Raising a Vegetarian Baby

Hi Sue,

My husband and I have been vegetarians for half of our lives and would like to raise our little one in the same fold. The problem is that I am insecure about how to raise a baby this way due to not being raised as one myself and conflicting information. Does meat alone provide some essential nutrient that babies cannot absorb from any other source?

According to some sources, similar quality/quantity of protein can be found be found in substituting soya products, yogurt and cottage cheese YET my pediatrician recommends small quantities of these foods along with meat as well. I would not hesitate to feed her chicken or fish if it was indeed necessary but I am finding A LOT of conflicting information out there.

Can you provide me with a chemical breakdown of the nutrients in meat and match them with equivalents found in non-meat sources?

Thank you in advance for your help.
--Kassey

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Kassey,
Because it is not necessary, and would be time consuming to do so, I am not going to do a nutrient breakdown of meat to compare to other non-meat protein sources. However, I can tell you that the Food Pyramid actually includes meat and non-meat foods (e.g. nut butters, legumes) in the same category because they are interchangeable and share similar nutrients! If it was absolutely necessary for someone to eat meat, then meat would have gotten a category all of its own. In food chemistry labs, when the protein from foods are judged for quality, they are compared to the protein in milk, not the protein in meat. Of course meat supplies other vitamins and minerals besides protein, but those nutrients can be found in other foods.

Kassey, I hope this information will help relieve you of some of your insecurities about raising your child as a vegetarian. It can really be a fun, healthy, and creative life-style. There are so many different recipes to try and so many gardens to grow! Have fun.

Thank you for writing.

Sincerely,
Sue Gilbert

Like This? Read These!
- Got a question or comment for Sue? Post it on the Eating for Good Health message board.
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