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Vegetarian Families

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Pregnancy and Vegetarianism

August 2003

I was wondering if anyone had advice about being a vegetarian while pregnant. ie, how to get complete proteins and enough vitamins. By being a vegetarian, I mean one who eats dairy, but not meat of any kind, including seafood. Any advice? Thanks.


During my pregnancy with my daughter I ate an all vegetarian (nearly vegan) diet and had no problems. As long as you aren't a ''junk food'' vegetarian and eat well-balanced meals, you should be fine. Pregnant women need additional food, so make you you are adding nutritious extras to your diet and not consuming empty calories. For a while to get additional protien and calcium, I was making protein smoothy shakes with frozen bananas and strawberries, soy milk and a scoop of protein powder (which also had a lot of vitamins in addition to extra protein). And, don't forget your prenatal vitamins too! My daughter is perfectly healthy and is being raised as a vegetarian with the blessing of her pediatrician. Good luck to you! Veggie mom in Oakland
The book ''What to expect while you're expecting'' has what seems to me pretty good advice in this department. Karen
I am pregnant and am vegetarian. I think as long as you eat healthy and don't eat lots of junk food, you are fine. I'd make sure to take prenatal vitamins and perhaps some other vitamins (check with your doctor first). Most people don't realize that you only need to eat 300 more calories per day while pregnant - that's like drinking two glasses of milk or something like that. So, I wouldn't worry about your nutrition as long as you are eating like a vegetarian - nuts, veggies, tofu, etc. Lots of people say they are vegetarians but all they eat is pasta and rice. :-) Congrats on your pregnancy! anon
I am a vegetarian who has two kids. I was vegan when pregnant with my first child. I got a book by Dr. Michael Klapper (since given away on this website!) on pregnancy and vegetarianism. Very helpful, particularly for vegans(it has this protein triangle that was very helpful; how to combine proteins to get the highest amount possible). The goal was 70 grams of protein per day. Given how much I was eating, I was not getting enough, so I ended up drinking cows milk. Then it was NO problem. I was not a vegan by the time I had my second, and quite frankly, didn't think much about protein. I have a good diet and knew I was getting plenty. So I think if you are not vegan and eat well, you'll be fine. Especially if you are sure to drink a fair bit of milk, or eat eggs fairly regularly. As to vitamins, I took the std. prenatal vitamins, vegetarian version of course!

BTW, my first doctor was not too supportive of my diet, but ended up being amazed at how big and healthy my baby was and how quick and easy my labor was (probably not related, but she did comment on it!). Good luck! You can do it, easily.... Hilary


I was a pregnant and then breastfeeding vegetarian, and never had any problems. Just be sure to let your doctors know, in case they have concerns or suggestions based on your individual medical history (eg. I was often borderline anemic when I was younger, back when I ate meat), and be sure to take the prenatal vitamins w/iron (ask for the non-constipating ones--very important!). Just try to eat sensibly and pay attention to your cravings--your body will know what you need! The primary concerns would be protein and iron, but if you eat dairy (esp. yogurt and cheese), and take the vitamins you should be just fine!
Hi! I am a vegetarian (plus eggs & dairy) with a 6 month old son. I ate at least one egg a day, and a lot of beans&rice, nuts/peanut butter, wheat gluten and soy products.

What I really want to pass along is some research that indicates that eating a lot of soy while pregnant is linked with certain minor birth defects. I only found this out after my son was born with hypospadias & I was doing some web searches on the defect. Here's a link with the info: http://www.personalmd.com/news/n0211105755.shtml Kat


I was a vegetarian for 21 years and bore two children, both very healthy. I think if you take your pre-natal vitamins and eat healthily, your children will be fine. However, I do have to caution you about your own health. After the births, I developed severe health problems and it turned out vegetarianism was a factor, much to my surprise!

When my second child was a few months old, I developed extreme pain in my foot. After becoming unable to walk, and going to many specialists who kept misdiagnosing me (reflex sympathetic dystrophy, myofascial pain syndrome, etc. etc.), my GP suggested a bone density test. It turned out I had SEVERE osteoporosis, so much so that you could even see the translucency of my bones on an X-ray (although you couldn't see an obvious fracture). My bone density was off the scale on the low end. It turned out that the pain in my foot was due to repeated fragility fractures. In retrospect I was lucky I kept breaking my foot (although it was very difficult to manage a newborn while on crutches) because if I hadn't started treatment I could have broken my hip or a vertebra in my spine with permanent consequences.

I was 40 and had none of the ordinary risk factors for osteoporosis, but it turned out that there has been research correlating vegetarianism with lower bone density. I thought I had been eating a lot of calcium (dairy as well as veggies like broccoli which are high in calcium) but I guess it just wasn't enough, given the load pregnancy and breastfeeding was putting on my body's calcium supply.

I believe the human body is genetically programmed to rob itself to build and take care of the baby. The baby gets first dibs on all the nutrients, whether unborn or breastfeeding! I even lost a tooth to a cavity (and I NEVER had cavities growing up). That should have been a warning sign.

I now recommend to all long-term vegetarian women that they get bone density tests on a regular basis. Osteoporosis is ''the silent disease.'' If I had been having checkups that included bone density tests, I could have saved myself and my baby a lot of pain and struggle, and saved a LOT of money in medical bills! Insurance companies don't want to pay for the DEXA test for bone density for younger women because it's expensive. If you have to argue for it you can use my story... my insurance company would have saved a lot of money if they had been more willing to do preventive care. And, I always had believed that a vegetarian diet was MORE healthy in every way that a meat diet (I still believe it is in many ways). The diagnosis was a total shock to me.

