Question: Dear Monique, I just read your article on infants and vegetarian diets and found it great. I am a vegetarian and would like to keep my son on a mainly vegetarian diet. He has just turned one. I was wondering if you could give me some clarification about the best sources of calcium, protein and fat. Until now I have kept him dairy free as we have dairy allergies in our family. I would like to continue this also. Is it safe to give him soya milk at this stage. I am still breast feeding him (just once a day) and am wanting to wean him but I'm not sure whether I can give soya milk as a replacement. I look forward to your comments. Thank you. Carol
Answer: Yes, it is safe to give your one year old son soymilk. However, he needs more nutrients for his growing body at this time. Therefore, soymilk should be used as a supplement in addition to breast milk or soy infant formula, not as a replacement for a few more weeks. Only during the first year of life do doctors and nutritionists recommend not using soymilk to replace breast milk or commercial infant formula because it does not contain enough nutrients. Since your son just turned one, you can safely start weaning him off breast milk and onto soymilk. The most important factor during this time is to ensure that he gets enough nutrients.
Until the age of two, your son will need more calories, protein and fat in his diet than at any other time in his life. Fat is essential for proper brain development. You can increase the healthy fat and protein in his diet by giving him cutup or mashed avocado; adding some extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil to his baby food and mashed vegetables, fruits or beans; spreading nut butters or seed butters on crackers.
Babies and children can get plenty of calcium from plant foods as well. Some excellent vegetable sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables like collard greens, kale and turnip greens; broccoli; tofu made with calcium sulfate; fortified soymilk; beans and legumes; fortified orange juice; almonds, sesame seeds and tahini (a sesame seed paste).
For more information, read...
(1) "Vegan Nutrition in Pregnancy and Childhood" at http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/pregnancy.htm
(2) My Q&A "Is infant soy formula better than milk-based formula?"
(3) My Q&A "How much protein should my child be getting daily?"
(4) "Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start" athttp://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/veg_diets_for_children.html
(5) 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.