BookmarkBookmarkTick

Can Baby Be a Vegetarian?

Is it safe for baby to be on a vegetarian diet? How can I make sure he’s getting enough nutrition?
ByJennifer Mellick, MD
Pediatrician
Updated
March 2, 2017
Hero Image

There are three main types of vegetarians (and a few sub-types) — all of them eat no meat.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians: They don’t eat animal flesh but do eat eggs and dairy products.

Lacto vegetarians: They eat dairy products but no other animal products.

Vegans: They eat no animal products — including honey and gelatin. Find out if a vegan diet is safe for baby here All vegetarians should plan their diets carefully so that they’re not deficient in certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and iron.

It’s relatively easy for baby to be vegetarian when he starts eating solid foods, usually between four and six months old. Some signs that can help you know that baby’s ready to eat solids are: she’s sitting up, she opens her mouth for a spoon and closes her lips over a spoon, she’s able to let you know if she’s full or hungry, she keeps her tongue low and flat when you put the spoon in her mouth, and she’s showing an interest in food while others around her are eating. All vegetables and fruits can be pureed and given to a vegetarian. A vegetarian baby can get protein-rich foods from pureed tofu, cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt and egg products, and strained legumes (like beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils). He should get a variety of fruits and veggies — and stay away from unhealthy foods that could be considered vegetarian, like potato chips that are fried in canola oil, or soda. Feed baby iron-fortified cereal to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

The bottom line — a baby on breast milk or formula can get a good balance of nutrients on a vegetarian diet. Ensure baby is growing at a healthy rate with regular checkups with her pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening all babies for iron deficiency between 6 and 12 months — whether they’re vegetarian or not. It is also recommended that all breastfed babies and formula-fed babies who receive less than 32 ounces of formula daily, receive a vitamin D supplement.

When baby grows to toddler age, it’s important to monitor her nutrient intake because toddlers tend to be picky eaters. Recently, the AAP began recommending a 30-month well-child visit to keep tabs on picky eaters’ health. Most toddlers, especially vegetarians and vegans should be on a multivitamin that contains iron.

Plus, more from The Bump:

 

Related Video

Is It Okay for My Toddler to Play With Her Food?

profile picture of Elizabeth Pantley
Elizabeth Pantley
Parenting Expert
All different kinds of protein for toddlers including cow's milk, soy milk, almond milk yogurt and cheese.

Ask the Pediatrician: Which Type of Milk Is Best for Toddlers?

profile picture of Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
dad feeding his baby at the kitchen table

USDA’s Nutritional Guidelines Now Include Recommendations for Babies

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
07/22/2020
toddler child holding orange sip cup

Preschoolers Who Drink 100% Fruit Juice May Have Healthier Diets as Adults

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
06/11/2020

Vitamins for a Picky Eater?

profile picture of Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas
Pediatrician
small child drinking milk from a bottle

Research Aims to Debunk the 'Milk Causes Mucus Myth’

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
09/07/2018
child eating his breakfast cereal

Why Gluten-Free Isn’t Always the Healthier Choice for Kids

profile picture of Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Published
07/30/2018
collage of major soda brands, sprite, coke, fanta

Soda and Sugary Drinks Are Banned From Kids' Menu in Baltimore

profile picture of Laurie Ulster
Laurie Ulster
Contributing Writer
Published
07/20/2018
Young blonde girl picking her nose

Blame Bad Behavior on Bacteria

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
A dad spoon feeding baby in high chair

AAP Updates List of Nutrients for Baby's First 1,000 Days

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
01/25/2018
Article removed.