The good news is that I was able to start treatment in time. I now take calcium supplements every day, and I eat meat at least twice a week. My bone density is recovering (I am now back on the chart, although still in the red zone) and I no longer have to live in fear of falling like a 100-year-old woman. It's been three years since the diagnosis, and although I'll probably always have low bone density, I'm no longer in danger of having my bones crumble away at the slightest provocation!

Please pass the word about getting a bone density test to other long-term vegetarians, especially those with young children. Most women won't have this problem, but a few will. And it doesn't hurt to have a baseline bone density test done while you're young. Then you have something to compare it with when you go through menopause and the doctors start recommending you have one!

So I would say, go ahead and continue with the vegetarian diet during pregnancy, but take PLENTY of calcium supplements, and make sure to get a DEXA test as soon as the baby is born. Don't wait until you break a bone. Good luck! glad to be walking again


I've been reading the posts on this topic and I'm surprised that this hadn't come up, so I thought I'd put my 2 cents in: I think that there are certain vitamins that are very difficult to get from a truly vegeterian diet (they may be B vitimins, I'm not sure). In any case, this should be taken care of if you take a good prenatal vitamin regularly. That being said, I was very sick during my pregnancy with hyperemesis (until month 7) and hardly ate anything for much of my pregnancy and my baby was (and is) fine (robust, in fact!). In talking with a lot of moms with hyperemesis (as well as my OB) the general consensus was that the babies born out of these pregnancies do very well. What I learned from this is that babies are hardy, and they generally do take what they need from your reserves --but they *do* take it, and the person that suffers from nutritional deficiencies first is you, the mom. So take those vitamins and eat right and you'll feel better and have a healthy baby and good post-partum! A Nutritional Supplement Devotee

Cooking vegetarian for a meat-loving teen

Feb 2003

After being stunned and traumatized by seeing a segment called ''Meet your Meat'' on B-TV a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I are sudden vegetarians. I have been a vegetarian during different periods of my life; my husband never has been; and my teenage son doesn't like the idea at all. My son and I were mostly vegetarian until his stepdad and I got married 11 years ago; since then we've been a real meat eating family, though I do cook vegetarian meals as well.

The question is what will convince my son that he is eating something that resembles meat closely enough? (I wouldn't mind having my taste buds fooled as well.) I've seen the various options at Whole Foods Market and Berkeley Bowl and am wondering what folks favor. I'm interested in substitutes for ground beef in chilis and casseroles; substitutes for sausages; something to replace chicken breasts served various ways and used in curries. Just tried ''Veggie Breakfast Links'' in a casserole where I would normally use Polish sausage and, though there was not a peep out of my son, they tasted pretty awful to me, totally flavorless. I've used tofu quite a bit, so looking for something beyond it.

I do have the fantastic vegetarian cookbook FIELD OF GREENS. Now I'm looking for a REALLY GOOD vegan cookbook as well. The ones I've looked at at Cody's had recipes that seemed really bland and uninspiring. We're big into flavor, heat and spice over here. Thanks for any help! Joan


Don't know anything about meat substitutes, but I have a few ideas on cookbooks. If you like Field of Greens, you might also check out the Greens Cookbook and the Savory Way, all by Deborah Madison. (In fact, I think there might be a 4th one, too.) I cook from these 3 constantly, though I often simplify the more complex recipes. For spicy vegetarian foods, Madhur Jaffrey (sp?) has several terrific books with international vegetarian recipes -- some exclusively Indian, some from around the world. I am not a big fan of the Moosewood cookbook, but some of the later books in the Moosewood series have some terrific recipes. Also, Alice Waters has a book of vegetable recipes. Maybe she has two. I think the one we have is called Chez Panisse Vegetables. I don't cook from it very frequently, but it's a great resource.

I recently bought a vegan cookbook called The Now and Zen Epicure, and it seems great, but I (who am NOT vegan) find myself wanting to add butter, eggs or cheese to almost every recipe. If you're interested, I'll give it to you, as it is not being well used over here. Just send me an email. Judith


Try the meatless meatballs - both the Trader Joe's brand and the brand I found in Berkeley Bowl (which name escapes me right now) are great -- they fooled my meat-loving father in law! I put them in sauces. Deb
As a long-time vegetarian with a meat-eating husband and daughter, I cook only vegetarian food at home. There are many good meat substitues available these days that my family likes. Morningstar Farms ''grillers'' can be substituted for ground beef in any recipe. I use them in everything from tacos to lasagna. You can find them in Safeway as well as Whole foods, Berkeley Bowl. Boca Burgers are probably the best tasting veggie burger out there - they come in different flavors so you might try a few and see which you like. You can find them in Costco as well as regular grocery stores. Veat brand makes ''nuggets'' and ''bites'' that are decent tasting chicken substitutes and are great in stirfry. I've found them in Safeway and Berkeley Bowl. Yves brand deli slices and soy cheese are decent tasting compared to some of the other brands I've tried (although my husband does not think they taste like the real thing). Things like seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh and tofu can be good sources of protein and will taste great when cooked right.

One of my favorite (ie. easy) cookbooks: ''366 Healthful Ways to Cook Tofu and Other Meat Alternatives'' by Robin Robertson.

Congratulations on your decision to go vegetarian! Rachel


I'm a huge fan of fake meat products. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, however, so I'll just recommend the fake meats that my husband (a meat eater) likes. The entire line of fake meats by Yves gets a big thumbs up 'round these parts. They make a great fake ground beef, really good once seasoned up for tacos, thrown into pasta sauce, etc. I like all of their fake lunch meats, but my hubby thinks that the salami is the best.He likes their sausage, too. My favorite ersatz lunch meat is by Wildwood tofu, I think it's called Soyful Choice. We've just started using a fake bacon by, I think, Healthy Choice (it's whatever fake bacon they have in the prepared tofu section at Berkekley Bowl). It really needs to be cooked pretty carefully, though, or it can be too chewy. I've tried a fake sausage from Berkeley Bowl that is in the area on the other side of the eggs. It's in a package w/ Italian flag colors and it has a great texture, but was way too spicy for my taste (so you might like it).

