When you start weaning a vegetarian baby, the first few weeks are no different to weaning a non-veggie baby. Your first foods will be purees of a variety of fruit and vegetables, while maintaining your milk feeds. But as your baby grows, you'll need to be aware of how he's getting all of his vitamins, nutrients and protein.
Feeding at 7-9 months
You'll need to give your baby something from each of the following main food groups, at least once a day:
Carbohydrates: potato, rice, cereals, pasta, bread
Protein: well-cooked and pureed or mashed beans and lentils
Fruit and vegetables: all fruit and veg are good, but green, leafy vegetables provide a great source of iron, which may be lacking if your baby isn’t eating meat.
Milk and dairy: cheese, yoghurts and breast or formula milk. It is very important to check with your health visitor before substituting breast or formula with soya, oat or rice milk.
Remember, at this stage he still needs regular milk feeds to supplement his diet of solid foods.
Feeding at 10-12 months
Your baby is now moving from purees on to chopped foods and may well be able to have child-size portions of the meals that the rest of the family is having.
Protein: veggie babies need two servings of split pulses (red lentils/split peas/chick peas) or tofu every day. You can also give him hard-boiled eggs, and if you’re happy for him to eat fish, flaked salmon is a nutrition-packed option.
Nuts are another great source of protein. While the latest government guidelines say that whole or chopped nuts and seeds shouldn’t be given to children under five years to avoid choking, they can be used in paste form (such as peanut butter) or finely ground and added to cakes, cereals and meals such as curries and stews.
Note: If you have any worries about allergies, for example if there is a family history, speak to your health visitor before introducing nuts.
Carbohydrates: To fill your baby up and give him energy, make sure you’re including a serving of carbs at every meal, such as pasta, rice or toast. You can give him brown bread, but stick to white pasta and rice for now: wholemeal versions contain too much fibre for young babies and prevent him from absorbing essential minerals such as calcium and iron.
What nutrients are particularly important?
Iron: iron is really important for young babies, as milk alone will not give him the iron he needs from six months. Although iron is more easily absorbed from animal sources, there are great vegetarian options, such as lentils, spinach, pureed apricots and fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamins B12 and D: these vitamins are essential for energy, bone health and red blood cell function. They're readily found in fortified cereals, dairy products and eggs. If you’re avoiding dairy and eggs for your baby, you should speak to your GP or health visitor about supplements.
Do vegetarian babies need vitamin drops?
The Department of Health recommends that vegetarian babies over six months old should be given oral vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D. Your health visitor can advise you on suitable supplements and doses.
How much calories does a vegetarian baby need?
Between the age of six and 12 months your baby will need between 700 and 1,000 calories a day, alongside his milk intake. A vegetarian baby with a well balanced diet should be as healthy as any other child, but make sure you keep an eye on giving him a variety of foods, tastes and textures. Also, do weigh him regularly to check that his growth is on track.
Can I give my baby Quorn™?
The Food Standards Agency recommends that Quorn should only be introduced after nine months, and only in small amounts. The reason is that it's very high in fibre and can fill your baby up before he has had enough calories. Also, be sure to check the packaging carefully, as some prepared Quorn foods are high in salt.