One of the most frequent things we get asked is helping with kids eating & nutrition ideas. If this is totally out of your experience, there are many ways you can still help new parents to build their knowledge and confidence, and your own:
- Help them to explore the options here, such as our detailed advice on Introducing Solid Food
- Suggest they get in touch with one of our family contacts
- Encourage them to get hold of a good book or two on this, such as Feeding your vegan infant - with confidence and Raising Vegetarian Children.
Baby's first foods
Any parent finds introducing a kid to solid food a bit of a journey into the unknown. There's no need to start trying until the baby is at least 6 months old. Even then it's often much more about exploring tastes and textures than quantity, so be lead by your baby. Particularly breast milk is great to keep going with as long as you and your child feel comfortable with, even when they've moved almost completely onto solid food.
Start serving water when you serve food. It's important for a kid to learn to enjoy water at an early age. Before they are crawling use cooled boiled water, after that tap water will do. Make juices a rarity and always dilute them, and avoid squash.
Use the books mentioned above to help you explore foods with your baby & toddler. Simple natural foods are great.
Simple foods which you can start your baby on
- banana - this is the most handy baby food ever. They can suck it, or you mash it
- organic dried apricots - great for baby to suck on - get the moistest kind and open them up so baby can get nice and sticky with the soft inside. Be there to slap their back if they get it caught in their throat, though this is rare - they just play at sucking usually. These are good for iron.
- ripe pear - soft pears melt in the mouth as thin slices. You can peal them, but it's good to get babies used to dealing with funny bits like skin - they can pull them out of their mouths and play with them.
- avocado - soft avocado mashed up is great, but a bit rich for many babies, so you can dilute it with another pureed fruit or vegetable - banana being surprisingly popular for this.
- frozen peas - quickly steam these and mash or puree them
- pureed vegetables and fruit, either steamed or raw, depending on the type
- steamed vegetables to suck on and explore finger food and texture with, or pureed or mashed to eat with spoon or fingers
Once they've had a couple of months on fruit and veg, try soft cooked lentils, or if in a hurry mash up some unsalted tinned beans. Biona don't tend to salt their tinned beans, and butter beans, haricot, kidney and mixed beans all work well.
Useful kitchen equipment
- a hand blender - you'll wonder how you ever did without one. Invest in one that comes with a grinder and liquidizer too, and you'll be sorted for doing things from grinding flax seeds to making smoothies.
- a steamer - either for the hob or an electric one (particularly good if you have a green electricity supplier, and one with a timer helps you to avoid over-cooking). Steaming veg is far more healthy than boiling.
- a waterproof or washable mat to put on the floor under your child's seat - this lets you let them explore their food in more ways than just eating it. This is important in learning to love food.
Off-the-shelf prepared baby foods
It's great if your baby can have home made food and share it with you. However, for those emergencies and travelling it's handy to know about off-the-shelf options.
Although no baby is recommended to have animal products before 6 months, it's amazing how many early baby foods contain them, particularly dairy. However, there have been some recent improvements on this, particularly in the organic baby food sector. Try to stick to fruit and veg rather than grains when your baby is completely new to solid food.
- New out are Ella's Organic Kitchen baby foods. These have expanded the range and interest of plant-based first foods available on the market. They contain 100% organic fruit and veg, come in screw-top slim sachets which slip into any bag, and don't need to be chilled until opened. They are ideal early foods.
- Babynat - make a good variety of organic plant-based baby food in jars - before Ella's came along they had perhaps the best range.
- Baby Organix are tops with their baby rice, which comes plain or in lovely flavours and is really easy to make up and loved by most babies ready for food.
- Clearspring make some lovely 100% fruit organic purees in little tubs. These are not labeled up as baby foods, but they work well for the youngest to the oldest people who enjoy fruit.
- Rice cakes - you don't need to buy the baby ones, any which are salt-free will do - just break them up small. Thin slice ones are good for younger babies.
Older baby & toddler food
Things get much more interesting as baby gets older. It is even more important at this point to share meals and food, so they know it's okay by you eating it, as well as meals being a positive social experience for them. They also love the idea that they are stealing your food, so make them think they are if you like, as a sort of game. Let them explore with their fingers and mess. A plastic mat for the floor under their chair is a great investment.
Harder to digest products like soya, wheat and nuts can be brought in (unless there is a known allergy in near family) as baby comes up to about 1 year old. You can also start to use high quality cold-pressed oils, such as olive, avocado and hempseed oil.
