In India, about a third of the population identifies as vegetarian, including dairy-loving lacto-vegetarians and strict veggie-munching folks. While we don’t have hard numbers on the number of vegetarian/vegan parents that start off their babies on pure vegetarian diets, it’s safe to say that many families who embrace a plant-based diet start their little ones off on a veggie-friendly meal plan. And with vegetarianism being an integral part of Indian culture and cuisine, it is but natural that little ones tend to develop a taste for delicious plant-based baby foods.
And while it is simply a way of life in many Indian households, there are various considerations to be given when planning a vegan/vegetarian diet in terms of early foods for babies.
Key Considerations for Vegetarian / Vegan Baby Diets
It can feel overwhelming to ensure your baby’s nutritional needs are met if you are new parents considering starting their babies off on a vegetarian / vegan diet. So here are some key considerations that need special attention:
- Let’s talk protein. It’s essential for growth and development. Lucky for you, there are tons of plant-based options such as beans, lentils, tofu, and more. Just make sure to mix it up and include a variety. This is where baby foods like our traditional and desi dal khichdi come in handy.
- Next up, iron. This is crucial for brain development and red blood cell production. Get your baby some iron-rich foods like spinach, kale, apples, and mangoes. For bonus points, combine them with vitamin C-rich foods like oranges or tomatoes for better iron absorption.
- If you follow a plant-based diet, then vegetables like spinach, beetroot, butternut squash, mushroom and potato contain good amounts of vitamin B12
- Calcium is essential for bone development. Look for calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu, sesame seeds, and leafy greens. Veggies like green peas are packed with vitamin K, which is also known to increase bone mineral density and bone strength. With such foods, your baby will be on their way to strong bones in no time!
- Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are important for brain and eye development. Ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts are all great plant-based sources.
- We can’t forget vitamin D. Sunshine is helpful, but mostly rely on fortified plant-based milks (vegan) or regular milk (lacto-vegetarian) for your baby’s vitamin D needs.
Variety is key! Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will provide a wide array of nutrients for your growing baby. Make sure to balance their diet with foods from each food group.
Finally, seek professional guidance. Paediatricians and registered dieticians can provide personalized advice and monitor your baby’s growth to ensure their vegetarian diet is nutritionally adequate.
Each baby is unique, so their dietary needs may vary. But, with a well-balanced and varied vegetarian diet, along with professional guidance, your baby will be on their way to healthy growth and development.
Do we have any vegetarian ready-to-eat baby meals for busy parents in India?
We sure do. Thankfully, brands like Mother Nurture offer pure vegetarian baby foods in India. These foods come in Indianized flavours such as dal khichdi (which contains desi ghee). Their entire product range is made from natural non-GMO ingredients with no additives, no colours or flavours.
Mother Nurture’s products are 100% preservative free, shelf stable and safe to eat for a minimum of 9 months from date of manufacture. They use a specially designed high barrier cup that prevents oxygen and water vapor from entering the cup. This prevents microbes and bacteria from growing. Their baby food is also thermally processed to ensure the contents of the container are commercially sterile.
All Mother Nurture recipes are vegetarian and prepared in a completely vegetarian facility. Most are vegan too, but some like The Staple, which contain cows ghee, and Baby King Kong’s Pudding, which contains cows milk, are not.
Do give these recipes a try. You can check them out on www.mothernurtue.in