A vegetarian diet is ideal for weaning babies as it has all the essential nutrients required in the initial years of birth. The baby can be introduced to non-vegetarian diet after he reaches the age of 1 and is old enough to adjust with the new foods and varied tastes.
Many parents adopt a vegetarian diet for their little ones, especially when they are weaning. Introducing nutritious fruits and vegetables in the daily diet of your newborn has many advantages. A baby normally needs calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and proteins in sufficient quantities.
Most of these are only found in vegetables and lack in meat and fish products. Additionally, considering the small digestive tract of your newborn, fruits and vegetables are easy to digest as compared to non-vegetarian food.
Vegetarian Diet for Babies and Toddlers
- Early Weaning
The introduction of vegan diet to a baby does not involve more than 1-2 tablespoon of pureed fruit or vegetable. This can be increased to 6-7 tablespoons eventually. You can also try rice cereal with formula, breast milk or boiled water.
- 5-6 Months Old Babies
For this age group, milk is the most important item for your little one. However, you can supplement it with apples, pear, baby rice or root vegetables.
- 7-9 Months Old Babies
As your baby enters his seventh month, you can introduce food items with a much thicker consistency. You can easily opt for pureed lentils, rice and cereals. In case you are offering cereals, try adding breastmilk or mashed banana to make it more wholesome. By this age, your little one’s food is fulfilling his iron needs, so make sure he is having enough of it.
- 10-12 Months Old Babies
By this time your little can happily be a part of family mealtime. You can share with him whatever you are consuming but make sure to keep a check on sugar and salt levels. You can offer him food items such as mashed potatoes, tofu, beans, mashed peas and raw fruit. Finger foods are also an ideal choice, such as cucumber, bread sticks and carrot sticks.
Now is the time when your little one is at the most active stage of life. He is always running around, jumping, kicking and exploring his surroundings. Make sure you are including all the important nutrients in his diet. Make sure to include staple food in his diet such as rice, potatoes, fresh fruits, wholemeal bread etc. Include pulses, tofu, and daily produce to fulfill his protein need.
Important Nutrients for Toddlers
Various sources of nutrients for babies and their advantages:
Proteins provide amino acids which are essential for the development of cells and hormones in the body. Sources like lentils, peas, beans, ground nuts, soy and cereal grains are rich in proteins.
Iron is vital for the development of the brain, production of red blood cells as well as for the growth of the baby. Sources of iron include green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and fresh herbs, lentils, brown bread, brown rice, sunflower seeds and more.
Calcium plays an important role in strengthening the bones, teeth as well as the overall health of the babies. Milk is a major source of calcium for a baby. Other sources of calcium include white bread, green vegetables, soy, baked beans, dry fruits etc.
Most of the enzymes in the body are dependent on zinc to perform their roles in digestion, metabolism and sexual development. Berries, cauliflower, ground nut, dairy products, oats, wheat germ, brown rice are some of the common zinc-rich foods.
5. Energy Sources
Since babies grow at a fast pace, they need energy to perform their daily exploring and other activities. Fats and carbohydrates are good sources of energy for vegetarian babies. Dairy food, fruit purees, vegetable fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, olive and hemp oil are foods rich in fats and carbohydrates.
It is good to give your baby a vegetarian diet when he is weaning, but as your little one grows, he may wish to try non-vegetarian food. Make sure you educate your child about the nutritional value of varied food items, so he knows what is good and what is harmful.