to continue to serve meat while gradually introducing vegetarian options (maybe start out with one fully vegetarian meal a week and work up from there). If you present it more as a fun experiment than a radical lifestyle change, the’re likely to be more accepting; and you can use the in-between time to figure out what they like (or at least are willing to try) and build your meals around those things. I also recommend that you find a pediatrician who supports your decision, as they can be a valuable resource.
As long as the child is getting all the nutrients they need, then they can become a vegetarian at any age. One of the major things to watch for is an iron deficiency. The iron you get from meat is easier for the body to absorb than the iron you get from plants. To be safe just let you child’s doctor know and they can monitor the iron levels to make sure everything is ok. When you plan your child’s meals just make sure that they are getting all the nutrients they need!
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