We all know young children can be picky, and feeding them a dairy-free diet may seem restrictive at first. However, there is immense variety in plant-based foods in terms of tastes, textures, and essential nutrients. Give your child a nutritional boost and expand their palette early on by raising them dairy-free. We asked two moms to show us how it’s done.
Meet the Moms
Manon Bayard is the Senior Director of Operations at Switch4Good and a mom of three-year-old Rhys.
Crissandra (Angel) Hall is a mom of four ranging from kinder to young adult! She’s a Southern California-based nurse temporarily working the frontlines in New York. Her youngest three are incredible athletes and run the @dzvegankidathletes Instagram account. Give them a follow!
Time to eat!
Manon & Rhys: Dairy-Free in a Day
Now that he’s a bit older, Rhys’ day can incorporate a number of different foods. Before launching into it, I have to say that he does not go a day without his vitamins. It’s not because he’s plant-based—a lot of kids have vitamin deficiencies and these are the most common ones. Rhys gets three every day that are pediatrician-approved and vegan. These include Carlson Super Daily D3, NovaFerrum Multivitamin with Iron for Infants and Toddlers, and Deva Nutrition Vegan Liquid DHA EPA Herbal Supplement, Lemon Flavor.
Breakfast is usually oatmeal with almond milk topped with flax seeds, walnuts, and maple syrup. I also put strawberries on the side or sliced banana with peanut butter. Other mornings he’ll have avocado toast made with Dave’s Killer bread (I love the nutritional value per slice for a growing kiddo!). He likes me to sprinkle it with homemade non-dairy parmesan cheese—we call it magic dust in our house because it makes Rhys more willing to try it.
Lunch is anything from a PBJ to a bowl of udon soup and a side of carrots, cucumbers, and ranch dressing. He’s also a fan of tortillas with beans, rice, and guacamole.
Rhys loves vegan sushi and Thai food. He’ll also happily dig into pho soup or a dairy-free quesadilla. On lazy nights, he’ll enjoy a flatbread and some Gardein nuggets with guacamole or edamame-based spaghetti with spinach or alfredo sauce.
Angel, Danielle, Danaé, and Danya: Dairy-Free in a Day
Smoothies are a great way of introducing fruits and veggies to toddlers. It is also a way to make mealtime a fun experience because toddlers love to help. Even as they grew older, I always involved my kids when I juiced or made protein shakes for them. If we weren’t having a smoothie, I’d make the girls oatmeal with almond or coconut milk. I always added fresh fruits, slivered almonds, nutritional yeast, flax seeds, and blended sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds (it’s best to blend nuts and seeds as they can be a choking hazard for toddlers. A small coffee grinder works really well for this). Again, toddlers love pushing buttons so I always let them push down on the coffee grinder—it makes them feel pretty independent and they feel like they’re making their own breakfast.
For a mid-morning snack, I’d give the girls either fruit, healthy chips, or veggies like celery, carrots, and snap peas with hummus. Those are great snacks for adults, too!
To this day, lunch is usually a leafy green salad with my girls’ favorite veggies like baby tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli. Adding dried fruits and slivered nuts are always fun for toddlers as well—you chop the veggies and let the kids sprinkle on the toppings.
Dinner is where variety comes in! Many of our meals would incorporate sweet potatoes, protein pasta, wild rice, veggies, lentils, chickpeas, and/or oyster mushrooms. Sometimes I would give them a treat such as vegan pizza, vegan chicken nuggets, or vegan Italian sausages. Again, no matter their age, every kid loves putting a pizza together!
Empowering Healthy Habits
I’ve learned that whatever you teach a child from a very young age is what they will take with them through life. Danya who is now 10 years old is a competitive gymnast and loves to make her own shakes before she goes to train. She also loves to cook healthy meals for her sisters and me. Danaé loves making raw collard green wraps with raw nutmeat, veggies, fruit, and avocados. Healthy eating is simple and fun. We often complicate it or think it’s too time-consuming. As parents, we can learn to budget time just as we budget money. It’s a small sacrifice to make for the biggest reward of having amazing healthy kids!
Photo credit: DZ Vegan Kids