A balanced, varied, and energy-dense vegan diet allows children to have harmonious growth and development. These Vegan Food Ideas For Toddlers And Babies are suitable for children of all ages, provided you follow the recommendations that will prevent deficiencies in their diet.
Vegan Food Ideas For Toddlers And Babies
If the child’s diet is unbalanced, both a non-vegan or a vegan kid may have growth and development delays, as well as nutritional deficiencies.
These problems can be avoided, however, by providing the child with a variety of foods and keeping in mind that they need nutritious foods to meet their needs.
Here are some tips to ensure a Vegan Food Ideas For Toddlers And Babies without deficiencies.
To replace meat, poultry, fish, and seafood in your child’s diet, turn to other foods rich in protein, such as:
- Legumes (e.g. lentils, peas, beans, soy, including edamame)
- Nuts and seeds (ground, until the child is 4 years old)
- Nuts, almond or peanut butter (not crunchy until 4 years of age)
- Similiviandes (soy-based) and other commercial products (eg vegan burger patties).
However, these foods should not be served too often, as they can be very salty and contain a lot of additives. We must, therefore, favor those with the shortest and most natural ingredient lists.
To meet a baby or a toddler’s nutritional needs, your child must eat a sufficient amount of food. As high-fiber foods fill his stomach, they can make him hungry if he eats a lot.
For this reason, it is necessary to limit his daily fiber intake so that he is hungry for other foods as well.
So avoid serving him only whole grain products. Offer up to half the amount of bread, rice, pasta, etc. in their refined form (white).
By offering a variety of grain products at each meal depending on your child’s hunger, fiber intake should be adequate.
Your child should eat energy-rich foods every day (e.g. avocado, peanut butter, and creamy peanut butter, hummus, baba ghannouj, veggies, cheese).
You can also add oil or margarine to vegetables, pasta, rice, or bread you serve. It is a way of increasing the energy (calories) and fatty acids essential to a kid’s diet.
If you still opting for a vegetarian diet for your child is consuming dairy products, give him a whole cup of milk at every meal for the quality calories, fat, and protein he needs.
However, limit consumption to 750 ml per day (25 ounces) to avoid milk taking the place of other foods.
If you are opting for a vegan diet for your child, try to offer him a regular fortified soy beverage (not low in fat).
At each meal, offer your child foods that contain iron (e.g. cereals, grain products, legumes, dark green and leafy vegetables, eggs). Iron from plant sources (non-heme) is less absorbed than that from meat (heme iron).
It is, therefore, necessary to add a source of vitamin C to each meal in order to improve its absorption (eg: orange, clementine, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, peppers).
Vegan Food Ideas For Toddlers And Babies
If your family has been following a vegan diet, regard the previous tips for plant-based foods. As in addition to meat, milk, dairy products, and eggs are excluded from your child’s diet, it is essential to vary the sources of vegetable protein during meals.
So to avoid boredom and provide a variety of nutrients while ensuring their growing little bodies can make quality protein.
Unlike animal proteins, vegetable proteins are incomplete. By varying the sources of vegetable protein (legumes, tofu, grain products, nuts, seeds, tempeh, etc.) throughout the day, you can ensure that they complement each other.
What to replace milk with?
- For a vegan baby before 12 months of age, breastfeeding remains the best choice, even after the introduction of complementary foods.
If breastfeeding is not possible, commercial soy formula is recommended.
- For vegan toddlers after their 12 months old, you can offer enriched (not low-fat) soy beverages to your little one.
Since they provide less fat than whole milk, be sure to offer your child other energy-rich foods at all meals.
Other vegetable drinks (rice, almonds, hemp, etc.) are less nutritious and are therefore not recommended to replace milk.
Nutrients to watch for vegetarian and vegan children
Multivitamins for toddlers under 2 – Your child’s needs for vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine are more difficult to meet without meat or dairy products.
- In some cases, supplements are advised.
- Consult a nutritionist to make sure your child has a balanced diet and to adjust it if necessary.
Are vitamin D supplements recommended for a vegan kid?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fish, especially fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, tilapia).
Milk and fortified vegetable drinks are also good sources, but it would take about 1.5 liters a day to meet a child’s needs, which is far too much.
Since it is difficult to reach the recommended intakes with food and it is essential to protect children from the sun’s rays, vitamin D supplementation is highly recommended for a vegan toddler.
- Breastfed vegan babies should receive an additional 400 IU of vitamin D per day.
- Young vegan toddler should also receive an additional 400 IU of vitamin D per day in addition to their two glasses of milk or fortified vegan drink daily.
