If your partner and you are vegetarians, you will mostly raise a vegetarian baby and introduce your little one to different vegetarian food groups. These include cereals, beans, nuts and seeds, dairy and soya produce, fruit and vegetables. Although not very common in India, you may consider raising your little one as a vegan with no animal foods at all. Your baby may reject certain food in the initial stages but may enjoy them at later stages. Remember to continue feeding your baby breast milk or formula or both until he is a year old.
A vegetarian diet includes dairy products, cereals, pulses, soya products, nuts and seeds. All forms of meat and egg are avoided. A healthy vegetarian diet can give your vegetarian baby the same nutrition as a non vegetarian diet. You must ensure that your baby's vegetarian diet contains adequate amounts of iron, Vitamin B12 and protein.
Some iron rich food that you can give your vegetarian baby in various textures and according to her age are wholegrain and fortified cereals, dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, legumes such as beans, certain nuts and pulses including lentils, soya and soya products.
Sources of Vitamin B12 enriched food for your vegetarian baby are cereals, milk and dairy products. Of course, breast milk and formula milk are also good sources of Vitamin B12.
You can ensure that your vegetarian baby is getting enough protein through various sources such as milk with more than 2% fat and other dairy products, nuts and pulses, soya and soya products. Although you can feed your baby with certain kinds of nuts, you must avoid peanuts till he is a year old. You must offer him a variety of protein rich sources like bread, cereals, rice and pasta so that his body gets the correct balance of amino acids.
A vegan diet includes cereals, pulses, soya products, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. All forms of dairy products, meat and egg are avoided. You can give your baby the same foods as a vegetarian diet without including dairy products, meat and eggs. Like a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet should ensure that your baby gets the right amounts of iron, calcium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and protein along with breast milk and formula. Most vegans miss out on DHA in their diet which provide essential omega-3 fatty acids. This is because DHA is found only in animal products. Your doctor may advise you to include DHA supplements such as those present in formula milk to your baby's diet. Make sure that you serve your baby only wholegrain cereals and breads. Wholegrain products contain more vitamins, minerals and proteins than their refined counterparts.
You may want to discuss with your baby's doctor in working out an ideal vegetarian diet or vegan diet that is just right for your little one.