Raising a Vegetarian Baby

8 ways to confidently raise your kid with a meat-free diet.

Raising a Vegetarian Baby

Vegetarian kids have gone more mainstream in the last decade, and it's not uncommon for vegetarian parents to want to pass their meat-free lifestyle onto their children. But while you may be a pro at being a vegetarian, feeding your baby a healthy, balanced and satisfying meatless diet can be tricky. After all, children have very specific nutritional needs, and not eating meat doesn't mean that they don't need the nutrients in meat. So before you get going, you need to know how to compensate and ensure that a vegetarian lifestyle does not impede on baby's daily dietary intake of crucial nutrients, like iron and zinc.

The good news is, a meatless diet, if done well, can not only provide excellent nutrition for all stages of childhood, but also can offer health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. For example, children raised on vegetables, whole grains, and legumes could potentially be exposed to less carcinogens and toxins associated with eating meat, and a nutritious plant-based diet can be healthier in decreasing the amounts of dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol that children consume.

So if you are thinking about raising a vegetarian baby, here are 8 tips to make sure you do it right.

1. Introduce Grains. Try to favor whole grains. The complex carbohydrate that's found in whole grains is a great source of energy for your little one's busy schedule of hitting milestones after milestones. Doctors recommend that you incorporate solid foods to baby's diet between the age of 4 and 6 months; and many parents start with infant cereals. Rice contains arsenic, so oatmeal or barley-based options are better alternative; and since wheat is a common allergen, make sure to consult with your pediatrician to know when you should introduce it to your little one's diet.

2. Opt of iron-fortified foods. Babies' iron stores start to decrease when they're around 4 to 6 months, and iron deficiency, which is very common among vegetarians, can affect a child's growth and development. So when you're ready to introduce solids to your little one's diet, choose iron-fortified baby cereals and, as baby grows, move on to puréed beans and dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. The iron that's in plants is harder for the body to absorb than the iron find in animal products. To boost your little one's iron absorption, you should add a source of vitamin C, such as oranges and bell pepper, to his meal.

3. Don't stop dairy. In the first year of life, breast milk and/or formula are considered the primary sources of nutrition. Once your baby is ready for solids, you could start introducing whole milk yogurt or cottage cheese in addition to milk consumption. Not only will it up your baby's intake of protein, it will ensure that he gets the calcium he needs.

4. Eat the rainbow. When introducing vegetables, try to offer all the colors of the rainbow. Not only will it be fun for baby to have a colorful plate, but it will ensure a variety of nutrients. For example, each color variety of vegetables contains different phytonutrients and antioxidants. It's good to start with vegetables and fruits that are light on the stomach and then slowly introduce additional produce. A good practice is to find what's local and seasonal so as to limit pesticide exposure and secure organic produce.

5. Diversify. Once you get into a good pattern of initial grains, milk and vegetable purees, you can slowly start to diversify. There are a variety of grains to offer including quinoa, amaranth and millet. These can be blended with vegetables or cooked until soft in vegetable broth to offer additional nutritional support.

6. Find protein elsewhere. When your baby turns 8 to 9 months, you may get the thumbs up from the pediatrician to introduce protein varieties. If you don't want your little one to eat meat, then make sure to compensate and find protein in other ingredients. Protein deficiency isn't common in the US, but your little one may be more prone to it if he follows a vegetarian diet. Lacking protein can lead to delayed growth and development and a weakened immune system. So prevent any deficiency, give your little one eggs, nuts and nut butters, tofu and legumes like lentils and yellow moong.

7. Understand what "healthy" vegetarianism is. It's important to consider the depth of vegetarianism. Being a vegetarian -- whether you are 1 or 30 years old -- doesn't mean constantly fueling on refined starches, pastas, pizza, and breads. Rather, you want to prioritize whole grains, legumes, and an extensive variety of vegetables. Foods such as soups, smoothies, stews, and baked whole grain pasta dishes (i.e. casserole) could offer excellent nutrition for your baby onwards to childhood. To add flavor without adding salt and sugar intake, make use of fresh herbs and flavor your foods naturally.

8. Consult your pediatrician. You want to let your pediatrician know that you are raising a vegetarian baby so he or she knows to test of nutritional deficiency. Your doctor may also prescribe supplements. Vitamin B12, for example, is primarily found in meat products. So your little one may need a supplement to get adequate amount.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

These kids dishes don’t look like kids dishes

And that's exactly why my toddler loves them. ❤️

My 4.5-year-old is, let's say, spirited in his opinions. He very clearly knows what he wants and doesn't want (oh to have the confidence of a stubborn preschooler!). And what he doesn't want right now is anything that looks too babyish. "That's for babies," he'll say if I give him anything with primary colors or looks too miniature. He doesn't want the baby fork and spoon, he wants what grown-ups use. He doesn't want the baby plastic cups and plates, he wants the glass and ceramic ones.

Well, you can see where this is going.

I had to find something that would satisfy his "not a baby" opinions but still not shatter to pieces if he accidentally drops it on the floor. I had to find him something that's made for kids but doesn't feel made for kids.

Keep reading Show less

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less