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What My Plant-Based Toddler Eats in a Day

Lately, I’ve been receiving a ton of questions about Baby V’s diet. She’s now 16-months-old (how the time flies!), and while I’m certainly no expert in baby and toddler eating (really, who is? Their tastes change so frequently!), I think that sharing our experiences as parents is so valuable. Today’s post will cover how we introduced Baby V to solid food, what she currently eats as a toddler and I’ll address the question I receive most frequently: Is Baby V vegan?
*The following is not intended as medical or nutritional advice. My intention is simply to share what works for our family! It’s also definitely not meant to be judgmental towards families who consume animal products. Vegans and omnivores alike can all benefit from eating more plants!*
Baby V at 6-months-old!

Is Baby V Vegan?

This is the top question that Ross and I get from friends, family members and blog readers. A lot of people seem to be looking for a scandalous answer, but the simple truth is that V eats what we eat…and we eat vegan food! As she gets older, I plan to explain to her why I choose not to eat animal products (there are so many great resources out there like this cute book) and let her make her own decisions about what she wants to eat.

I certainly hope she’ll want to join me in following a plant-based diet, but I’ll be accepting of her decisions no matter what. I never want her to feel shame around food or feel like she needs to lie to me. I want to do everything I can to help her foster a healthy relationship with food.

Another question I often receive is how I handle other people’s opinions of my family’s plant-based diet. Many people have told me that they have family members who are concerned about the health of their baby or insist that babies need meat or cow’s milk.

Well, I’ve been plant-based for over a decade now so most of the people close to me are more than used to the way I eat, and I’m really fortunate to have a great support system. I actually haven’t received much first hand criticism about Baby V’s diet, but I definitely have been on the received end of uneducated negative comments about how a baby simply will not grow without eating cheese or yogurt or meatballs or whatever that person thinks babies need. When comments like this come my way, I simply say, take a look at us! We’re healthy, Baby V’s pediatrician agrees that she’s healthy and is in complete support of our diet, and Baby V is clearly growing and developing normally.

One of the most important things we did was choose a pediatrician who understands what a plant-based diet actually entails and is supportive of it. It’s 2018, people! There’s so much science-based evidence about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, but somehow many medical professionals still seem to be stuck in the dark ages. When we see our pediatrician, she asks informed questions about V’s diet, like if she’s eating protein-rich foods like lentils, beans and nuts, etc. Having that support has been essential.


 

So she doesn’t drink cow’s milk?

The second most common question I receive is what do we give her instead of cow’s milk? Well, I’m of the opinion that cow’s milk is for baby cows, not baby humans.

At 16 months, Baby V is still breastfeeding and she gets many nutrients that way. The reason that babies and toddlers are given cow’s milk is that it’s an easy way to get calcium, Vitamin D, protein and fat in, but a plant-filled, balanced diet can easily provide all of those nutrients.

Baby V drinks various plant-based milks in a sippy cup (almond is her favorite), and I think it’s become somewhat of a comfort thing as she begins to nurse less and eat more. I make homemade almond milk and also give her vitamin-fortified almond, cashew and coconut milk.


 

Baby V’s First Foods

Seeing the world through my Baby V’s eyes has been one of the most magical, eye-opening experiences…especially when it comes to food! Around the time she turned six months old, Baby V started becoming fascinated with what was on Ross’s and my plates, and we knew she was ready to start trying solid foods.
During the first month, I spent hours and hours reading theories on what a baby‘s first food should be (there are many schools of thought), and much time pureeing bland concoctions that she often refused. Between doing this, breastfeeding her, and cooking for my husband and myself, I felt like I was catering an all-day event, every single day.
Eventually a lightbulb went off in my head- since she’s always the most interested in what we’re eating, shouldn’t she just eat what we eat? There’s a concept called “baby led weaning” which basically means that you introduce your baby to solids by letting them self-feed with finger foods, as opposed to spoon-feeding them purees. The intuitive nature of this method really intrigued me.
Instead of blending and mashing her food at every meal, I started giving Baby V bite-size pieces of soft foods, like sweet potato, banana and avocado, and she immediately loved it. At first, most of the food ended up on the floor, but with more and more practice, her fine motor skills started to improve. Every meal was still a mess, but more is started ending up in her belly and she started getting such a proud look on her face when she finished a meal!
By giving her finger foods, she learned to chew (something that many adults don’t do properly!), and she has control over of the pace of the meal and how much she eats. My hope is that by giving her autonomy over what she eats at a young age, she’ll naturally learn to listen to her body, know when she’s hungry and full, and develop a healthy relationship with food.
The usual mess

Her Daily Meals as a Toddler

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mama, it’s that as soon as you think you have something figured out, the baby will go ahead and switch things up. This applies to her sleep and nap schedule, the toys she likes, the games she thinks are funny and of course, food.
The following is a list of foods that are in Baby V’s usual rotation. Like I said above, she eats what we eat so if we’re having a stew that I’m recipe testing- so is she! I do like to keep things simple with a few staple meals, and the food you see below reflects that.
Breakfast
  • Oatmeal with seasonal fruit, peanut butter and/or bananas- she LOVES peanut butter.
  • Fruity Baked Oatmeal (recipe in my cookbook)- I make a batch, slice them into bars and have breakfast ready for her all week.
  • Smoothies- she loves this green smoothie (without the toppings) and is always happy to drink it from her sippy cup. Smoothies have been the easiest way to get leafy greens into her belly!
  • Yogurt- we love this cashew and this coconut yogurt. Sometimes I’ll blend the yogurt with a little fruit and almond milk and she’ll drink that from her sippy cup.
  • Waffles or pancakes- she loves these Crispy Cornbread Waffles topped with mashed avocado.