When I was a vegan I used American Vegetarian Cooking From The Fit For Life Kitchen by Marilyn Diamond a lot. It has good recipes for stuff like tofu scramble and vegan mayo. Molly G


We like Boca Burgers and find them to be fairly close to tasting like meat. They have a variety of them these days. Our daughter particularly likes the chicken burgers. I like the cheeseburgers. Morningstar has a variety of non-meat meat-like items. We use their ''chik'n'' nuggets for our daughter. We also recently tried the vegetarian chili from Trader Joe's and it was quite tasty. Lori
Good for you for choosing to eat healthy and responsibly! Regarding tasty vegetarian meals and meat substitutes, I would suggest going vegetarian before going vegan. It is alot easier to cook and more satisfying! A little cheese goes a long way in regards to flavor! I missed bacon-flavor for a long time after quitting meat but discovered smoked cheeses did the trick. I eat egg and dairy products and occasionally fish, so I'm technically not vegetarian. One good alternate to tofu is So Soya -- a soy product I found at Trader Joe's. It is good for stir fry, fried rice, etc. It is dried soy that needs to be soaked in hot water before adding to your recipe. The secret is to use veggie broth or add tamari, teriyaki sauce, etc. to the hot water so it absorbs flavor along with moisture. This works for the texturized veggie protein that you can buy in bulk also. For chili, I just use beans and add bulgur wheat for the texture and added nutrients. In spaghetti sauce, I found that anise seed ground fresh with a mortar and pestle replaced some of the taste of Italian sausage. I'm not that fond of most meat substitutes - I threw away some ''veggie sausage'' recently, but I have enjoyed some of the frozen chicken patties for sandwiches. We also like Trader Joe's buffalo wings and chicken-less nuggets. Good luck! Sharon
Just use you own recipes, but substitute Yves Veggie Ground Round for cooked ground beef (it's crumbly), Lightlife Gimmelean for ''raw'' ground beef (it can be shaped) and Lightlife Smart Menu chicken strips for cooked chicken strips (good in stir fry, thai curries etc.). I think Smart Dogs are the best veggie dogs. Trader Joe's has all these for cheaper than the supermarket. Costco has Boca Burgers (rated best in Consumer Reports a year or so back) and Gardenburgers (but Gardenburgers contain cheese). Textured Vegetable Protien (TVP) stands in for ground beef in chili, etc. but has no flavor of its own so you must increase your other seasonings. Also try bulgur wheat. The bottom line is, you can use your familiar recipes with meat substitues (as long as meat isn't the main ingredient, such as a roast) while you transition to a vegan way of life, or even permanently. The vegan cookbook is use most is the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook (try the tamales and pancake recipes). But truthfully, I usually use mainstream cookbooks, using meat substitutes as necessary. And we do not refuse meat-eating friends' hospitality (but most people around here provide vegetarian dishes too anyways). And (big confession here) we eat eggs. Not a lot, but we do use them for baking and the occasional breakfast. May I give two other words of advice? Look into sourdough cookery. It's fun and like having a pet. Starter is sold at Andronicos and probably other places. Watch for hydrogenated oil in food you buy. I wish you the best
We like most of the Yves products. Their bologna pretty much resembles the ''real' thing. I've used their ground beef substitute as well in sloppy joes, chili, and spaghetti sauce. I've used other ground beef substitutes and pretty much like most. We also like Boca burgers. There's a line of products called Veat that are pretty good - I recommend you try a variety to see if any work for you. Good luck! michael
I can't comment on cookbooks, but as far as meat substitutes, we eat Yves' Veggie Ground Round quite a bit, and love it. We put it in just about anything in which you'd put real meat (spaghetti sauce, burritos, shepherd's pie, etc.). I like the texture a lot. It's cheaper at Trader Joe's; I buy several packages there and freeze them. Happy cooking! Jenny
I like the ''chicken'' Veat to stir-fry with vegetables and Asian spices. The makers of Boca-burgers have a whole new line of meat substitutes, including an Italian sausage that is much more flavorful than the bland breakfast ''sausages''. There is a spicy soy chorizo--soy-rizo?--that is good in Mexican cooking. A fun vegan cookbook that even reluctant teens might appreciate is *How it all Vegan* by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer. Some near-vegan cookbooks you might want to check out: Lorna Sass's *Complete Vegetarian Kitchen* and *The New Soy Cookbook*, and *This Can't Be Tofu* by Deborah Madison (founding chef of Greens). If you get tired of cooking, a fun restaurant for fake-meat afficionados is Ambrosia Garden on San Pablo Avenue near Solano Avenue. And the relatively new vegan Japanese restaurant on Shattuck--I think it is called Chaya?--is excellent. lorid
Congratulations on your decision! I'm not a great cook, so I won't try to recommend cookbooks, but I can tell you which veggie foods I like. I like Amy's Pot Pies (I get the non-dairy vegetable pot pie because my son is allergic to dairy, but the dairy ones taste a little better)--my husband and son, who eat chicken and fish, like the pot pies a lot too. Probably all the Amy's products are good, but I haven't tried the others. They have them at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl. For bacon, I like the Morningstar Farms breakfast strips, cooked in the oven. I have served them to real-bacon eaters with mixed reactions. Most veggie dogs are pretty good--we use Yves brand. I recommend boiling veggie dogs, as they get wierd on the grill. For chicken, the morningstar farms nuggets and chik patties are good. I have never tried any faux-sausage products because I never liked real sausage. I have been vegetarian for almost 20 years, so I am at a point where I actually do not want my food to taste like the real thing, but I remember how in the beginning I did want to replicate the taste. Boca Burgers, to me, taste way too real, so you may want to try those! Garden Burgers are yummy, but taste and feel nothing like a real burger. I also used Nature's Burger mix in the early days for ground ''beef'' in spaghetti sauce, though I think it would taste too real to me today. I also recently discovered Veggetinos ''meatballs'' in Safeway, and thought they were pretty good. It's definitely to your advantage that you like things spicy, because you can hide a lot that way, and hopefully your son won't notice or won't miss the meat. For Chinese Food, try the Great Wall restaurant on College Ave. The fake chicken is good, though I have not tried the fake beef or pork because I wouldn't want those. Oh yeah, there was one other brand that tasted and felt too real to me--Veat. They make pork-like bits and chicken, and I think they are at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's may have some decent stuff too.

