7 Yr Old Vegetarian Child Has Behavior Issues

Vegetarian child behavior issues – is he getting enough calories? Does he have food sensitivities, indigestion, constipation?

veggie boy

Hi, I just stumbled on your website and wonder if you might have any advice for me. My 7 year old went vegetarian (lacto-ovo) 2 months ago. The rest of the family are omnivores, but I grew up with a vegetarian brother so it’s not unfamiliar to me. I am trying to learn everything I can about nutrition, and read the nutrition advice letters (thank you!).

My concern is that my son is having some behavior issues, seemingly all of a sudden, and I’m wondering if it could be related to the change in his diet. His decision made me realize that we eat meat most nights, and we’ve all been cutting back, but how does that affect him by cutting it out completely? Could there be a link? He has less patience, is more apt to “act out” with his brothers, and has more melt downs (in other words, he’s acting more like a 4-5 year old). Any ideas and/or advice you have is greatly appreciated! K.M.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Thanks for writing! I’m so glad when I encounter families who are willing to support their children going veg, even though it must be inconvenient for them.

From raising my own kids, I remember that when a child ‘acts out’, you should look at simple physical causes first: like hunger, pain, fatigue.

Diet might not have anything to do with it, but on the other hand, your son’s behavior could be related to:

    not getting enough calories: his diet may be low on fat, complex carbs, protein (from whole grains, nuts & seeds, beans & lentils, tofu).
    low on certain nutrients: iron, b12, calcium, vit D, omega 3’s are some that come to mind
    food sensitivities: soy and nuts are two common ones for children, dairy is also a possibility, if he’s eating a lot more dairy than he used to, that could show up.
    indigestion or constipation: his tummy might be having trouble adapting to his new diet.

If possible, it could be a good idea to go over his diet with an RD. Plus have him tested for deficiencies and allergies. And he should be weighed to see if he’s a good weight for his age and height.

But course all that opens you up to all kinds of trouble. So first, you might want to do some things yourself. When a child that age who is growing rapidly suddenly stops eating an entire food group which supplied a high percentage of his nutrition, you need to replace those nutrients and
calories with other foods – which I’m sure you’re working on doing.

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If he’s eating a variety of whole foods, & getting enough calories, then it’s likely he’s getting enough protein. But it might be a good idea to give him a children’s multi (with B12 & Vit D), and something for his digestion – probiotics come to mind, but I don’t know how a 7 year old might take to
that! Maybe goat’s milk yogurt & fruit smoothies with some protein powder mixed in? More fresh fruit and water? Keep tabs on foods he seems to want a lot, or not want.

Please check out these pages for more ideas on what kind of foods he should be eating:

Plant Food Protein Chart
How To Get Enough Protein In A Vegetarian Diet
Protein Sample Menus
Vegetarian Nutrition Report

Quinoa Recipe Ebook

This book could also be a very helpful resource: The New Becoming Vegetarian, by Melina & Davis, both vegan RD’s.

Savvy Veg has a lot of kid friendly high calorie, high protein recipes that
your whole family would probably enjoy, especially if you’re cutting back on your meat consumption.

You’ll find some in the protein sample menus, also cruise the tofu and bean recipes.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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3 Responses to “7 Yr Old Vegetarian Child Has Behavior Issues”

  1. Rita Tsang says:


    My son is 6 years old and he has become a vegetarian.

    I am worried my son will not get insufficient nutrient and will grow shorter than others.

  2. Penny Humble says:

    Just read this, I know it was two years ago and the issue has probably resolved but thought I should raise an important point in case other families are having a similar experience – this little boy has just made the decision for himself to become vegetarian. In order to come to this decision he must have been giving the matter much thought and found that there is something about meat that upsets him. It is stressful for a child to discover that the world is not black and white, and that people have different views about things. Being upset about something is clearly a big reason for kids to “act out”.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Make sure you're not replacing meats with simple carbs. If there's a blood sugar issue, it can cause extreme crabbiness. We have to be super careful to get our vegan son enough of the proper proteins, especially in the morning! Best of luck.

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