According to nutritionist Sue Gilbert, it’s perfectly safe to raise your baby on a purely vegetarian diet — provided that you’re supplying them with a variety of healthy, nutritious foods. Are you considering raising a vegetarian baby? Then, read on to find out how-to make sure you supplement your vegetarian baby with the right food.
no meat? no problem.
“The Food Pyramid actually includes meat and non-meat foods — such as nut butters and legumes — in the same category, because they are interchangeable and share similar nutrients,” she explains.
“If it was absolutely necessary for someone to eat meat, then meat would have gotten a category all of its own.”
Also, in food chemistry labs when the protein from foods are judged for quality, “they are compared to the protein in milk — not the protein in meat”, she adds.
“Of course, meat supplies other vitamins and minerals besides protein, but those nutrients can be found in other foods.”
It’s important to make sure your baby’s diet includes a balanced variety of protein, iron, vitamin B12 and selenium.
Tips to make it work
Protein is made of amino acids, both essential and non-essential, and your baby needs both types to grow and develop.
Sources: pulses (lentils and beans), nuts and seeds, well-cooked eggs, soya products such as tofu, cereals, bread, rice, and milk and dairy products.
Tip: Proteins can be mixed together in one meal, such as rice with mashed lentils, baked beans on toast, or vegetables and beans with rice.
Iron helps your baby produce haemoglobin, the red pigment in blood that carries oxygen from lungs to organs and tissues.
Sources: pulses (lentils and chick peas), dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and spring greens, wholemeal or white bread and breakfast cereals.
Tip: Your baby can absorb more iron if the meal is consumed with a source of vitamin C, so offer your baby some fruit or diluted fruit juice (FSA nd.a).
Vitamin B12 helps your baby’s body produce red blood cells, release energy from the food they ingest, process folic acid and generally maintain a healthy nervous system.
Sources: fortified breakfast cereals, well-cooked eggs, milk and dairy products.
Tip: Breastmilk and formula milk are both good sources of vitamin B12.
Selenium is vital for your baby’s immune system to function properly.
Sources: nuts (including nut butters), bread, eggs. Note that whole nuts are not suitable for babies due to the risk of choking.
Tip: If you’re worried about allergies, talk to your doctor before offering nut products to your baby.
Vegetarian mothers and breastfeeding
If you maintain a healthy diet, breast milk alone will be enough to sustain your baby until they’re around six months old.
Make sure you eat plenty of the following, as they contain important vitamins and minerals:
- A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Protein foods such as nuts, beans, lentils, eggs and tofu
- Dairy products such as cows milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Cereal and grain foods, especially wholegrain cereals
- Polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils
If you are vegan and you are breastfeeding, you may need to take vitamin or mineral supplements, so it’s worthwhile discussing your situation with a doctor, nutritionist or dietician.