Can you successfullywean your baby on a vegetarian or vegan diet? We give you the low-down.
Whether you are an ethical vegetarian or vegan, want to eat less meat or your baby has allergies that mean they have to avoid dairy, you may wonder if you can feed your child up healthily. We look at bringing up your baby on a plant-based diet.
Up to six months
Your new baby gets all the nutrients they need from your breast milk.
Simple first meals
A widely mixed range of foods is the key to good health in plant-based babies. Here are some great early meal ideas to try:
- First flavours (6 months): Many like to start with baby rice or porridge. Choose one fortified with iron and B vitamins and make with breastmilk to a smooth consistency. Try adding cooked, puréed fruit too.
- Stage One (6-9 months): Spinach and potato purée. Cook potatoes, clean spinach, steam briefly, then purée.
- Stage Two (7-9 months): Carrot and borlotti bean mash. Cut carrot into sticks, steam, then add beans for last 4 minutes. Blend with a sprig of parsley and a little of the cooking water.
- Stage Three (9-12 months): Sweetcorn fritters. Mix flour and corn with plant milk blended with tofu. Add finely chopped chives, make in to cakes and fry.
You can feed your baby from a spoon or alternatively, you allow him to pick up and
eat fist-sized pieces of soft food; this is called baby-led weaning. Why not try a
mix of both? Offer fist-sized chunks of food for your little one to munch on while you spoon some food in between bites. He’ll get used to different tastes and textures. Make sure you supervise!
Where’s the protein?
As your baby gets used to simple flavours, you can begin to add protein to their food. Many parents worry that their children won’t get enough protein on a plant- based diet but it’s fine with a little forward planning.
Simple tricks like adding lentils to a soup or purée make a wonderfully nutritious meal. Edamame, kidney, cannellini or butter beans can be cooked and mashed well. Tofu is another great source of plant-based protein, mixed with vegetables or fruit purées. Soya yoghurt canbe added to fruit or simply mashed up with bananas.
What about vitamins?
Vegetarians and vegans can get lots of vitamins from their food and you should aim to make meals as colourful as possible, as different coloured fruit and vegetables contain different vitamins. For example, A is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, apricots and pumpkin and there are high amounts of vitamin C in kiwi fruit, berries and oranges. B vitamins are found in wholegrain bread, peas, dried fruit and vitamin D (metabolised from the sun in summer) can be found in cereals, soya milk and vegetable margarines.
Babies should be offered vitamins A, C and D in drops from birth and then a good liquid multi-vitamin suitable for babies from six months.