16 Can I Raise My Tod­dler on a Ve­gan Diet?

Parents (USA) - - Contents - Hol­ley Grainger, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian in Birm­ing­ham, Alabama —Hat­tie Hayes

Def­i­nitely—although you will need to give him some sup­ple­ments and work with his pe­di­a­tri­cian to screen for pos­si­ble de­fi­cien­cies. 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.

At every meal, you should serve an iron-rich food (like legumes, chick­peas, or for­ti­fied break­fast ce­re­als) along with a vi­ta­min C–rich food (such as straw­ber­ries or 100 per­cent pure or for­ti­fied orange juice), which boosts iron ab­sorp­tion. Also make sure he’s eat­ing a wide va­ri­ety of cal­cium-rich plant foods, which could in­clude tofu, broc­coli, kale, and for­ti­fied soy milk.

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 he’s meet­ing his nutri­ent and calo­rie needs. The same goes for al­ler­gies. For ex­am­ple, if your child is al­ler­gic to soy, opt for dairy milk to get proper lev­els of protein, cal­cium, vi­ta­min D, and other nu­tri­ents.

A good op­tion for an after-school snack rich in iron and vi­ta­min C is a glass of for­ti­fied orange juice with hum­mus and car­rot sticks. At din­ner, you could pair lentil noo­dles (a good source of non-heme iron, which is found in plant foods) with a toma­to­based sauce to help boost iron ab­sorp­tion. And just be­cause you’re ve­gan doesn’t mean you have to give up “fun” food. Nondairy choco­late– dipped fruit, roasted chick­peas, gua­camole, and ants on a log make easy and kid-ap­proved treats.

To make sure your child is get­ting all of his nu­tri­ents, talk to a doc­tor or a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian about sup­ple­ments he needs and spe­cific dosage rec­om­men­da­tions. She may rec­om­mend drops, gum­mies, sprays, or dis­solv­able pack­ets.

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