It’s no wonder that veganism has gained great popularity as many people have started to reexamine their family eating practices as a way to reflect their values, personal health beliefs, and ethics.
Making this transition to veganism as an adult might not come as a surprise to many people but wanting to embark on such a journey with a baby can seem like quite the challenge. Many parents might therefore be likely to have a lot of questions and feel confused on how to start.
In this article, we offer parents a simple guide to raising a vegan baby.
Breastfeeding and Formulas
If you’re adamant about your decision to raise your baby vegan, you might want to consider adding on more months of breastfeeding as vegan babies may need to be breastfed a little longer as a mother’s breast milk is the perfect source of nutrients.
Many parents who give their child a baby formula might choose plant-based options or otherwise dairy-free baby formulas. However, since you want your baby to eat vegan, these formulas cannot label themselves 100% vegan as they contain vitamin D3 derived from sheep’s wool using ultraviolet irradiation.
Choosing a high-quality vegan baby formula can offer parents peace of mind, especially for families with milk allergies or lactose intolerance. In addition, such food and lifestyle options can impact your child’s long-term health, starting as early as infancy.
It’s normal to worry about your child’s diet and nutritional status. Below we’ve gathered information if your child eats plant-based, everything from energy density to protein, minerals, and fatty acids.
If the vegan diet is well composed, contains enriched products, and provides enough energy, it’s completely fine to give to your baby.
Protein and Energy
It’s rarely a problem that children get too little protein since both legumes and whole grains contain protein as well as finished products made from soy, oats, or wheat. However, it can be a little harder for children to get enough energy, because vegetables contain little energy but a lot of fiber. Fiber gives a good feeling of satiety but little energy, so it is important to make sure that the child gets enough energy, i.e. calories.
Give your baby protein-rich alternatives like beans, lentils, peas, tofu and other soy products, vegetable drinks, cooked quinoa, and cereal products, such as bread, pasta, bulgur, and rice.
Many children, even those who eat a mixed diet, get too little polyunsaturated fat. This is especially true for omega-3 fats which are needed for the development of the brain and vision.
This important nutrient is found in oily fish but smart vegan alternatives for small children are ground chia, linseed oil, and hemp seeds.
Children grow fast and have an increased need for iron. It’s therefore essential that they’re given iron-rich foods and foods that make it easier for their small bodies to absorb the iron.
Give your baby foods rich in iron, such as beans, peas, fortified cereals, broccoli, tofu, and kale at least 2 times a day. Vitamin C also gives iron absorption a boost so pair these foods with tomatoes, melon, papaya, or strawberries.
Calcium is needed for the baby’s skeleton and is found mainly in dairy products. Calcium is found in, for example, sesame seeds, almonds, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and legumes, especially in soybeans.
Enriched vegetable drinks also make it easier to ensure that the child gets enough calcium.
Keep an Open Mind
As your baby grows, it will slowly but surely obtain its own eating preferences. Vegan parents might come to a point in their life when they have to make peace and let their children eat a different diet.
The most important thing when it comes to food choices is for the child to gain a good knowledge of what wholesome foods are and that you teach them to have a positive attitude to food.
It may seem obvious that your child should have a diet that goes hand in hand with your ethical ideology but unfortunately, there is no such rule in life.
If you are a vegan family and consume a diet free of animal products, such as meat, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, and so on, there are several good tips to keep in mind.
It’s important to make sure that the diet provides enough energy and is nutritious for everyone in the family, especially for babies who have high energy and nutritional needs. Foods of animal origin that are excluded need to be replaced with nutrient-rich alternatives and, if necessary, supplemented with enriched products and supplements.