If you have decided to raise your child in keeping with the vegan or vegetarian values of your home, you may need some information about the best way to ensure your child gets everything they need to be healthy.
Weaning your baby to solid foods from approximately six months is the same process for vegetarian and vegan babies as it is for other babies. By offering your baby a wide variety of foods to try, with make sure they get all the nutrients required to grow and develop normally.
What Nutrients Do They Need And Where Can You Find Them?
Iron is found in fortified cereals, dark-green vegetables, whole grains, such as wholemeal bread and brown rice, beans, lentils, and dried fruit such as apricots, figs and prunes. These fruits should be offered with a meal as opposed to a snack between meals, to help reduce the risk of cavities.
Your child will need 1-2 portions of protein-rich food every day to ensure they are consuming enough. Children who eat some animal products could do this by eating eggs and fish though as an alternative, plant foods that contain protein include beans and lentils products, such as tofu, hummus and soya mince.
Unsweetened calcium-fortified milk alternatives, such as soya drinks, will provide your child’s calcium needs from the age of 1, as part of a balanced diet. Rice milk is not suitable for children under five years old as it may contain high levels of naturally occurring arsenic. Other sources of calcium can include bread, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and okra – and almond nut butter.
Nuts and allergies
If your baby or child has a diagnosed food allergy, or if there is a history of allergies in the immediate family including asthma, eczema or hayfever, always be sure to speak to your health professional before offering them foods containing nuts for the first time.
Vitamin B12 can be found in foods including eggs, cheese and milk. If you are choosing a vegan diet for your child, ensure they eat fortified with B12 such as baby breakfast cereals, soy yogurts, and non-dairy milk such as oat and almond. At the very least they should be taking a supplement that contains it.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in oily fish. Think salmon and mackerel. However, if your child does not eat fish, omega-3 is found in flaxseed (linseed) oil, soya oil and soy-based foods or eggs enriched with omega-3.
The Department of Health recommends children aged six months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C, and D every day. The recommendation goes further that babies being breastfed should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether the mother is taking a supplement containing vitamin D or not.
Babies having over 500ml of infant formula a day don’t need vitamin supplements as baby formula is already fortified with vitamins.
Vitamin D2 is suitable for babies and children on a vegan diet, and supplements containing vitamin D3 derived from lichen are available. You could, of course, choose to provide children friendly gummy vitamins. Your health professional can give you advice on vitamin drops for babies and young children so always check with a health professional.
Featured image photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gail_thepinkpeppercorn/5426505181
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