Question: Dear Monique, I was brought up vegetarian, and I intend to bring up my baby the same way. Now that he is nearly six months, could you tell me which food groups are essential for him? At the moment, he is mainly on milk, but his milk intake is becoming smaller, and I don't want him to lose out on vitamins. Thanks very much. Sarah
Answer: A vegetarian diet is safe for both you and your baby. In fact, a 1989 study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 404 children raised at a vegetarian community in Tennessee had no nutritional problems and had no significant differences in height and weight when compared to children in the general population.
Evidence also shows that the earlier a person starts eating soy foods, the greater their lifelong resistance to cancer.
Now that you baby is weaning, I suggest that you begin giving him unrefined pureed foods. Test the waters by trying one food at a time, and see if he likes it and how he reacts to it (digestion, allergies, etc.).
Keep trying various foods, and begin introducing him to fruits, vegetables and grains. You may want to refrain from feeding him legumes until he is about one year old because they are harder to digest.
Once he becomes familiar and comfortable eating "finger foods", he can begin to eat what you and your family eats.
Just remember, your baby will need more protein, calcium and fat (all from vegetable sources, of course) for the first two years. However, try not to give him too much fiber during this time. Otherwise he may not get enough calories needed for optimum growth and health. If in doubt, consult your pediatrician.
For more information, read "Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start" at
and the book
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (8th edition)
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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.