It’s no secret that veganism has been gaining popularity in recent years. So, if you’re wondering whether it possible raising a vegan baby, that answer is yes! In this article we will cover all the important points to ensure your baby will thrive on a meat-free, dairy-free diet.
If you have been living a vegan lifestyle, the thought of raising your baby vegan is probably exciting. What’s even better is the fact it is actually healthy for your baby. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics officially deemed a vegan diet healthy for both children and adults as long as you pay extra attention to your baby’s diet to ensure they get all the correct vitamins and nutrients. Just like with any other dietary restriction, it might take practice, trial and error, and patience to raise your baby vegan.
Is It Safe Raising a Vegan Baby?
The short answer, definitely. However, you will need to ensure you are monitoring the nutrients and vitamins that are going into your babies, body as it will be a lot easier for them to have a deficiency on a vegan diet. It is advised to see a nutritionist to ensure your baby is staying as healthy as possible. While all nutrients are important, it’s difficult for young children to receive an adequate amount of nutrients by plant food alone, especially vitamin B12.
During every meal, you should serve an iron-rich food such as Chickpeas, legumes alongside a vitamin C rich food such as strawberries or 100 percent pure orange juice, this vitamin C will boost the iron absorption. It is also important to ensure they are eating calcium-rich foods such as Tofu, broccoli, or kale.
If you have a pickier kid who refuses to eat many plant-based foods, you may need to make exceptions to your vegan diet to be sure that they are meeting their nutrient and calorie needs. The same goes for allergies, if your child is allergic to soy, you may need to opt for dairy milk to get proper levels of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.
Consider breastfeeding longer
It is usually recommended that you breastfeed your baby longer if you plan to raise them to be vegan, breastmilk will provide them with the essential nutrients and vitamins they need. You should also not feed your baby any milk other than breastmilk before the age of 12 months, as they lack a lot of essential nutrients. After 12 months it is safe to move onto plant-based milk and vegan formulas.
When it’s time to give up breastfeeding, wean your child onto soy milk which is fortified with vitamins B12 and D, this will ensure they get all the vitamins they need.
Even when your baby reaches toddlerhood, it’s important to read the labels of any milk you will be feeding them to ensure that there are the correct nutrients and vitamins they need.
Know where you’re going to fall short
As well as Vitamins B12 and D, vegan diets are at risk of deficiency in a few other key nutrients, including iron, zinc, and Omega-3 fatty acids. To ensure that your baby gets enough of these key nutrients, you could give them a vitamin supplement, or choose fortified cereals and juices and other plant-based alternatives.
For instance, to help your baby get the 11 mg of iron and 3 mg of zinc they need each day, a fortified cereal would supply this, you can also consider tofu or beans like chickpeas and kidney beans. Where your baby may be lacking in Omega 3, Walnuts, flax seeds, kale, and chia seeds all offer plant-based versions of Omega 3.
As your baby begins to taste more, it’s recommended to get creative to help introduce your little one to a vegan lifestyle. This might mean making your own baby food at home to introduce a variety of spices and textures to your baby’s palate and keeping in close contact with your pediatrician or nutritionist to ensure your baby gets the nutrients he needs.
Also, try different types of protein, make feeding more fun by incorporating different types of vegan protein, It’s not all about tofu, consider all the various forms of soy. Some forms look and taste similar to ground-meat alternatives. There’s also tempeh, a fermented form of soy, and soy butter. Firm or soft tofu works very well in pasta sauce, where it just absorbs the flavor. It makes pasta and sauce have a better and more complete protein profile.
If you’re looking for an easy vegan snack, that is rich in iron and vitamin C, opt for a glass of pure orange juice with some hummus and carrot sticks. For dinner times you can use lentil noodles, which are a great source of iron, with a tomato-based sauce which will help with the iron absorption.
Just because you’re eating vegan doesn’t mean your child can’t have ‘fun’ foods. For a treat, you can try using non-dairy chocolate dipped fruits, roasted chickpeas, or even corn tortilla chips with guacamole.
Maintain an open mind as baby grows
Your baby won’t be little forever. Growing kids tend to have a mind of their own when it comes to eating. For vegan parents, that may mean making peace with letting their child eat a non-vegan diet until they come around to the idea. They may go through a phase especially as they start interacting with other children where they want to experiment more with foods that they see their friends eating. It can be easier to let them have some of these foods in the meantime to keep the peace.
Just remember, you’ve got time. But you may want to consider how you’ll respond if your child wants to make different food choices in the future. You can only go so far with their free choice as they get older. Just know you have done your best to raise a healthy child. As long as they are happy and healthy, then you should be happy too.
We hope this article will help with your journey raising a healthy vegan baby. If you have any other tips or meal suggestions then please drop a comment below. We love hearing your tips and suggestions.