snacks provide food energy too: a peanut butter sandwich and milk, raw vegetables with hummus or tofu dip, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, fruit, or finger-food veggies. See "Not Just for Vegetarians . . . Quick and Healthful Snacks" earlier in this chapter.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian kids generally can get enough nutrients from well-chosen foods alone. In fact, vegetarian eating may encourage more fiber, folate, vitamins A and C, fruits and vegetables, and perhaps fewer sweets, fast foods, and salty snacks, than nonvegetarian eating. For vegan infants, children, and teens, some nutrients may need special attention: calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. If your child is a vegan, offer a variety of foods with adequate amounts of these nutrients. Poor choices can put vegetarian kids at greater risk for nutrient inadequacies and their health consequences.
Breast milk is the best "first food" for babies. When breast-feeding isn't chosen, commercial infant formulas, including soy formulas, are a healthful option. Caution: Cow or goat milk, regular soy beverage or rice beverage, or homemade formula are not suitable substitutes for commercial infant formula!
Infants exclusively breast-fed for longer than six months are at risk for iron and vitamin D deficiencies. That's true whether the mom is a vegetarian or not. As a guideline for all infants at this time: Healthcare providers may advise an iron-fortified cereal or an iron supplement, and perhaps a vitamin D supplement if the baby's exposure to sunlight is limited. Vegetarian or not, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises a vitamin D supplement for breast-fed babies starting at two months of age; infant formula contains vitamin D. For breast-fed vegan infants a vitamin B12 supplement may be recommended, too, if the mother doesn't consume vitamin B12-fortified foods.
Time to introduce protein-rich solid foods? Offer pureed tofu, cottage cheese, cooked egg yolk, soy or dairy yogurt, and pureed or strained legumes to vegetarian babies. Later start tofu cubes, cheese or soy cheese, and soyburger pieces. At age one year or older, it's okay to start full-fat commercial, fortified soy beverage or cow milk. When infants are weaned, provide energy-rich, nutrient-rich foods, such as mashed avocado, bean spreads, and tofu. Before age two, babies need enough fat to develop a healthy nervous system; this isn't the time to restrict fat in food! If your family has a food-allergy history, you may be advised to be especially cautious of some foods; see page 390.
Health advice. If your infant, child, or teen follows a vegetarian eating style, consult a registered dietitian, your doctor, or a pediatric nurse for support and nutrition counseling. For vegans, ask about nutrient supplements. For more about feeding infants, children, and teens, see chapters 15 and 16.
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