Weaning baby on a vegetarian diet?

Want to wean your baby onto a vegetarian diet? Amy Shawcross, founder of Harry’s Choice and Mindful Mum recipe contributor provides her top tips on providing your vegetarian baby with a healthy and balanced diet.

Weaning baby vegetarian or vegan

What do I need to know about weaning my baby on a vegetarian diet?

Weaning your baby can seem like a daunting prospect.  However, choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet for your child can raise a lot of questions regarding whether you can provide all the nutrients they need.  Rest assured though, there are no medical or health reasons for not following a vegetarian weaning plan.  You just need to be organised!

Getting started

The good news is that whether you start to wean at 17 weeks or 6 months, all the recommended first foods are animal free.  Great first foods include:

  • Baby rice mixed with your child’s usual milk
  • Pureed root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, swede, sweet potato)
  • Pureed fruits (apple, pear, banana. Do not give your baby citrus fruits before 9 months)
  • Other vegetables (peas, broccoli, spinach, green beans)
  • Pulses (beans, lentils from 6 months)
  • Cereals (gluten products from 6 months)

Main concerns

Once your baby reaches 6 months, the most important vitamins and minerals to be aware of are: iron, calcium, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

  • Iron rich foods include: pulses, dried fruit, fortified cereals and green vegetables.  Breast milk and follow-on formula contain iron, but cow’s milk does not.
  • Protein can be obtained from a well-balanced diet.  Include pulses, tofu, egg and dairy products (or egg and dairy substitutes for vegans).  Avoid giving babies processed vegetarian foods such as veggie sausage as the salt content can be high.  Only use Quorn and tofu in small quantities as the fibre content can be a little high for small tummies.
  • Calcium content is high in full fat dairy products such as cheddar cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais.  However, vegans can also obtain calcium from calcium enriched soya products, green vegetables and even carrots!
  • Vitamin B12 , although not found in plant foods, it is present in egg and dairy products.  Vegan options include yeast extract, soya milk and breakfast cereals (watch out for sugar and salt content).
  • Vitamin D, as with vitamin B12, is not available in plant foods but is found in eggs.  The human body can make its own by being exposed to moderate amounts of sunlight.

Supplements

You may need to use a B12 supplement if your child’s diet does not contain enough fortified foods.  The Department of Health also recommends children aged between 6 months and 5 years take a supplement of vitamins A, C and D.  Advice and supplements can be given by your Health Visitor and Chemists.

Moving forwards

The key to ensuring your child is happy and healthy, is to provide a well-balanced diet.  All the nutrients they need for their baby and toddler years (and beyond) can be obtained from eating a wide variety of foods.
Meal times should be a relaxed and sociable time.  By planning your baby’s meal and snack times carefully, you can be confident and relax in the knowledge that you are giving them a great start.

Weaning recipe:
Lentil and sweet potato recipe (6 months+)

Further reading:
Feeding Your Vegan Infant-With Confidence, by Sandra Hood, The Vegan Society, 2005

Photograph:

Ben Klockec @ Flickr

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