Good luck! You will eventually lose a taste for most meats, but I know it's hard in the beginning. Just be thankful you live here--it was not so easy doing it in Connecticut 20 years ago! Tracy F


I'm not a vegan, nor a vegetarian (though I only buy meat and dairy that come from reliably humane and organic sources). I used to be a vegetarian, before I met my meat-loving man, though, and I still love to cook vegetarian and vegan meals. My favorite cookbook to this end is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, which even my husband the carnivore now calls ''the Bible.'' However, some of the meals really are time consuming to prepare, so I also like the Moosewood Cooks at Home, which is full of super-quick recipies, all nutritious and some stunningly yummy (try the six-minute chocolate cake: vegan and delicious). I don't like meat substitutes myself, but marinated and pan-fried tofu can be very tasty in its own right. I've found the website, cooking.com a very good source of recipies, and you can specify vegetarian or vegan, I believe. Alexa
My kids like Yves vegie-dogs (only the smaller size, NOT the ''Jumbo'' ones). They may not tast like ''real'' hot dogs, but they do taste good. Another idea I use all the time - freeze tofu, then let it thaw and squeeze out the water (it will be like squeezing out a sponge). Freezing changes the texture from mushy to crumbly, a lot like the consistency of ground beef if used in pasta sauce, chili, etc. Also - most imitation meats are made from soy, which is often genetically modified(GMO). If this concerns you, be sure to check the label, or call the manufacturer. Organic soybeans cannot be GMO. Yves claims they does not use GMO soy, although it is not organic. R.K.

Half-vegetarian household

March 2002

I'm a long time strict vegetarian married to an enthusiastic meat-eater. So far, our 15 month old son is vegetarian, but my husband is itching to share with him the foods that he enjoys. We're trying to work out a compromise for our son's diet that takes into account both his desire to share these foods and my reservations about our son eating meat (primarily the antibiotics/hormones/health issues). We'd love to hear from anyone who's dealt with a similar situation. Thanks! veggie mom


