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Published on May 01, 2019

5 Tips for Keeping Your Baby Healthy on a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

Baby Vegan Diet

Can a vegetarian or vegan diet be healthy for a growing baby? The short answer is yes – but just like all children’s diets, it’s crucial for parents to make sure that their child gets all the nutrients they need.

For the first 2 years of life, your baby is growing and developing rapidly. To support their growth, babies need to consume foods filled with important nutrients. Their diets should include a healthy balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates as well as multiple vitamins and minerals.

Many of these nutrients are found most readily in meat and animal-based products. But it’s also possible to consume these nutrients on an animal-product-free diet – it just takes a little extra planning on behalf of baby’s caregivers!

5 Tips for Keeping Your Baby Healthy on a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

1. Make well-rounded meals and pay attention to a few specific nutrients. Whether your child is eating liquid or solid foods, choose nutrient-packed food sources to avoid vitamin deficiencies. Take extra care to include the following nutrients that animal-product-free diets are likely to be low in:

2. If breastfeeding, make sure your own diet is nutritious. Pay attention to incorporating the above nutrients in your own diet so that they are passed along to your child. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers need to eat about 500 extra calories each day. For more guidelines on what to eat when breastfeeding, check out this chart on ConeHealthyBaby.com.

3. If not breastfeeding, choose an iron-fortified formula. Fortified formulas are important for well-rounded infant nutrition. They may be used as your baby’s sole food source or when breastfeeding stops. For vegan babies specifically, choose a soy-based formula that contains iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

4. As you introduce your child to solid foods, remember that it’s important to replace the “meat” part of a meal. Meat contains protein, iron and vitamin B12 – three of the nutrients that are most commonly deficient in meat-free diets. Remember to replace meat with other foods or supplements that provide these nutrients. Instead of turkey or meatloaf baby food, try:

  • Beans (mashed or pureed).
  • Tofu (mashed or pureed).
  • Yogurt (dairy or soy).
  • Cheese (dairy or soy).

5. Communicate with your child’s health care provider about their diet. Not only can your baby’s health care provider give you personalized nutrition guidance for your baby, they can also help you monitor their health to keep them safe.

About the Author

Kaye Gable, MDKaye Gable, MD is a pediatrician and the program director and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cone Health Pediatric Teaching Program