How to Give Baby Complete Protein w/o Meat
Complete protein, vegetarian nutrition advice for Mom of nine month old baby
I have been a pesco/ovo-vegetarian for several years. I had my first child last summer, who is a healthy, thriving nine-month-old now. It is my intent to raise her as a pesco/lacto/ovo-vegetarian.
However, at her nine-month check up, my pediatrician said that she needed to eat meat now, and that there was no exception. He even said she wouldn’t be getting complete nourishment without the complete proteins that were integral to her development right now. He said that she can eat fish after age one, but between now and then, she needed to be getting some meat in her diet.
I would never do anything to impede her development. I have been researching complete proteins, and combining her foods to try and ensure she is getting complete proteins in every meal. Can you please let me know if there is a way around feeding her meat, if her health really will be impacted if I don’t feed her meat, and if you have any advice, etc.
Thank you SO much! This is an issue of GREAT concern for me as a new-ish mommy. – R. S.
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
Hi, R. S.! I’m not sure I understand why your pediatrician says you shouldn’t give your baby fish until after age 1 yr, but that you should give her meat at 9 months! Is he concerned about mercury in fish? Or does he just think that only meat has complete protein? Iron could also be a concern, as there’s little iron in breastmilk.
Maybe he isn’t aware that eating meat isn’t the only way for infants to get complete protein, besides breast milk. If you’ve breastfed your baby, and are planning to continue past 1 year, that’s one good source of protein, plus all the other nutrients that only breastmilk provides. Vit. B12 is a concern, plus Vit. D, iron, and fats, for vegetarian children.
Your pediatrician also may not know that, according to the most recent research, it isn’t considered necessary for vegetarians to combine foods to get complete protein at every meal. Amino acids are stored in the body, and your body will mix and match over the course of a day to make complete proteins. That may also apply to babies.
My own 3 children were raised mostly vegetarian. My daughter and many other young women I know have raised healthy children as vegetarians – so I know it can be done pretty easily. One of my daughters is vegan, and her two children are vegan. They’re healthy kids. But she had to do a bunch of research on vegetarian nutrition and give it to her doctor before he stopped insisting that her baby had to eat meat.
This is just my personal feeling, based on my own experience, but it seems awkward to offer your baby meat if it’s not something that you ever eat yourself. It makes more sense to introduce her to the diet you intend to feed her for the long term. Of course you should make sure that it meets all of her nutritional needs.
Please understand that I’m not a dietitian, nutritionist or any kind of medical professional, so I can’t give you specific dietary recommendations for your baby that go against your pediatrician’s advice.
However, when it comes down to it, you’re the one who is responsible for your baby’s health and well being. It’s a big responsibility, and not one that you can just hand over to a doctor who doesn’t know you or your baby very well, doesn’t know much about nutrition – nothing about vegetarian nutrition, and doesn’t respect your lifestyle choices.
There are some doctors out there who are more knowledgeable and open to different dietary options. And other health professionals like naturopaths or dietitians who could be more helpful to you in making decisions about what to feed your baby.
I highly recommend the vegetarian nutrition bible, ‘Becoming Vegetarian’, by Melina and Davis – they are highly qualified and experienced RDs, specializing in vegetarian and vegan nutrition. Their book has an excellent section on nutrition for vegetarian (and vegan) babies and toddlers, that I think you’d find extremely helpful.
There’s also the book, ‘Simple Natural Baby Food’ by Cathe Olson, which is a very good baby food recipe book.
Medical Disclaimer: Any changes that you make to your diet, and the results of those changes, are your decision and responsibility. Savvy Vegetarian and its employees do not claim to be health care professionals, dietitians, or nutritionists. We do not treat, or recommend treatment, for any illness or health condition.