We too are a half vegetarian household. I am vegetarian by choice, but would not make anyone vegetarianism if they didn't want to..it is a choice...hense my pick for a husband. My husband and I made a pact long before we had children that we would let our children decide as I did. We have a 21 month old son that loves tofu and meat as well. He only drinks soy milk and hates cow milk with a passion. His choices differ everyday, and he experiments with different foods all the time. I really think that if he decides later that he doesn't like meat, it will be his choice. I have noticed things that we don't let him have, he wants even more and when he gets them those become his favorite. We allow him small amounts of just about anything now that he is over a year, and he has already made decisions of what he likes and dislikes. Life is filled with many wonderful things, let your children try things, it is amazing as long as there are good role models, they follow in your footsteps (literally and figuritively). a veggie mom by choice
I also have a carnivore for a husband, and am a vegetarian (I do eat eggs and dairy though). I decided when my eldest was born, to let her personal tastes dictate whether she ate meat or not. The oldest has never liked red meat but will eat chicken and some fish. My youngest loves bacon, hot dogs, steak, eggs, and chicken. We have meat probably once a week, if it is chicken they both eat it, if red meat, only one will enjoy it with her dad. of course this means that there are many meals where there is a veg option and meat option. forturnately my husband loves to cook and this is not a problem. re: the hormone situation: we only buy hormone/antibiotic free meat, eggs and dairy. hope this helps. veg mom
I too am a vegetarian (for primarily ethical reasons), and my husband a meat-eater. We usually never have meat in the house and my daughters are being raised vegetarian (3.5 yrs. and 3 mos.). The oldest child has seen her dad eat meat often, and has asked about it. she has even asked to try it, then declined once allowed to see it. I think though, that she has had a few bites in her life. I have made it clear to my husband that it is very important to me to raise my children vegetarian until that time that they can decide for themselves (a whole other discussion!) and he has complied for the most part. I have also discussed it with my child and continue to do so, so she can understand where I'm coming from. Fortunately (for me!), my husband doesn't share the same desire to have our children eat meat as yours does. But since your primary concern is health I think a good compromise is to insist that they only be fed ''organic'' meat - those raised without the junk you mentioned. I have allowed my children to eat dairy but am very insistent that it be organic for the same reasons. Organic meats are pretty readily available around here; Whole Foods comes to mind and I'm sure there are others. another veggie mom
We have the same situation with our 18-month-old son. I am a veggie and my husband is not. I had read in several books that it is not necessary to give a baby/toddler meat to meet their dietary requirements, especially if they drink lots of milk and are getting enough fats and variety in their diet (the most recent Dr. Spock even advocates a veggie diet). We found that although he loves food, he became pretty picky by about 14 months. He had eaten pressed turkey and even tried a little hamburger once. Now he eats almost exclusively veggie, with the major exceptions being eggs and (sigh) hot dogs. I buy high quality hot dogs, and limit them to a maximum of 1 per week as a compromise. My husband and I have decided that we will introduce him to a variety of foods including meat, but since I do most of the cooking he will eat mostly vegetarian food at home and try meats (if he wants to) when we eat out. another veggie mom
We are not a vegetarian household so I can't advise you from that standpoint, but you should know that it's really easy to buy hormone and antibiotic free meat and poultry in this area. Berkeley Bowl sells, I believe, only ''clean'' meat. Whole foods, Armands Meats in the back of El Cerrito Natural Grocery, and I'm sure there are many other places that sell red meat and poultry raised on organic feed and not treated with chemicals in any stage of development or processing. Your child and husband can then enjoy their non vegie times together and your husband will be getting healthier meat as well. Anonymous
My comment is that you can probably avoid the dilemma for at least another year - or two. Keep in mind that toddlers and young children - even those with two meat-eating parents - normally don't like meat. The fact that your 15-mo. old is vegetarian now is typical of children his age even where both parents are meat-eaters. I know because my child liked meat from a very early age and EVERYONE who has taken care of him comments on this with much surprise. So your husband shouldn't think you are ''poisoning the well'' if your child dislikes meat for another couple of years, and you shouldn't pat yourself on the back prematurely for raising a veggie - because things may change! In terms of a compromise, I try to buy only organic (hormone free) meats and I don't let him eat hot dogs except for special occasions (birthdays, etc.) Anonymous
Between Berkeley Bowl, Magnini Poultry and Andronico's Market there are lots of sources for antibiotic/hormone free, organic meat. We don't normally cook with a lot of meat, but when we do it's either Niman Ranch(anti./horm free), a Rosie's chicken or the chicken at Magnini Poultry. Anonymous
I too live in a half-vegetarian household, only I'm the one who eats the meat. We don't prepare any meat in the house, and I only eat it at restaurants and at friends or family's homes. My first child ate some meat for the first 2 years, and then decided she was a vegetarian just like Papa. (She gives me a hard time now when I order something with meat. ''I like you better when you don't eat meat'' she'll tell me.) My second child barely eats anything and has never had meat. I'd just come to some agreement with your partner where you compromise, like everything else! Set the limits you really care about: unprocessed, organic, free range, hormone free, whatever it might be. Soon enough your child will be having an opinion of his own. Educate both your husband and child about the health risks of too much or the wrong sorts of meat. I think it was my no-nonsense discussions about where meat comes from that made my daughter a vegetarian, even though it was my husband who cared more about the issue! Meaty Mama
I am a vegetarian-wannabe but am married to an enthusiastic meat-eater as well. If you are solely concerned about antibiotics/hormones and environmental issues surrounding meat if your child is going to eat meat with Dad, you can buy humanely raised, no-antibiotic, no-hormone meats at Whole Foods. As for health issues, meat has gotten a bad rap nutritionally lately. A good book discussing nutrition for children for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike is Ellen Satter's ''Secrets of Feeding A Healthy Family.'' It also includes family-friendly recipes, shopping/stocking tips, etc., for busy families. anonymous
Re the half vegetarian household. If your objection to meat is the antibiotics/hormones perhaps you could compromise by purchasing range feed, drug free beef which is available at Andronico's among other places. Janet
I just wanted to chime in to this discussion being the meat-eater in a half-vegitarian household. We want to let our kids decide on their own later in life if they want to be vegitarian or not. So they have little bits of meat whenever I eat some, but are mostly vegitarian as generally that's how we all eat.

I felt it was important that they get some of all kinds of meats so that they build up the right enzymes and such to process it. As my kids are now going to preschool, and surely will eventually go to friends houses and such, they will at some point or another have a hot dog, peperoni pizza, or some other food with meat in it (like even a chicken-based vegitable soup). I am happy to know that no matter what they try, they at least won't feel sick from it being something their bodies have never had. But on the other hand they only have meat on occasion so I have no worries about any health effects either. Mike


I'm a vegetarian, and my husband is not. We have a 12-year-old who was reaised eating meat-- and I've always regretted this-- because of the health issues you mentioned-- higher cancer rates, hormones, anti-biotics, etc. Plus-- I think meat is an unnecessary food item that puts extra strain on the earth's resources. I'm pregnant again, and this time we've agreed to feed the baby a vegetarian diet until he/ she is old enought to decide whether they want to eat meat, or not. Of course-- if health issues arise-- and the doctor suggests that we start feeding meat-- we will-- but this should not happen since we eat an abundance of soy proteins and get enough iron from other sources like spinach. I think the key to a vegetarian diet is not just not eating meat-- but making sure that you get enough of the right foods. Anyhow, every family is different-- but this is what we plan on doing. My sister kept her son on vegetarian foods until he was five-- then let him decide if he wanted meat. He says meat is YUCKY and he doesn't like it, but he loves tofu and broccolli. He is very healthy. He does elect to eat turkey about once every three months. Good luck with your decisions and compromises! angie

Vegetarian diet for baby

Feb 2002

My husband and I are both vegetarians (we do eat eggs and dairy) and we really do not want to feed our 7 mo. old daughter meat, although we want her to have a healthy diet. Our pediatrician who we like and respect very much has said that it is nutritionally important that our daughter start eating meat despite our aversion to it. I am interested to hear other perspectives on the subject since I know plenty of children have started out as vegetarians. For instance, could anyone recommend good books that speaks about nutritional substitutes? Or if there are other nutritional authorities that feel the same way our pediatrician does I would be interested to hear from you. Thank you. Alissa


While your pediatrician is probably welll intended, he is doing you a disservice by providing you with misinformation. Infants and children can be fed nutritionally adequate vegetarian diets, especially if you plan to offer dairy products and eggs. (Vegan diets are inadequate in vitamin B-12, unless vit B-12 fortified foods are served.) .

