Getting enough iron and protein on a vegan diet

Either going vegan or moving to a more plant based diet is becoming increasingly popular. It is possible to feed a baby well on a vegan diet but there are a number of things to consider and it takes careful planning. 2 of the things to consider are iron and protein (other key nutrients to watch out for are iodine, vitamin B12, calcium and zinc).

In terms of protein, it is important to give a variety of different proteins – different types of ground nuts and nut butters (no added salt or sugar), beans, peas, lentils, tofu, Quorn. Combine these with grains to get the protein units baby needs for example wheat, corn, quinoa, oats. (Be aware that lot of vegan products have a lot of salt added and might not have the nutritional value of their non vegan counterpart).

You can also use plant based milks as a source of protein – they vary so check the label. These should not be used as a drink until they are one and rice milk should not be used as a drink until they are 5

In terms of iron, vegan sources include fortified breakfast cereals (check the label to see if it is added), almonds, lentils, beans, seeds and green leafy veg. There is also some in bread. Try to combine iron rich foods with fruit and veg to get the vitamin C at the same time – to increase absorption. Try also to avoid giving all your iron rich foods at the same time as wholegrains (which you should limit anyway in very small children) and calcium rich foods as these reduce the absorption. Also avoid giving tea as a drink to children as this reduces iron absorption.

One way to increase iron absorption of pulses is to soak them first. If you are using tinned pulses, rinse them off too.

As with all aspects of the vegan diet, it is possible to have a healthy vegan diet and get everything you need but it does take careful planning. If you are considering a vegan diet, I would highly recommend a 1-1 with a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian.

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