Lunch

  • PB & J- like I said before, my girl goes crazy for peanut butter. I try to switch things up for her and use almond butter or tahini and different flavors of fruit preserves or mashed banana.
  • Hummus & avocado sandwich- the only thing she likes more than peanut butter is hummus! It must run in the family.
  • Anything with chickpeas- it’s not just hummus that she loves, but she seems to really love anything made from chickpeas. This Chickpea-Lentil Loaf and these Golden Turmeric Chickpea Fritters have both been big hits with her.
  • Steamed or roasted veggies dipped in hummus or pesto. Baby V definitely gravitates toward sweeter veggies like carrots, sweet potato, turnip, etc., but I keep offering her ones like broccoli, asparagus, etc., to hopefully help her develop a taste for them.
  • Tofu scramble- Baby V really likes the Classic Tofu Scramble from my cookbook.
  • Whatever we’ve got leftover from dinner last night!

Dinner

  • Pasta- like her mama, Baby V loves pasta! We like chickpea or brown rice pasta, and Baby V will usually eat it with any kind of sauce.
  • Sweet Potato Mac n’ Cheese– she can’t quite chew the greens yet so I either blend them into the sauce or leave them out.
  • Chili- I make crockpot chili (but leave out the cayenne pepper) and she LOVES it with cashew sour cream!
  • Blended soup- blended soups have been a great way to sneak extra veggies in. She doesn’t always seem to like the texture of some vegetables, like broccoli or mushrooms, but she’s happy to eat them pureed. Of course, she really likes Hummus Soup.
  • Brown rice and lentils with pesto- this super simple combination always seems to be a hit for her.
  • Veggie burgers- she really like homemade veggie burgers (like the 2 recipes in my cookbook), but I also keep Dr. Praeger’s in the freezer for her as a backup meal.

Snacks

  • Fresh fruit- I don’t think she’s met a piece of fruit she doesn’t like so far.
  • Freeze dried fruit– we’ve done really well with this as a travel snack, especially on airplanes.
  • Fruit strips– this is another on-the-go snack that I’ll often pick up for her when we’re out and about.
  • Rice cakes with almond butter
  • Muffins- I make all sorts of muffins for her and these Pumpkin Spice Muffins may be her favorite (I leave out the walnuts and chocolate chips).
  • Smoothies- like I mentioned in the breakfast section, my girl really loves smoothies and I’ll often make one for her as an afternoon snack.

I also want to note that Baby V is as fickle as the next toddler. Some days it seems like she’s a bottomless pit and eats more food than I do, and other days she refuses all of her meals and only wants to breastfeed. I try my to stay in tune with what she wants, and not stress or get frustrated if she doesn’t want to eat. Every day is truly different with her!


 

I hope this list helped give you some ideas! I’m always looking for new foods for her to try, so please leave a comment with  your toddler’s favorite food below!
And if you have any further questions or things you’d like me to include in a follow up post, please let me know!
Happy as long as she’s got her PB & J

 

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9 Responses to What My Plant-Based Toddler Eats in a Day

  1. Hi. My kids love suchi rice balls (onigiri, but very small) with tsuyu sauce. It is also very easy dish to pack to nursery lunch-box. And: it is developing motor skills as kids use chopsticks.

  2. Our toddlers sound like they have extremely similar tastes – pb and chickpeas FTW! This post was so helpful as I’m trying to make the full plant based conversion and want a few new options I can serve my toddler (who has never cared for meat anyways). Thank you!

  3. I wish I was vegan before having my daughter. We were vegetarian until she was a about 3.5yrs so she has such a taste for cheese now. I’ve never had cows milk in the house but she gets it at school. It’s terribly hard for me to get her (now 8yrs) to eat much of the vegan meals I make.

    • I’m sorry to hear it’s a struggle in your house! I wonder if trying to get her involved in the cooking might make her more interested in eating the food you make?

  4. My nine-year-old vegan son is doing great! He eats a wider variety of food and is more daring than most adults I know. We love the pea protein milk Ripple because it is so high in calcium and protein and so delicious! Our pediatrician is very support of his diet and only recommends a regular B vitamin. They recommend a vegetarian diet to all patients! We have pet chickens, so he does eat eggs on occasion when they choose to leave a gift.

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