I've been a Registerd Dietitian for 14 years and have a lot of pediatric expertise on and off the job. As a mom, I didn't offer my infant meat, fish or poultry. She didn't like beans, ate only a little tofu, rejected iron-fortified cereals and was exclusively breast fed (meaning she was given solid food, but no iron-fortified formulas). Her growth and weight gain throughout her first year were fine and she was not anemic. At four, she continues to be a picky eater and has rejected a lot of the good, non-animal protein sources. Her most consistent source of iron comes from soy milk (Trader Joe's soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D), she drinks about 16 ounces a day. Her hemoglobin, hematocrit, growth and weight gain are checked yearly and continue to be fine.

As for books, while not specific to vegetarianism, I highly recommend Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, by Ellen Satter. If you email me your home address, I'd be happy to go through my files and send you an article on raising vegetarian children to give to your pediatrician (let's get him out of the Dark Ages). Also, there are many reputable web sites from which you can download reliable nutrition information, particularly university and government-based sites.

On another note, a bit of self promotion...After the birth of my daughter, I went from working full to part-time at a county-based health center. I am now starting a private practice, but don't want to committ to renting office space yet. I'm willing to do home visits, or for parents who don't want to feel pressured to tidy up their place, I'm comfortable having people come to my home.

I've been providing counseling on prenatal nutrition, infant feeding, and breastfeeding (I'm a Certified Lactation Educator) for 14 years and have worked with women from all over the globeIran, Brazil, India, Vietnam, Laos, China, Israel, Finland, Japan . . . (listed in no particular order other than what comes to mind). I also have a lot of experience with chronic disease management, such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemias (high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides), etc. I use a non-dieting approach for weight management for adults and children. All the nutrition counseling I provide is research-based and geared toward optimizing health while keeping food one of life's simple pleasures. Arinna


Our 16-month old daughter is an extremely healthy vegetarian girl. My partner and I both eat a little meat now and then, but with all of the antibiotics, hormones and environmental pollutants that can be found in meat, we've decided to forgo giving it to her until she is much much older.

Since iron, protein and vitamins that can be found in meat are important to her diet, you can easily obtain the same nutrients from food such as vegetables, tofu and eggs. We give her lots of dark green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, ets.) for vitamins, calcium and iron; we give her tofu, avocados, yogurt and eggs for protein and fats; and simple snacks such as sesame-seeded crackers and seaweed-coated rice cakes for extra vitamins.

She is doing great on this simple, cheap and meat-free way of eating. I think if your pediatrician is forcing you to give your child meat against your wishes, he or she isn't very informed of alternative ways of obtaining vital nutrients. Ciel's mama


Although I am not a strict vegitarian, I lean toward mostly not eating any meat(never any cow). I have used the book: vegetarian baby by sharon yntema put out by Mcbooks Press. You will come up against a lot of differing oppinions about your childs diet, some of which can be very strong. My recommendation is to read up on nutrition and pay close attention to your childs activity level and physical appearance ( weight, skin tone,etc...). Above that I would not fret too much. My pediatrician (who supports my food choices) says as long as your child is getting all the recommended food groups over the course of a week then you are probably just fine. We had a problem with an iron deficiency, so supplemented with drops. Since I let the body guide me in what to eat, I work the same with my son. I have discovered my son will want a little fish or a bite of bacon here and there(my husband is a meat and potatoes guy) so i provide what his body wants. But mostly he doesn't prefering eating meat or poultry even when it is available. He does like tofu, hummus, tahini, beans and rice. Your child may have a constitution that requires lots of meat, but check it out for yourselves. Good luck

ps. wait utill your daughter becomes a toddler! My friend said all she could get her daughter to eat when she was that age was tomatoes. my son eats 2-3 bites and then he is done (fret, fret!!) ;-) jenn


I primarily follow a macrobiotic diet which is essentially vegan with emphasis on whole grains, vegetable protein, vegetables and sea vegetables (all organic) but fish is also included. My daughter, who is now 19 months old, essentially has the same diet, no eggs, no dairy and no meat and is doing fine. I also notice that many of her friends whose parents are not following any particular diet, don't like meat and won't eat it. Her pediatrician has never told me that I need to start feeding her meat but has just cautioned that I make sure she gets enough protein and calcium. What is most appropriate for your child will depend on his/her condition. I would suggest speaking with someone who has a background in vegetarian nutrition to give you advice on how best to meet your child's nutritional needs. Try the website www.macroamerica.com. They will answer ''short'' questions there for free. I am happy to give names of people in the Bay Area whom you could contact if you wish. Mary Gannon
Your pediatrician is wrong! No baby NEEDS meat! I'm always amazed at the lack of nutritional knowledge that can exist in the health care community. Fortunately for me, my pediatrician is fully supportive of my choice to raise my kids vegetarian. His attitude is that as long as they are healthy and growing, all is well. And my 3.5 year old is 41'' tall and 41 pounds; no worse the wear for her veg diet. I have been vegetarian for 20+ years, so I'm pretty familiar with substitutes, protein and other requirements, etc. So I can't offer a lot in terms of books. Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron however, has lots of good ideas for nutritious foods for baby, and it is vegetarian. Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair is pretty good (although not totally vegetarian). There is also the Vegetarian Mother Baby Book by Rose Elliot which talks a lot about the nutritional aspect of being vegetarian and how to do it.