Rich-In-Nutrients Vegan Food Ideas For Toddlers And Babies
- Fortified soy beverages and other fortified vegetable drinks
- Certain green vegetables (broccoli, green cabbage, pakchoi, okra)
- Certain legumes (soy, edamame, white beans)
- Certain nuts and seeds (almonds, unpeeled sesame seeds) and their butter
- Green molasses (also known as Blackstrap molasses)
- Tofu based on calcium salts
- Shiitake mushroom
- Wheat germ
- Whole grains
- Nuts, seeds, and peanuts
- Soy products (tofu, tempeh, soy beverages)
Omega-3 fatty acids
- Wheat germ
- Pumpkin seeds
- Ground flax seeds
- Canola oil
- Linseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Soy and tofu
- Iodized table salt
- Sea salt, salty seasonings (e.g. soy sauce and salt used in food processing) do not contain iodine.
Arsenic in rice products
Arsenic is an element found naturally in soil and water, and therefore by the same token in several agricultural products, including rice.
However, researchers are concerned about the high levels of arsenic detected in rice and its derivatives, including brown rice syrup, rice drinks, and baby rice cereals. Brown rice cereals would be more problematic than white rice cereals.
- To decrease your child’s exposure to arsenic, avoid serving these foods. Only white rice cereals can be offered in moderation.
- Offer oats, barley, and multigrain cereals more frequently.
As for the rice drink, it is less nutritious than milk and fortified soy beverages, so it is not the best drink to offer young children on a regular basis anyway.
When consumed in large quantities, inorganic arsenic – like that found in rice – increases the risk of cancer, skin problems, and blood system diseases.
Vegan Diet For Infants And Toddlers
A vegan child may have many advantages compared to other non-vegan children. The food you offer them will determine their health for years to come if you decide to adopt a vegan diet as a way of life.
Your grown-up eating habits are defined in early childhood. Choosing a vegan diet can give your child and the whole family the opportunity to learn to enjoy a variety of wonderful and nutritious foods.
Offer your child a wide variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and soy products. Simplify your life and have fun, and they will learn good eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Children raised with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes become fitter and healthier. They even live longer than their carnivorous friends.
It is much easier to create a nutritious diet from plant foods than from animal products. Especially if these products contain saturated fat, cholesterol, and other substances that growing children can do without.
Vegan Food For Toddlers
When it comes to essential nutrients, plant foods are the preferred source as they provide enough energy and protein with other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
Why encourage a child to eat vegan
The complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, beans, and vegetables provide the ideal energy to fuel a child’s active life.
Encourage consumption of brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta, rolled oats, and corn, as well as less common grains like barley, quinoa, millet, and more, will increase the fiber and nutrient content in children’s diets. In addition, it will help children not to crave sugary drinks and sweet treats.
And while kids need protein to grow, they don’t need protein-rich, animal-based foods. Different varieties of cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits provide a lot of protein, which makes protein deficiency very unlikely.
Healthier sources of fat for a vegan child
Very young children need slightly healthier fats in their diet than their parents. Soy products, avocados, and nut butter include healthier sources of fat.
Parents will want to make sure that their child’s diet includes a regular source of vitamin B-12 which is necessary for healthy nerve and blood function.
Vitamin B-12 is abundant in many commercial grains, fortified soy and rice milks, and nutritional yeast.
Growing children also need iron in a variety of beans and green leafy vegetables.
When combined with vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, the absorption of iron is enhanced.
A vegetarian or vegan diet can meet the needs of the child if it is rich in energy, balanced, and varied.
The enriched soy beverage is suitable for children from the age of 1 year, provided that they offer energy-rich foods with each meal.
Disclaimer: Consulting a nutritionist helps to ensure that the vegetarian or vegan diet offered to the child is balanced and to check the need to take supplements.
Resources and References
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- FRANCE MEDIA AGENCY. “Arsenic in rice associated with genetic damage”, La Presse, July 22, 2013. www.lapresse.ca
- AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS. FDA concludes the study of arsenic in rice products; no dietary changes recommended. September 2013. www.aappublications.org
- EXTENSO. Vegetarianism. www.extenso.org
- VEGETABLE NEARBY. Nutrition blog. Lavegedacote.com
- LEROUX, Rémi. “Arsenic: does rice poison you?” », Protégez-Vous , July 11, 2013. www.protegez-vous.ca
- DIETITIANS OF CANADA. What you need to know to help a vegetarian child grow up healthy. November 2018. www.unlockfood.ca
- DIETITIANS OF CANADA. What You Need to Know About Planning a Healthy Vegetarian
- Diet. October 2018. www.unlockfood.ca
- DIETITIANS OF CANADA. What you need to know about vegan diets. June 2015.
- MELINA, Vesanto, and others. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Vegetarian Diets”, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 116, no 12, December 2016, p. 1970-1980.
- PSYCHOMEDIA. Rice contains too much arsenic for children, according to the Danish authorities. May 19, 2013. www.psychomedia.qc.ca
- HEALTH CANADA. Health Canada’s proposal to add maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in polished (white) and husked (brown) rice to the List of Contaminants and Other
- Adulterants in Food. June 2019. www.canada.ca
- CANADIAN PEDIATRIC SOCIETY. Caring for our children. Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. January 2017. www.careforkids.cps.ca
- UNDARK. FDA Issues Warning on Arsenic in Infant Rice Cereal. April 2016. undark.org