Vegetarian diets for bubs
Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, and alongside it, the slander of animal-based products such as milk, meat and eggs. But what about toddlers? What’s best for them? Vegan? Vegetarian? Omnivorous?
Firstly, it’s important to note, that any of these options can be healthy or unhealthy; it’s not so much the eating style that’s important, but the foods that are consumed within the eating style.
Secondly, it’s important to note that the more restrictive the diet and the younger the child, the greater the risk of nutritional deficiency. So, let’s weigh up the pros and cons of each eating style for toddlers.
- Vegan diets can be rich in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegies, grains and legumes which are great for little digestive systems
- Vegan diets can be fantastic for the development of a healthy gut microbiome
- Avoiding fish, meat and eggs can leave your little one low in omega 3, so you may need to consider an algal-based omega 3 supplement
- Vegan diets tend to be low in vitamin B12. There have been reported cases of irreversible neurological damage done due to vitamin B12 deficiency among infants who didn’t meet their requirements, so ensure that you get personalized advice to ensure that your bub is meeting their requirements
- Iron is an essential nutrient for growing toddlers and one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in little ones as they need significant amounts to keep up with their growth. Furthermore, breastmilk only contains small amounts of iron, so toddlers who are breastfed for longer than 12 months can be at higher risk of iron deficiencies. Ensure that your little one is consuming plenty of iron-rich plant proteins combined with vitamin C-rich foods to assist with optimal iron absorption
- Choline is important for your babies rapidly growing brain. It is most prevalent in animal foods, so include plenty of choline-rich plant based foods such as wheatgerm and green vegetables to optimize your little one’s choline intake
- Adequate calcium is essential for growing bones, so check to make sure that your little one is meeting their calcium requirements
- Ensure that nuts are provided in an appropriate texture such as a nut paste
- Vegetarian diets are usually predominantly plant-based with the additions of eggs and dairy products
- Eggs are a rich source of choline for supporting the growth and development of young brains; they are also a good source of protein, iron and vitamin B12
- Ensure that eggs are well cooked to minimize the risk of bacteria such as salmonella
- Research has found that giving eggs to babies within their first year of life may help to reduce the risk of egg allergies in the future
- Dairy products are rich in protein, vitamin B12 and calcium, however are not recommended until after the age of one year as they should not be a replacement for milk or infant formula
- An omnivorous diet includes meat, poultry and fish
- An omnivorous diet can still be rich in plant foods
- Fish is a great source of omega 3 fats which are beneficial for babies eye and brain development
- Meat, poultry and fish are rich in protein, zinc, iron, choline, omega 3 and vitamin B12
No matter which diet you choose for your baby, it can be wise to seek the advice from a Pediatric Dietitian to ensure that you are giving your baby all the nutrients needed for the best start in life