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Vegetarian feeding guide for babies and toddlers

4-minute read

Moving on to solids is a big step for any baby. If you are offering your child a vegetarian diet, this guide can help. Up until around 6 months of age, breast milk or infant formula is all your baby needs.

At 6 months

At around 6 months your baby needs more nutrition than just breast milk 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 handle their first solid foods, which will be very soft and free of lumps. But remember that breast milk 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, breast milk or formula) and cooked and pureed tofu and legumes.

Six months to one year

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 what order you introduce new foods as long as they are prepared in a manner suitable for the baby’s age and include iron-rich foods.

For example, you can give your baby:

  • iron-enriched baby cereals
  • cooked tofu
  • cooked and pureed fruit, such as apple, pear, apricot, peach or nectarine (you can use tinned fruit)
  • raw, ripe mashed banana or mango
  • cooked and pureed vegetables such as pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli or zucchini
  • raw, mashed avocado
  • egg that is thoroughly cooked (white is set and yolk begins to thicken)
  • home-made vegetable soups or stock mixed with vegetables
  • melon or plums, with skins and seeds removed
  • dried fruit, such as prunes or apricots, cooked to soften, then pureed
  • smooth peanut butter
  • yoghurt, custard, cottage cheese or grated cheese
  • toast fingers or rusks

For young babies, remove the skins and seeds from fruits and vegetables. Don’t add salt, sugar or honey to the food. Your baby will get 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 that eaten by the rest of the family.

Food safety

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.

Wait until your child is 3 years old before you feed them hard or sticky food that can cause choking, such as whole nuts, whole grapes, raw apple or carrot, popcorn or sticky lollies.

After 12 months

After 12 months, your child can join in family meals and eat a wide variety of nutritious foods. Milk remains important for calcium. One year olds should have 2 servings of milk or milk products each day and children aged 2 to 3 years should include at least one and a half servings. A serving is one cup (250mL) of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt, or two to three slices (40g) of cheese.

Allergies

Avoiding foods such as eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, which cause allergies in some children, is now not thought to reduce the risk of developing allergies. It may even increase the likelihood of an allergy developing.

All babies should be given foods that may cause a food allergy, including peanut, cooked egg, diary and what, before they are 12 months, even if they have severe eczema, another food allergy or if they have a close relative with food allergy.

If your child has allergies, or there is a strong family history of allergy, 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.

Vegetarian diet

Vegetarian diets may be low in protein, iron, zinc and some vitamins such as B12. Speak to your doctor, child health nurse or a dietitian about these requirements. Breast milk and most milk formulas have enough vitamins to meet a baby’s requirements.

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Last reviewed: March 2020


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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

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