Easy meat substitutes that my kids like are tofu, beans and nut butters. Also, since you aren't vegan, you get plenty of protein and other nutrients from dairy and eggs.

There are lots of healthy vegetarian kids in the world! I hope your pediatrician will be supportive in your decision. Hilary


My son is only 17 months old, but we plan to raise him as a vegetarian (with eggs and dairy and maybe even fish). My husband has a grown daughter who is proud of the fact that she has never eaten meat. I think you need a new pediatrician who will support you. Look at Ruth Yaron's book: Super Baby Food. It is full of good nutrition info, some of it is just her opinion though. It is a good start for vegetarian and non-vegetarian babies. You can adapt her method to fit your lifestyle, and find it pretty easy to make your own vegetarian baby food. sharon
Both my husband and I eat very little meat--and no red meat at all. We rarely cook meat at home, but instead delight in lots of veggies, beans, tofu, fruit... When my daughter (now 2.3) started eating solids I asked my pediatrician, Dr. Gruber at Berkeley Pediatrics, if it was OK if she didn't eat meat. He said of course! That he'd had lots of very healthy veggie babies in his many years of practicing medicine. anony
Though I cannot give specific diet recommendations regarding vegetarianism, I would just like to support you in your efforts. In the late 80's my toddler son and I lived in a household with two hippie families. One was a vegan family with three children - 2, 10, and 13 when we moved in - the other with 4 kids was very carniverous and this was a very chaotic family (I'm not saying the meat did that) . The vegan parents were fanatical about her kid's diet (they were also home schooled, traveled around in a converted bus, lived in India for a while - very interesting prototypical hippies) and those three kids are by far the most healthy, balanced, social, intelligent attractive kids I have ever met. It was probably a combination of all the elements of their lives that made them this way, but their vegan diet certainly did NO harm to the kids.(They did eat soy products in some form or another at least once a day.) There are after all cultures that do not eat meat. joan
No disrespect for vegans, but I don't understand the outrage over a doctor telling a parent to try to include meat in a babies diet. There is nothing wrong with a doctor doing this, nor is there anything wrong with eating meat. The doctor is not doing you a disservice. That is his philosophy. If you don't agree with it, find another doctor, but don't tell him he is giving you misinformation. I realise this is a politically incorrect thing to be saying, but the majority of people do eat meat.

I know several nutritionalists as well and they say its just a matter of opinion. If you don't wish your baby to eat meat, then find a suitable substitute for him/her, but don't be surprised if they turn into meat eaters later on in life. My family enjoys eating meat and poultry (not too fond of fish) and they are just as healthy as their non-meat eating counterparts. I think it's just a matter of personal preference and opinion rather than what's best for your baby. Plus eating in moderation (balanced diet). I have noticed that as we've gotten older, we don't eat as much of it, but we still include it in our diets.

Mankind has been meateaters for thousands of years. Yes, there are some cultures that don't eat as much of it, but there are different reasons for that. It's not just a cultural thing. If you choose to be a vegetarian then choose a vegetarian doctor. You'll feel better about the advice you get. marianne


I don't know if I can post a comment on a reply, but I believe that someone seriously misunderstood the replies to ''vegetarian diet for baby'' and sent in a defensive and not very constructive reply. The person sought to defend her family's non-vegetarian diet, stating that she and her family really enjoy eating meat, and said that it is wrong to suggest that a pediatrition is misinformed if he insists that a baby must eat meat, as this is just a matter of opinion. This is not just a matter of opinion. A child can thrive without eating meat, as several repondents, including a dietician, said. No one is saying that a child SHOULD NOT eat meat, or that it is wrong for some families to enjoy eating meat. The question was simply whether or not it is OKAY for a child not to eat meat. Furthermore, there is no need to have a vegetarian doctor just because a family is vegetarian. Gay people don't necessarily need gay doctors, a gynocologist does not have to be a woman, etc. A physician must be familiar with a number of issues which do not directly affect him or her, and if he is incapable of doing so then he may indeed be misinforming his patients. Just because someone wants advice on a vegetarian diet does not mean that meat-eaters need to defend their decision to eat meat, or to implicitly criticize others who choose not to.
A pediatrician who tells vegetarian parents, ''that it is nutritionally important'' for an infant to eat meat is providing a family with misinformation. Parents place a lot of trust in their pediatricians. When it comes to feeding their children parents expect to receive up-to-date, accurate information that is based on good research, not opinion (perhaps with the exception of some behavior-based guidance). Research shows, including an article in the reputable journal Pediatrics, that vegetarian diets are nutritionally adequate to support normal growth and development in infants and children. Eating meat is a choice not a necessity. Let's not blur the distinction between fact and opinion. And please, let's respect people's choices. People don't choose to be vegetarian so they can call meat eaters politically incorrect. Arinna

Resources for Beginning Vegetarians

April 2001

Can anyone recommend a good resource for a beginner vegetarian?


As a long time vegetarian, I may not have the best answer for you re; beginning type of vegetarian resources, but I'll try. YOu might want to check out subcribing to Vegetarian Times, as they tend to often have beginner-oriented articles. There are also a ton of websites; I can't necessarily recommend any, but you should poke around. There are also some local groups, but I can't speak to those as I have never participated. As to books? One of the first books that really inspired me to become vegetarian was the John Robbins book "Diet for a NEw America". Then there are TONS of cookbooks. Its hard to know what to recommend as I don't know your cooking habits. But about six months ago, there was a thread here about good veg. cookbooks with some great suggestions. Good luck, and "welcome to the club"! hilary
I love Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Best for someone who is already comfortable in the kitchen since she doesn't always explain techniques in detail. But every recipe I've tried has been yummy. I also use the original Moosewood cookbook, especially for soups. I know people like the other Moosewood books too. Lise
Editor Note: more recommendations for cookbooks can be found at Good Vegetarian Cookbooks

