Today, many people have gradually come to realize that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest way of eating. But many are at a lost as to feeding the young with a vegetarian diet. I would like to share my experience with you.
My child, William is now 2 years and 4 months. He has not consumed diary or milk products. He is physically bigger and taller than other children of the same age. We have not consulted the doctor when he occasionally catches a cold, home remedies were applied instead. One could not validate the perception of “vegetarian diet is unhealthy and bad for the body” from his constitution.
William is my only child, without any experience and anyone to consult, I resorted to books. The most essential reference book I use is “Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet” by Michael Kapler. This book focuses on pregnancy without dairy and poultry products. It gives very clear guidelines on the timing for a child to consume the different kinds of food, designing balance diet and non-meat sources for the different vitamins and minerals. This book was published in 1989; therefore, feeding a child with vegetarian diet is not a new concept. The book also relates many cases of vegetarian babies who are now teenagers. This book has proven the benefits of a vegetarian diet for growing children and also gives moral support to parents who intend to feed their children the vegetarian way. For the first seven months William was only breast-fed, after which complimentary diet such as bananas, shredded and squashed apples (water boiled apples, then squash), pears. Later on, seasonal vegetables such as shredded carrots, squashed pumpkins, finely chopped celery were fed. The vegetables were well cooked and squashed.
When he was ten months old, I started feeding him with grains and noodles such as vegetables with brown rice or noodles. After one year, he started eating legumes. When I feed him with food he has not consumed before, I would continuously feed him the same food for a few days to enable the digestive system to get used to the new food. At the same time, I could observe his reaction to the new food. There are a few items, which should not be, in the earlier stage:
- Spinach and beet root contains high contents of nitrate, should only be fed after ten months.
- Cabbages and broccoli could cause digestion problems, should only be fed after one year.
- Citrus fruits such as tangerine, berries, tomatoes should only be fed after one year.
- Honey should be fed after fourteen months.
These are the basic principles I follow when preparing food for William:
- Use fresh and organic ingredients
- Prepare immediately, do not leave overnight
- Do not purchase processed baby food such as canned food, instant oats etc.
I am able to do the above as I am a full-time mother. Career mothers could use fresh ingredients and prepare more servings each time and freeze it. Preparing the food with love is far better than the mechanically processed food. I could prepare his food within half an hour which does not take much time. A mini-food processor is a necessity for preparing William’s meal. I have tried many models and found the American made Cuisinart’s Mini Prep Processor a good choice. Although more expensive than other brands, its sharp blades could successfully cut grains and raw vegetables. I have used it since William was seven months, this is indeed a good investment.
When William started with vegetables, I would finely chop sprouts and celery adding squashed avocados. Cooked vegetables could also be squashed by the mini-food processor.
To cook brown rice porridge, I would leave the brown rice in water overnight, pour away the water the next morning, chop the grains with the food processor, add water and vegetable stock, and cook for ten minutes. This is an easy and quick way to prepare brown rice porridge. You can season the porridge by adding vegetables, raisins (to add dried fruits such as raisin, it should be soaked in water overnight), tofu, dulse etc. Molasses and nutritional yeast could be added after a year of age.
William’s diet does not contain any seasonings before he was one, he gradually eats the same food as adults except that the vegetables will be cooked a little longer to soften and separately add seasonings.
Before he was one and a half years old, I would finely chop or cut the food. Now I will cut noodles, or any vegetables leaves that are chunky. A pair of good scissors will do the job.
Since he was one and a half year old, I gave him a cup of diluted fruit juice or vegetable juice every morning. Between meals, he will take fruits. When the right food is taken, he will pass motion after every meal.
When I stopped nursing him, I occasionally would make nut milk or seed milk. Use one-third cup of nuts and seeds such as almond, sunflower seeds, sesame, add three cups of water and blend it, then filter.
Now, William eats what we eat, I do not specially prepare any food for him. His appetite is very good, I do not have to worry that he is not eating. My friend told me that it is a lonely road for those who are vegetarian. When a child is sick, you will hear the negative comments from relatives and friends. Even now, when one sees that William is healthy and lively, I will still be questioned whether the child would lack nutrition. I think if you are confident, you do not need others to confirm.
William is mild tempered and happy; I believe this has to do with his vegetarian diet. Every parent hopes to give their children the best environment to grow up in. Our best gift to William is that he is a vegetarian since he was born!