I never thought in a million years I would be raising a vegetarian baby. Even own journey to vegetarianism was unusual…
About 5 years ago, after doing some research on how I could bring my cholesterol down naturally, (and reading the Kind Diet) I decided that trying veganism would be a good option. Although it didn’t bring my numbers down enough to talk about I learned SO much about the right ways to eat for my body. When I became pregnant with Wesleigh, I decided to introduce dairy into my diet (eggs and cheese but not milk). I was hungry for protein and it seemed right at the time.
Photography by Stacey Hedman
However, after I had Wesleigh ,I did a TON of research on how to eat vegetarian and breastfeed (I have SO many tips but that’s for another day). There isn’t too much on the subject, but I found out that there is even less on raising a baby vegetarian. Some even say it’s controversial, if you “Google it” be prepped for some negative outlooks. I had no intentions, or even thought about what Wesliegh would or would not be eating when the time came. My old thought was that every kid should know the taste of a delicious steak or burger. When I had Luke, I wasn’t vegan or vegetarian, and so when I decided to make the switch, it seems unfair to drag he and husband with me (they both still eat meat). But with the baby it felt different. Six months flew by like a snap, and I had to decide whether or not she would be eating meat once her teeth where in.
I decided to first introduce really high protein veggies, beans, and grains (quinoa) to test if she would be full after a meal. That, along with breastfeeding seemed the best route. When she turned one, I had discussions with her doctor about switching her to milk. It didn’t feel right in my gut, to be putting milk in this little baby’s bottle. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t something I was comfortable with. At the same time, I introduced eggs, and nuts, which she LOVED! I got super creative in ways to make sure she was getting enough protein into her daily diet.
At Wesleigh’s 15 month appointment I was officially ready to move her full-time to a bottle. The doctor and I had a talk about using almond milk instead of whole milk. It turns out that it’s the fats in whole milk that the baby needs the most-and not the calcium. We can get a TON of calcium from other sources like veggies. Fats are what help a baby’s brain to grow!
Having fats in a baby’s diet is SO important. If you are considering vegetarianism for your kids, you should definitely talk to your Pediatrician about how you will achieve that. Eggs are GREAT start and it’s Wesleigh’s favorite food! I give her eggs every other morning with 1 yolk, to two egg whites. On the days she doesn’t have eggs, she has a whole avocado either mashed or chopped up in pasta. Nuts are great as well, she has peanut butter either in a smoothie (great way to get spinach in!) on a sandwich, or used as “dip” for crackers or fruit. I never feel like she is “starving” or missing out. She eats three meals a day, 12-15 ounces of almond milk, and one snack.
Right now, it’s the right decision for our family. It’s easy because Wesleigh and I eat all the same foods. I don’t know what happen once she has her own opinions about food, but I am trying to think about today and figure it all out when we get there. Are you raising your baby vegetarian? I would love to know your ideas!
Here are my tips: Also check out my Vegan Risotto Recipe!
1. Make the Most of Carbs: Pasta is great, but think about what you can add to it to make it more hearty. I add beans, avocado and sauce to small alphabet pasta to make it more filling (our take on a Mexican pasta!). I also use quinoa a TON. It’s great with a poached egg and chopped tomatoes.
2. Protein Every Day: Baby’s need protein to feel full. Beans, nuts, eggs, quinoa, avocado, and many veggies have protein but make sure baby is getting enough based on his/her age.
3. Fruits and Veggies: Chopped up fruits are awesome for babies! My favorite thing to do with veggies is puree a TON of them together with nuts to make a pesto. Wesleigh loves it on pasta, or as a “dipping” sauce for cucumber, and zucchini sticks.
4. Juicing and Smoothies: This is a great way for babies to start with a sippy cup/straw. Wesleigh loves smoothies, and I can put in veggies that are hard for her to eat on her own ie. spinach, kale, and collard greens. I also make them into popsicles which are messy but a great treat.
5. Eggs! They are amazing, especially organic and farm fresh ones. They can add delicious flavor to your meal, or be a meal in itself!
Amazing recipes on:
AND you can order vegan treats online from Erin McKenna’s Bakery!