Q: I've been a vegetarian since I was a teenager. My husband does sometimes eat meat at home when he cooks for himself, but I wouldn't be comfortable preparing it. We are due our first baby in February, and we're not sure whether to give meat as part of his or her diet.
A: Your baby could be perfectly healthy on a vegetarian diet, but you would have to consider meals a little more carefully to make sure he or she got the right mix of foods and nutrients.
If you don't feel happy being involved in the preparation of meats then it would probably be difficult for you to cook it for your baby.
If you can cook a vegetarian meal for the whole family, and perhaps just mash up your baby's portion, this will be a lot quicker and easier than having to make separate meals for everyone.
It is important that vegetarian infants get enough iron in their diet. Iron is needed for all the rapid growth your baby will be doing and it helps to protect against infections. Iron can come from pulses such as lentils or beans, from dried fruit such as raisins or apricots (choose the ones that haven't been treated with sulphur dioxide if you can), wholegrain cereals, and eggs.
Offer a source of vitamin C at the same time because this helps the body to absorb the iron.
Dairy products will be an important part of your baby's diet as they offer good amounts of protein, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Nuts and seeds in the diet contain zinc and offer additional protein. And don't forget green leafy vegetables, rice, pasta and potato.
To start with, the food your vegetarian child eats during the weaning process will probably be the same or very similar as a baby in a meat-eating family.
You do have a bit of time to think about exactly what you plan to feed your child. Don't forget that babies don't need anything other than formula or breastmilk for the first six months of their life.
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