Vegetarian Eating for Your Child
6 Months - 2 Years
Like all babies, vegetarian and vegan babies need to eat a variety of foods to grow and develop well. The term vegetarian means different things to different people. Some vegetarians avoid animal foods except for milk and milk products and eggs. Vegans are vegetarians who avoid all animal foods, including meat, fish, poultry, milk products and eggs.
Steps You Can Take
Breast milk is the best food for babies. Breast milk, along with a vitamin D supplement, provides the nutrition your baby needs for the first 6 months. Your breastfed baby will get enough vitamin B12 if you get enough vitamin B12 while you are pregnant and breastfeeding.
- Continue breastfeeding until age 2 years or longer. Breastfeeding vegan mothers should make sure they are getting enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement each day. Vegetarian women who are breastfeeding should also be encouraged to include foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as canola, soy and flax seed oils, ground flax seed, hempseeds, soybeans, walnuts, tofu, omega-3 enriched foods, and omega-3 supplements (from vegetarian sources).
- If your baby is not breastfed, give her an iron-fortified commercial infant formula until she is 1 year old. Pasteurized, whole cow's milk can be substituted for formula at age 1 year. Vegan babies should have iron-fortified soy formula until age 2 years.
- Whether breastfed or formula fed, at 6 months your baby needs extra nutrition from solid foods. For vegetarian babies, key nutrients include energy, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins B12 and D, iron and calcium.
Your baby gets energy from all four of the food groups in "Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide" www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide: Grain Products, Vegetables and Fruit, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives.
Omega-3 fats are special fats that are important for normal brain development and vision. Offer your child foods that contain omega-3 fats each day. Food sources are canola oil, soy oil, soybeans, ground walnuts, tofu, breastmilk and infant formula.
Vegetarian babies get protein from breast milk, formula, tofu, veggie "meats", eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, ground nuts and seeds and their butters, and (after 9 months) cow's milk, cheese and yogurt.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal foods. If your child drinks cow's milk and eats eggs each day she can get enough from these foods. If your child is vegan, she can get enough vitamin B12 from breast milk, soy formula, fortified foods such as some meatless deli meats, wieners and soy burgers, or a vitamin B12 supplement.
Breastfed babies and toddlers can get enough vitamin D from vitamin D drops. Formula and cow's milk are also good sources of vitamin D.
Iron is important for growth and learning. Good sources of iron include iron fortified infant cereal (offer this to your baby at age 6 months), iron-fortified formula, enriched cereals, quinoa, dried beans, peas, and lentils, tofu and blackstrap molasses.
Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. Formula, cow's milk, cheese, yogurt, breast milk, fortified soy cheese and yogurt, almond or sesame butter, blackstrap molasses and oranges are all sources of calcium.
HealthLinkBC File #69c Baby's First Foods www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthfiles/hfile69c.stm
HealthLinkBC File #69d Helping Your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler Eat Well www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthfiles/hfile69d.stm
HealthLinkBC File #69e Meal and Snack Ideas for Your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthfiles/hfile69e.stm
Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or at www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthyeating:
- Quick Nutrition Check for Vitamin B12
- Vegetarian Eating for Your Child 6 months-2 years: Meal Planning
Last updated: October 2009
These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.
Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthyeating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.