Simple foods which you can feed an older baby or toddler
As your child develops taste and teeth, they will have changing preferences. Keep on trying things again in later weeks, even if they strongly rejected them before. Recognise that if you have sharp front teeth but no molars for grinding, you might go off hard foods for a while (before babies have front teeth they can in fact do some grinding with gums), though they still might like them for teething with, especially carrot sticks.
- cubes of tofu
- nut butters (go for unsalted ones, and avoid if allergies)
- steamed and raw vegetables in sticks, slices and florets
- sprouted lentils and mung beans - jst a few of these and your little one is getting lots of great nutrients. They love the feel and look of these too.
- ground flax seed mixed in with their cereal - just start with a tiny bit and move up to a spoonful - just wonderful for omega 3 fatty acid. You have some too.
- seaweed - get them into it young and they'll always enjoy the taste and get a good source of iodine in the process. Clearspring do a wide variety, including the ever-popular toasted nori in little snack packs
- peas in all forms - frozen, shelled, sugar snap
- anything you are eating, as long as it is not too spicey for them or very salty. Mash it if necessary, but try to get them used to textures and finger food as soon as possible.
off the shelf quick fixes
- baked beans - go for a natural variety like WholeEarth, when the sweetness is from apple juice and the salt level is lower.
- hummus - too garlicy for some kids at first, but most love it.
Don't worry about nutrition for a one-off party - just think about fun food. However, fruit and veg are one of the most popular party foods with all kids, so do include them, especially as they provide lots of pretty colour.
Activeg has a great kids party food page, bursting with ideas, so let this be a reference you give to anyone needing to know what to give a vegan kid at a party - it's also a great reference for people with dairy intolerant children.
- The Organic Baby and Toddler Cookbook is great. It's not quite vegan or even vegetarian, though most dishes are plant-based, and it wonderfully avoids dairy in most recipes. Well worth buying to get ideas from. Feel free to experiment.
Vegan kids food on the web
It's a bit of a myth that children have to eat different food to adults. In fact sharing your food is one of the best ways of them getting used to a varied diet from an early age. However, when they are young, they have a party, or a picky friend has come to visit it's handly to have attractive food ideas.
- Vegan Family website is lovely and full of kid-friendly recipes that have been tried and tested.
- Vegan kids party food right here on ActiVeg
- Simple fun fruit sculpture for parties
- Vegan Lunch Box inspiration - particularly for special events
- Your Vegan Mom blog is lovely with some great recipes for cookies and other tasty things. Enjoy!
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Story posted by on 2006-07-25 10:39:32.
Story last updated by on 2009-07-03 10:47:26.
Veganism is often heralded as a very healthy way to eat. It certainly can be, and has more chance of being so than standard western eating habits. It avoids many of the dangers of omnivorous diets, as well as containing much better quantities of most essential nutrients. However, there are still some key nutrients we need to search out and help other vegans be aware of, to keep us in tip top condition and avoid risks. Then it can be a healthy diet for life for us all.
That's why we developed this key vegan nutrition page for everyone.
Most medicines are tested on animals and many contain animal ingredients. We vegans and vegetarians all have to make our own minds up about the medicines we use, by being well informed and listening to all views.
Widely varying opinions exist on the pros and cons of different medications, particularly vaccinations. These lead to different conclusions from different people, with strong views even amongst professionals on each side, even before you get to the animal welfare issues. We will not pretend to know the efficacy and potential side-effects of drugs here.
Being vegan or vegetarian does not mean you automatically doubt the value of any vaccination and western medicine per se, any more than it means you will believe in every alternative that comes along. This is a separate consideration.
We have a growing set of articles on common vegan issues for parents. Do contact us if you have anything to add to the articles we already have or any feedback - we'd love to hear from you!
There are some enterprising vegans out there wanting to make and sell lovely products. ActiVeg claims no great knowledge about setting up businesses, so always get professional advice and talk to others who have done similar. However, here are a few ideas to consider to get you going. Feel free to add your experiences and comments below.
This document highlights the changes made to LVW when it matured into ActiVeg Network
There are many animal products in food production and cooking used for their particular structural or chemical characteristics, which often have good animal-free alternatives.
This article will help manufacturers consider alternatives to animal products so as to increase their market share, by improving food choice for religious and food intollerance groups, without exiting the food's main market, as well as raising awareness of both the animal-based products and equivalents from plants, minerals and synthetic compounds.
What works for me to solve every day maladies, or at least lighten them. Check with a doctor and all that jazz.