Eat: Vegan Toddler’s Essential Nutrients

This post is about vegan options for your kids should you want to explore it. I do not recommend turning your kids vegan all of a sudden however. It’s important to be ready with information and introduce it little by little. Be ready to put up the dedication and do all the work that is meeting their growing needs in a plant-based diet. Transitions like these take years and sometimes this veganism trend doesnt work for everyone. It took me 6 years to learn how, why or why not and for how long this “diet” can work.

Already being vegan for a few years before my first pregnancy with my son, I knew he would do well with this diet because my health was optimal waaay before he was but I just a thought. When my son turned about a year old and was having more foods and less breast milk, it was crucial for me to tackle all the key nutrients in his plate (and smoothie cup). So here we share what we’ve been tackling since. Mom and dad should try this too and lead by example.

Feeding Vegan Kids by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD From Simply Vegan 5th Edition

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important prehormone that is involved in many metabolic processes, bone density development and immune system endurance. Plant-based vitamin D is known as Vitamin D2.

Sun– Skip the supplements lady, vitamin D is readily available and also free through the sun. Taking 15 mins of sun in early morning (9am) once a day every day on your kid’s back is a good start, but do it. Alternatively 30 mins of sun on their head twice a week sans hat.

Mushrooms– Raw cut portobellos, shiitake, button and mitake mushrooms are a fun snack and with a good source of Vitamin D2. Bonus points: place them in the sun gills up for a few hours make the mushroom absorb massive amounts of vitamin D, read more here.

Vitamin B’s

These vitamins are easily found in animal-based products and because of this reason, vitamin b consumption is controvesial topic about veganism. Luckily for us these vitamins are available in plants too! This is something you gotta put a lot of effort into and start introducing little by little. You do not want to drop your kid’s vitamin B’s suddenly! Low Vitamin B12 for instance is linked to anemia, low energy and depression.

Molasses: One tablespoon every other day or a table spoon on oatmeal or sweet quinoa. My kid loves this like candy. Not at first, but after introducing it to him constantly and little by little, it became a NORMAL thing to eat. This was also the norm at home when I was growing up and I still take it today.

Spirulina: One teaspoon in juice or smoothie every other day or more often. Spirulina is derived of algae, so proceed with caution, few people are VERY sensitive (even allergic) to the high concentration of chlorophyll in them and too much of this could cause diarrhea or itchiness in the mouth. Everyone tells you to take it, but do your research first.

Lucuma: Half a teaspoon for my kid on a smoothie every other day. Peruvian fruit in powder form. Lucuma contains calcium, vitamin b3, niacin (part of the group of vitamin b3 complex) iron and zinc. And it’s also a natural sweetener on smoothies, yogurts and vegan ice creams!

Nutritional Yeast: Nootch- for your crunchy friends. A flakey powder that is usually sprinkled in cooked and salty food such as: broccoli, macaroni (used as cheese substitute btw) or over avocado toast, etc. Nootch is a form of fermented molasses. It might be an acquired taste, so I suggest introducing little by little until it’s a ordinary condiment in your kid’s life.

Iron

Similar to above, iron is found in Spirulina, lucuma and molasses. Additionally there are other great plant-based sources.

Moringa: One teaspoon on smoothie as often as possible. You can directly add leaves to a salad or buy in powder form. Perfect for iron deficiency and vegan diets. Also packed with other essential nutrients like calcium and event protein!

Veggies: Iron is also found in beets, spinach and broccoli and can meet your kid’s demand of iron if eaten in large amounts or considerable portions, daily. Intense, huh?

CONSIDER: Pairing vitamins correctly is important. Iron should be taken with vitamin c foods for maximum absorbtion  BUT avoid taking calcium at the same time in this case as well. Vitamin d is best absorbed with calcium instead. Some vitamins are water soluble and some are fat soluble, like vitamin D. Learn more about vitamin pairing here.

Supplement: Some people (a lot actually) and even kids, depending on their development and a billion other factors, cannot absorb iron properly (Iron deficiency anemia). A good iron supplement that I do recommend and is easy to take is called Floradix, mixed with prune juice.

Lentils and Black Beans: Iron is also available in lentils and black beans, but hold up one second. All grains and legumes have phytic acid that destroys your teeth enamel and decalcifies bones because it inhibits mineral absorption. Newbie grain-based vegans won’t see the effect of for the next 5-7 years. Most vegans live off of arroz con frijoles and they don’t know the damage this does in the long run. What is the option? Sprout them. Or at least leave in water for 4+ hrs before cooking. That’s for all grains, btw, including quinoa.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies

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Keep in mind as well, veganism isn’t for everyone but it sure is worth it. Try adopting a less animal-based diet and more plant-based diet little by little- I cant stress that enough. It wont do you or your kids any good to suddenly deplete the sources of main nutrients that our very DNA is based on. I did it cold turkey at first and I am now seeing how this abrupt decision affects me today. It affects weight gain and makes weight loss so hard for some.. there are tooth deficiencies (this one is evident early on) and there are skin and joint problems.

Consult with your nutritionist for personal doses and recommended frequency of the foods mentioned above. In my experience physicians or gastroenterologist have failed to give advise on this. Again, consult a nutritionist. Not a GI, not a family doctor.

More nutrition posts coming soon- this one got long af.

Thanks for reading and share your vegan, non vegan thoughts etc.