Raising a Vegetarian Baby: What You Need To Know
It seems like a no brainer, Bartek, my husband, and I are vegetarian, and it only makes sense that Henry, our infant son, would also eat a plant based diet. From food prep to eating out, it less hassle when everyone gravitates to the same food preferences. While Henry may not be making his own decision to be vegetarian, he is thriving on the diet and is in the 98th percentile for height. There is no denying it that some may be critics of our decision to raise our child as a vegetarian, but the benefits outweigh the naysayers.
Contrary to the views of critics, vegetarian babies do develop at the same rate as their meat-eating counterparts. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics official stance states, “Appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and athletes.”
Of course, just like adults, special care needs to be paid to babies making sure that all the key nutrients are included into their daily diet, most notably zinc and iron. This is not a huge concern as iron fortified foods are readily available in your local super market. These iron fortified foods include, cereals, beans, eggs, nut butter and dark leafy greens. Parents can go one step further to increase your baby’s iron absorption by pairing these food stuffs with sources of vitamin c such as bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, citrus fruits and other general fruits.
Other good sources of iron AND zinc include, cooked lentils, cooked spinach, tofu, kidney beans, raisins, eggs and chickpeas.
Why all the hype about vegetarian babies? Everyone is going to have an opinion and as parents, trust yours. You know what is best for your child. And while grandma, for example, may not believe in a vegetarian diet, ask them kindly to respect your decision and be on board with what your child can and cannot eat.
You’re not alone. There is a vast network of like-minded parents advocating for raising their children on a plant based diet that not only lowers the risk of disease and childhood obesity, setting a good foundation for their future, but it is also good for the environment and respects the lives of animals.
When Henry does come of age, he will have the opportunity to make his own well-informed decision on whether or not he wants to continue eating vegetarian, and we, as his parents, will respect whatever he decides.