How to Plan a Vegan Diet for a Toddler

By Jennifer Claerr

  • Overview

    A vegan diet is a healthy diet. However, if not planned properly it can become nutrient deficient, especially for a toddler. Vitamin B12, which is required by the human body, is absent from most plant foods. The only place it occurs naturally in the plant world is in nutritional yeast. If you choose not to feed your toddler nutritional yeast, you will need to take further action to ensure that your toddler gets the nutrients she needs.
    • Step 1

      Examine potential vegan sources of protein for your toddler. For example, try legumes such as beans and lentils. Try smooth nut butters such as cashew and almond. Also include vegan soy products such as soy milk and tofu. If your child is under 12 months of age and you're not breastfeeding, feed her an iron-fortified soy formula. Consult your doctor for the proper feeding amounts.
    • Step 2

      Add whole grains to the child's diet. These may include oatmeal, whole wheat, corn meal, brown rice and whole barley. Avoid highly processed grains such as white bread and white pasta. Instead, look for whole grain versions of these products.

    • Step 3

      Ensure that there is adequate calcium in your toddler's diet. Vegan sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables and tofu. There are also many vegan foods that are fortified with calcium, such as orange juice.
    • Step 4

      Find a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to add to your toddler's diet. When making your selection, go by the four color groups of green, red, orange-yellow and blue-purple. For example, add foods such as peas, green beans, tomatoes, strawberries, oranges, corn, raisins and blueberries to the child's diet to help ensure that she will get adequate nutrition. Also include brown vegetables such as potatoes with the skins on.
    • Step 5

      Contribute healthy fats to the toddler's diet. Vegetables oils such as soy, canola and olive are an excellent source of healthy fats. Fruits such as avocados and vegetables such as olives can also contribute healthy fats to your child's diet. Toddlers need more fat than adults, especially between the ages of 1 and 2. Therefore it's fine to serve fresh fried foods on occasion if your child doesn't have a weight problem. Check vegan foods carefully for trans fat content before buying them. Give coconut milk or oil to provide some saturated fats.
    • Step 6

      Find healthy sugars to use sparingly in sweets and desserts. Use sucanat and brown rice syrup instead of sugar to increase the nutrient content of sweet treats. Avoid refined sugars such as table sugar or fructose. Also avoid honey, which is not vegan.
    • Step 7

      Add nutritional yeast to the child's diet. This will give the child the vitamin B12 her body needs. If the child doesn't like the yeast or if you prefer not to use it, find a vegan vitamin supplement which contains the correct amount of vitamin B12 for your toddler. Also make sure that the supplement has calcium which is sufficient for your toddler's needs. Consider a multi-vitamin to guard against times when your child doesn't eat well.
    • Step 8

      Monitor your child's food likes and dislikes very carefully. Remove foods she doesn't care for and replace them with the foods she craves. Pay special attention to her favorite fruits and vegetables, since these are a primary source of vitamins and minerals.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Tip: Add nutritional yeast slowly, supplementing with fortified foods, to ensure your toddler doesn't have an allergy.
    • Tip: If you have any concerns about putting your child on a vegan diet, check with your doctor or nutritionist before changing it.
    • Tip: Make sure that your toddler gets a checkup once every year.
    • Warning:
    • The information given in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
    • Contact your doctor immediately if your child develops any signs of malnutrition such as weight loss, bleeding gums, fatigue, weakness or slow growth.
    • Avoid giving peanuts and peanut butter to toddlers under 3 years of age.
    • Keep all vitamins, especially those with iron, out of the reach of small children.

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