Is Your Baby a Vegetarian?

Sona Charaipotra

Masala Turkey
This Thanksgiving,
Kavi will be digging in with the rest of us.
With Thanksgiving coming up, we're all excited to give Kavya her first taste of my mom's signature masala turkey. It's hearty and spicy, a classic in our family -- really, it makes the whole meal.

So far though, Kavi, at 9 months, hasn't had any meat. I've been wondering if we should start giving her some here and there to prep for the big day.

But that got me thinking, what if my baby's a vegetarian?

My husband, a voracious carnivore, scoffs at the very idea. And I've never even come close to being a vegetarian. But we do have some in our family. (Really, it's not that uncommon for brown folks like us to go herbivore.)

Thus far, Kavi's enjoyed a balanced, filling diet of breast milk, formula, lots of veggies, whole grains, rice (I'm aiming for brown, though she clearly prefers white), baby yogurt, teether biscuits, and the occasional sweet treat that's unavoidable in a booming Indian family. We've also started giving her table foods, which she definitely prefers. Among her favorites: spinach and cheese ravioli and mushroom risotto. Yes, we have a fancy palate on our hands. She loves them, and she's always uber-curious about what we're eating.

As far as proteins go, we've tried lentils and beans, but she doesn't seem to enjoy them. We'll keep trying them, but meat is the next logical step. Or is it?

Curious, I did some digging on the subject. Most of the resources online follow the vein that if a parent is vegetarian, only then will a child be vegetarian. Essentially, they say that the child has no personal preference -- it's more a familial decision. Which makes sense in a way, given how little control babies have over their own diets. But surely, if the kid just doesn't like it, you won't force something on them, right?

According to Mary-Kate Christopher, a mom who's researched the topic as the writer of The Vegetarian Baby, in their first year, babies receive most of their required nutrients from breast milk or formula. Between the ages of 1 and 3, says Mary-Kate, a child requires about 16 grams of protein -- however, that protein can come from meat or beans or soy or milk, there are many sources. Still, some doctors seem to be holding firm to the idea that meat provides the most "complete" form. And in vegetarian babies, there can be a higher risk of lacking in other nutrients, including zinc, iron, and vitamins B6, B12, and A. These deficiencies can be made up through other vegetarian sources, however. 

So will Kavi turn out to be a vegetarian? Given our own leanings towards being omnivores, it's not seeming very likely. I'll proceed with my plan to slowly introduce meats into her diet, starting with chicken and turkey, then proceeding from there if she enjoys them. Although I can't imagine her disliking my mom's masala turkey. After all, she's got a hearty appetite like her papa.

Are you raising your little one as a vegetarian or non-vegetarian? How did you decide?

Image via Meena Charaipotra

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