The Alternative Veggie Babe…

June 11, 2009 at 8:41 am 1 comment

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you have probably had a lot of questions, comments and opinions from others about your ability to raise your child a vegetarian or vegan.  I am not a vegetarian, nor a vegan, but it is definitely possible to raise a healthy, happy veggie babe!

It is absolutely essential to ensure that your own vegetarian or vegan diet is well-rounded.  Sometimes when people become vegetarians or vegans they simply give up the meat and cheese, but they do not introduce healthy nuts, legumes, fruit and vegetables.   If you are a vegetarian or vegan parent take the time to look closely at your own diet.  If it  meets the guidelines below than you are on the way to raising a healthy family that leaves less of a footprint on the earth.  If you are not getting sufficient amounts of vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes than perhaps you need to reconsider your options before introducing your child to your diet.

If you want to raise a healthy vegetarian or vegan baby, here are some things to keep in mind.*

First & foremost BREASTFEED. From a nutritional standpoint you are offering your child the right amount of nutrients for your child for their specific age.  Even though levels of some nutrients diminish in breastmilk after approximately 7 months of age, these nutrients are still present in breastmilk and are easily absorbed by your child, more so than the nutrients found in supplements or even food.  Breastmilk is the best milk and food for your baby.  The Canadian Pediatric Society & the World Health Organization support breastfeeding for two years and beyond.  Read this interesting article about breastfeeding when returning to work published recently in the Toronto Star

There are some nutrients that we easily get from animal products but we need to work at getting them from an vegetarian or vegan diet.  Here are the nutrients you want to be sure to include in your baby’s diet…

  • Iron – Iron is important for oxygenating your blood.  If you have low levels of iron (known as anemia), you can suffer from exhaustion, fragile bones, pallor and slowed mental reactions.  Milk blocks iron absorption, so if you are a vegetarian be sure that your child is also getting calcium from sources other than milk.  Iron rich foods include: green leafy vegetables, whole grains and cereals, oatmeal, asparagus, dried fruit, almonds, avocados, beets, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, dates, dulse, kelp, kidney and lima beans. Eating a green leafy vegetable with a food high in vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. How to do this?  Make a salad dressing using lemon juice for your spinach salad.
  • Zinc – Zinc is a healing mineral and it is also helpful in protein synthesis, building immunity and growth of reproductive organs.  Zinc foods include: brewer’s yeast, dulse, kelp, legumes, lima beans, mushrooms, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and whole grains.
  • B6 – B6 is also known as Pyridoxine and is involved in more bodily functions than any other nutrient.  It affects physical and mental health* and helps with the absorption of fats and protein.  B6 foods include: brewer’s yeast, carrots, peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, walnuts, what germ, avocado, bananas, beans, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, brown rice, corn, dulse, soybeans and tempeh
  • B12 – B12 is very important in preventing anemia as it helps the body absorb and use iron properly. It is found mostly in animal products, so you need to make a special effort to include B12 foods in your child’s diet. B12 foods include: Nutritional yeast, sea vegetables, Milk & dairy products (helpful for vegetarians).
  • Vitamin A – Babies do not convert the vegetable source of vitamin A into a usable form as well as adults do and Vitamin A is important for vision, immunity, maintenance and repair of tissue and the formation of bones and teeth, however oil helps with the absorption of Vitamin A.   Vitamin A foods include: green and yellow fruit, and vegetables like apricots, asparagus, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, dulse, kale, garlic, sweet potatoes and red peppers. The best way to ensure proper absorption of Vitamin A is to add a little flax oil to your Vitamin A foods. Drizzling a little flax oil on cool sweet potatoes or carrots is essential for the vegetarian and vegan baby.  Make sure the food is not hot as it will damage the flax oil.
  • Calcium – Contrary to popular belief dairy products are not the only sources of calcium.  Dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, chard and spinach are high in calcium which helps with bone and teeth formation and development.  Ensure these are a regular part of your baby’s diet.
  • Protein – We should all try to get our protein from more vegetable sources.  Learning how to add beans, nuts and seeds to your child’s diet, is essential for proper nutrition.

There are many wonderful blogs and cookbooks that cover vegetarian and vegan food.  Here are some of my current favourites…

  • Sweet Freedom – this new cookbook from my colleague Ricki Heller has some amazing recipes.  There are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free treats and goodies.  I have just received a copy of her cookbook (!)  and I am excited to try out some of her recipes!  I will share more information about her book in the future as I get busy in the kitchen.  Support a new “Local Author” (for Torontonians); check out her blog, get a copy of her cookbook!
  • Get it Ripe – Another local Toronto gal & colleague, jae steele’s amazing cookbook ‘Get it Ripe’ is currently the most used cookbook in my kitchen.  This cookbook is vegan and uses easy-to-find ingredients.  You can get some of her recipes on her blog  But again, support a “Local Author” and pick up a copy of her book as well.
  • Fresh 365 – This great blog that our Bostonian friend has put together showcases some amazing vegetarian recipes.  I have made a couple in my home already and I am hooked on her fresh take on local seasonal food.  We need to eat more veggies, so try some of her delicious creations.
  • Go Dairy Free – Check out this great website that is updated daily with dairy-free recipes.  There is also great information on dairy substitutions, eating out and shopping.

Raising a vegetarian or vegan child can be a healthy endeavour.  I believe we could all take notes on how to reduce our dependency on animal products.  Good Luck with your Veggie Babe!

*Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch

*What Should I Feed my Baby?, by Suzannah Olivier


Entry filed under: Breastfeeding, Protein, Vegetarian or Veganism. Tags: , , , .

The Potato… a Vegetable? Happy Birthday Baby!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sarah  |  June 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Hi I think this is a fantastic blog, keep up the good work…


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