Explaining Vegetarian Diet to Children

Sept 1999

I am a vegetarian and am bringing up my two children (ages 1 and 4) as vegetarians. My husband is not a vegetarian, however we do have a vegetarian household which means no meat in the house. I do occasionally eat fish and seafood. I was wondering if there are other folks out there with similar situations. How do you explain to your children your reason for being vegetarian? I find it difficult to say, "we don't eat animals" because occasionally we do eat fish. I also find it difficult when we go out b/c their dad will order bacon or chicken or other meat. How do I explain that the 3 of us are veggie but Daddy isn't? Of course then there are the other issues, like going over to friend's houses, which I assume will get more difficult as they get older. At my daughter's preschool, I have made it known that it is her choice weather or not to eat any meat dish offered. I just want her to be informed that she is eating meat. So far she has always declined saying, "I don't eat meat. We are vegetarians." When she says something like that, part of me feels like I'm brainwashing her. Yet the other part of me feels like I'm just teaching her my values. I want both of my children to make their own decisions about becoming a vegetarian as they get older. And I don't ever want them to feel like a freak for being different. The choice is ultimately theirs as they grow older and form an opinion. However, I will not ever cook meat or allow it to be cooked in my house (a decision that was reached mutually by my husband and myself).

I am a vegetarian mostly for health reasons at this point in my life. I did become a vegetarian 10 years ago though because of the factory farming issues (which is why I continued to eat seafood). I guess I'm just finding it to be a complicated issue as my kids get older and am looking for some support and guidance. Does anyone know of a veggie parents mailing list? Would anyone be interested in forming one if none exists?


My family sounds similar to yours ... my wife is a vegetarian who sometimes eats fish, and our house is basically vegetarian, though I am a meat eater. We have twin daughters (5 months old now). As they are still young we haven't directly run into this issue yet, but we have discussed it a fair amount and our plan is to let them decide once they are older. This of course means that we will feed them some of the meat baby foods and generally get their bodies able to process meat (no bacon for breakfast everyday or anything, but some occasional meat products to make sure they are building up the enzymes to digest the stuff). I feel that this is important becuase there will be times at a friends house or at school where they will not necesarily know that they are eating something with meat in it. When they can start to understand my wife will be explaining to them why she has chosen not to eat meat. And I will probably try to tell them why I go on eating meat. And then they can decide on their own whenever the time comes ... age 3, age 8, age 18 (like my wife did) or whatever works for them. I personally wouldn't want them to never have eaten meat and then end up getting sick someday because they try a corn-dog or just some soup with a beef stock. If you'd like to talk some more, I bet my wife would be happy to speak to you someday too. Good luck!
I cannot give you really good advice, since we are not vegetarians, but I offer the following anecdote: We have close family friends; the mom was raised in England, but they all live in the US, where their daughter was born. They are vegetarians, except that the dad eats seafood occasionally, but only out of the house. Their daughter and my older son are best friends, and we have spent a lot of time discussing whether the daughter is American or English and the difference between American English and English English... One day, my son (then about 3) asked how come the daddy eats fish, but his friend and her mom don't? I replied that they are stricter vegetarians, than the dad. My son sat bolt upright and said "but she's not a Vegetarian, she's AMERICAN!!!"

Having spent a lot of time with this family; sharing meals, babysitting, etc. my observations are that the kids don't seem to ask a lot of questions about why, they just accept what you say. "We don't eat meat, but they do." My son sometimes likes "to play vegetarian" and pretend whatever we are eating is a vegetable, and their daughter sometimes "plays meateater" and renames all her food for animals. They don't seem to examine the larger, overall, political/health picture the way we do. It seems to me that they view it more like "I like chocolate ice cream, and she likes strawberry". Or, "mommy likes beets, but daddy doesn't". I know that our friends let it be known to anyone who would possibly offer their daughter food, ie: the preschool, playdates etc., that she doesn't eat meat, just as one might say "she's allergic to peanut butter, or doesn't like tomatoes". They are also pretty relaxed about it in so far as they don't get upset if she is occasionally given cookies or crackers made with animal fat. Good luck!


I can't offer any advice to the vegetarian mother, because my daughter is only 2 and so is too young to ask questions about her diet, but we are in the same household situation (vegetarian mom & child, occasional fish eaters, husband who is vegetarian inside the home, though more often than not also vegetarian in restaurants). She expressed interest in e-mailing others, and I too would be interested in this.
You sound very reasonable in your approach, discussing vegetarianism as a life-style choice rather than treating it as a moral issue with only one right answer. In my experience no one (except grandparents) blinks an eye if a vegetarian shows up at their table. My 14-year old daughter is vegetarian and I am not. I am also not much of a cook/meal preparer. I would welcome any suggestions for simple meals and lunch box foods, especially high protein ones.
I am also the sole vegetarian (no meat, fish, shellfish and right now, no dairy due to our baby's cow's milk intolerance)in my household. My reasons for being vegetarian are primarily health-related, although also have to do with issues related to agricultural economics and politics. I find myself frequently asked about what I plan to feed my child (as in "You're not planning to impose your vegetarian diet on your child, are you?"). It's not my nature to impose my views or preferences upon anyone, and my response is generally that she can eat whatever she likes. In reality of course, this is wholly impractical, as babies and young children need direction and need to have some choices made for them. Since I do the shopping and often the food preparation, it's likely my daughter will end up eating what I eat. But I have begun to wonder about how to handle situations out of our home. Like when the mother-in-law tries to feed the baby pork roast. I do not know of a vegetarian parents mailing list, but would definately be interested in starting one if none exists.
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