Raising a Vegan Baby or Toddler
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Veganism has been around for a long, long time. However, as plant-based diets are hitting the mainstream with more and more enthusiasm, new questions have arisen on raising children on a vegan diet.
What is veganism:
Just so we are all on the same page, veganism is a type of lifestyle that practices abstaining from the use of animal products; especially within the diet.
Dietary Vegans: do not eat meat, eggs, dairy or any other products derived from animals (including foods like honey).
Ethical Vegans: follow a vegan diet, but also extend this philosophy to other areas of their lives and don't use animal products (or products tested on animals).
Veganism focuses on a plant-based diet such as bread, cereals, grains, legumes, soy, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables to meet their needs. A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. There are also important environmental and social benefits to a vegan diet.
A common question is: should I be raising my baby and toddler vegan?
This is a question parents will have to answer for their family. A move to a vegan diet doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. You can always start with a plant-based diet and then add steps towards your ultimate goal of vegan if that is what is best for your family. It is important to monitor your child's growth during this process to ensure that they are gaining weight and meeting energy requirements for growth. I would also suggest following up with a Registered Dietitian to make sure your little one is getting all the nutrition they need during this period of rapid growth and development!
Here are some key tips about raising healthy babies and toddlers:
Before 6 months: your baby only needs breastmilk or a soy-based infant formula (if you are not breastfeeding). In addition, a supplement of 400 IU vitamin D supplement every day.
By about 6 months of age: your baby will continue to need breast milk (or formula). During this stage iron stores are decreasing, so it is time to introduce iron-rich solid foods! Try ground nuts/seeds or nut/seed butters, avocado, soft breads, beans, peas, legumes, tofu, or sweet potatoes. You can also try adding iron-fortified infant cereals to different recipes such as muffins or pancakes.
By 1 year of age: work towards feeding your child 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day. Babies and toddlers have small tummies and high needs for energy. Use higher fat foods such as avocado, nuts/seeds, dips and spreads, and added fat to help them meet their needs for energy.
For toddlers: include at least 3-4 foods out of the 4 food groups at a meal and 2-3 snacks
*Before 2 years of age: plant-based, milk-type beverages such as almond milk or soy milk are not recommended. They do not have enough nutrition to meet the needs of your growing baby. Continue with the soy-based formula until age 2.
If you’ve decided to make the move to a vegan diet for you baby or toddler,
here are some key nutrients to be aware of.