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
Her Daily Meals as a Toddler
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!