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New Zealand's Youngest Vegetarians


Media Release

26 September 2003

New Zealand's Youngest Vegetarians

On World Vegetarian Day, (1 October) the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society (Inc) would like to remind both vegetarian and meat-eating parents alike that they are key to their baby having a healthy start to life.

'Breast milk is the best food for baby and also happens to be the ultimate vegetarian food. What could be better than straight from mum? No interventions,' says Trish Jackson Potter, acting General Manager of Plunket Clinical Services.

She stressed the importance of a healthy, well balanced diet for all pregnant and breastfeeding women and offered advice to parents planning to raise their children as vegetarians.

'When baby is ready to start on solids - usually at about 4 to 6 months of ages while they are still breastfeeding - it's important their family and whanau keep some simple guidelines in mind.

First foods need to be soft and smooth, starting with one new food at a time. Fruit and vegetables are excellent as they can be pureed until baby is six or seven months and then mashed as baby gets older.

Iron is important to keep blood and brain cells healthy and is necessary to help them learn. When baby is young, iron fortified cereals and baby rice are good choices. At around six months parents can then offer combinations of iron-rich foods served with vitamin C-rich food (the vitamin C helps with iron absorption).

Adding cooked dried peas, beans and lentils to their diet is recommended for the vegetarian baby around 8 or 9 months. As toddlers, more combinations can be offered - served in small meals, often.

The pre-school years are a time of rapid growth and development and children have high nutrient needs. Serving them a balanced diet at this time is especially important, whether they are vegetarian or not.

'The family doctor, well-child nurses and dieticians are all good sources for more specific information,' Trish advised. Then she added, 'and last but absolutely not least.... To grow up healthy and happy, every child also requires a steady diet of love and care!'

Ends

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