Hero Image
profile picture of Jennifer Mellick, MD
Jennifer Mellick, MD

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?

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: