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Vegetarian feeding guide for babies and toddlers

7-minute read

If your baby develops a rash, facial swelling or trouble breathing after eating a new food, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • Up until around 6 months of age, breastmilk or infant formula is all your baby needs.
  • Most babies are ready to start solids at around 6 months old.
  • Vegetarian diets may be low in certain nutrients, so speak to your doctor, child health nurse or a dietitian about ways to ensure your baby gets enough nutrition.
  • If your baby will start solids on a vegetarian diet, it’s important that you pay extra attention to ensure they get balanced nutrition.

Does a vegetarian diet pose any risks to my baby?

If your baby will start solids on a vegetarian diet, it’s important that you take extra care to ensure they get adequate nutrition.

Vegetarian diets may be low in protein, iron, zinc, calcium, omega-3 fats and some vitamins such as vitamin B12.

Speak to your doctor, child health nurse or a dietitian about ways to ensure your baby gets enough of these nutrients.

What should I feed my baby at 6 months old?

At around 6 months of age, your baby needs more nutrition than just breastmilk or formula can provide. At this age, they are able to sit up and hold their head without support and they have the necessary tongue control to manage their first solid foods, which should be soft and free of lumps. But remember that breastmilk or formula is still the most important food, so provide milk before offering solids.

At this stage, babies need some extra iron in their diet, so first foods should be rich in iron, such as iron-enriched infant cereal (mixed smooth with boiled, cooled water, breastmilk or formula) and cooked and pureed tofu and legumes.

What should I feed my baby at 6 to 12 months old?

Introduce your baby to a wide range of foods covering all 5 food groups: vegetables and fruits; grain (cereal) foods; protein foods, for example, tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs; and milk, cheese, yoghurt or alternatives.

It doesn’t matter in which order you introduce new foods, as long as they are prepared in a manner suitable for the baby’s age and developmental stage, and include some iron-rich foods.

Here are some ideas for foods to offer your baby from all 5 food groups:

Vegetables, legumes and pulses, such as:

  • cooked and pureed vegetables (for example, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli or zucchini)
  • home-made vegetable soups or stock mixed with vegetables
  • smooth peanut butter

Fruits, such as:

  • cooked and pureed fruit (for example, apple, pear, apricot, peach or nectarine)
  • raw, ripe mashed banana or mango
  • raw, mashed avocado
  • melon or plums, with skins and seeds removed
  • dried fruit, such as prunes or apricots, cooked to soften, then pureed

Eggs, fish and meat alternatives

  • cooked tofu
  • cooked fish, bones removed
  • egg that is thoroughly cooked (white is set and yolk begins to thicken)

Dairy products and alternatives, such as:

  • milk
  • yoghurt
  • custard
  • cottage cheese or grated cheese

Grains and cereals, such as:

  • iron-enriched baby cereals
  • toast fingers or rusks

For young babies, remove the skins and seeds from fruits and vegetables.

What texture food should I feed my baby?

Your baby will become more interested in a wider range of foods and textures as they grow:

  • At 7 to 8 months, babies start to chew thicker food with some soft lumps.
  • At 8 to 9 months, they can feed themselves soft ‘finger food’.
  • At 12 months, they can eat much the same food as the rest of the family eats.

What foods shouldn’t I give my baby?

Before your baby is a year old, you should not give them honey, products containing uncooked or runny egg, adult breakfast cereals, or cow’s milk as their main drink.

You don’t need to add salt or sugar to your baby’s food.

Don’t feed babies and young children hard or sticky foods that can cause choking, such as whole nuts, whole grapes, popcorn or lollies.

What should I feed my baby after 12 months of age?

After 12 months of age, your child can join in family meals and eat a wide variety of nutritious foods.

Milk remains important for calcium. Toddlers should have 1 to 1 ½ serves of dairy per day. A serving of dairy is one cup (250mL) of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or 2 slices (40g) of cheese.

Starting solids and allergies

Avoiding common allergy foods, such as eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, will not reduce your baby’s risk of developing allergies. It may even increase the likelihood of an allergy developing.

All babies should be given common allergy foods before they are 12 months old. This is the case even if they have severe eczema, another food allergy or if they have a close relative with a food allergy.

If you are concerned about food allergies, speak to your doctor or child health nurse about introducing those foods into your child's diet.

If your baby’s lip, eyes or face swell or if they develop welts on their body after you have introduced a new food, it could be an allergic reaction. Stop feeding the baby and seek medical advice straight away.

If your baby develops a rash, facial swelling or trouble breathing after eating a new food, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2022


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Need more information?

Baby’s first foods – Healthy eating from around 6 months

Starting solid food is exciting! It’s not just about eating healthy food – your baby is learning how to eat and to enjoy food, and to experience new tastes and textures. These early days will shape her attitudes to food and eating.

Read more on WA Health website

Introducing solid food

By the time your baby is about 6 months of age, breast milk or formula will no longer provide all the nutrition they need for healthy growth.

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Food - Ways to boost iron intake for babies, toddlers and children | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

This information, with its food examples, is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute SCHN/JHCH endorsement of any branded food product

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Pregnancy and breastfeeding | Dietitians Australia

Your body needs extra nutrients during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You should also limit or avoid some foods and drinks. Here we look at the do's and don't's of eating while pregnant and breastfeeding, and when you should seek the services of an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).

Read more on Dietitians Australia website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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