• Plantfed Mama

Meal Ideas and Nutrition Tips for a Plant-Based Baby

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

When it comes to babies, every diet and every ‘way of eating’ needs careful planning. Vegans tend to endure a lot more negativity because there have been times when vegan parents have failed to raise healthy children. However, not feeding baby properly comes from neglect and a lack of education. There are far more cases of malnourished omnivore babies, which is why it’s crucial to carefully plan baby’s meals, regardless of dietary or lifestyle preferences. Like adults, children and babies can absolutely thrive on a plant-based diet – the same as my own children. As a mother of two, it breaks my heart when I read about any baby or child being neglected and not cared for properly.

The best time to start feeding baby healthy food is when he is in mama’s womb. When baby is in utero, he begins to store iron in his liver and this iron will last him for his first six months of life. It’s also when baby starts to ‘taste’ different foods. If you want baby to eat vegetables, make sure to eat plenty of vegetables while you’re pregnant.

Once baby starts solids, it’s crucial to feed him nutrient-dense wholefoods. In the early stages, puréed fruit and vegetables while breastfeeding or (clean) formula is substantial. Keep in mind that what mama eats while breastfeeding also impacts babies nutrient intake as well. For example, if mama consumes caffeine while breastfeeding, it lowers the iron content in her breastmilk.

As baby grows he’ll need plenty of nutrients, including protein, fiber, good fats, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins. When baby starts eating solids, it’s important to incorporate good fats with every meal. Good fats are crucial for development and putting on healthy weight, for cardiovascular, joint, brain and gut protection, and good fats help nutrient absorption as they bind to the nutrients in food. When bound to good fats, the nutrients have a higher chance of making it through the stomach and the liver, without being absorbed prematurely. Then the nutrients can be absorbed through the small intestine and transferred into the blood. Also, high fiber foods are typically packed with other nutrients, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

It’s also important to add vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods as this helps to increase iron absorption. And eliminate nutrient inhibitors: fried foods, highly processed foods, refined sugar, and phytic acid are just a few common nutrient inhibitors. Don’t feed baby fried foods, refined sugar, or processed foods, even mock meats. They’re empty calories, and are tough to digest which will compromise baby’s gut health. And if baby’s gut health is compromised, then his immunity is compromised too. To lower the phytic acid content in food, soak all legumes and wholegrains before cooking them. If baby can eat nuts, use activated nuts, nut butter, or soak nuts overnight first. Always opt for organic or pesticide-free where possible, as pesticides are harmful to baby’s growing and developing body.

My son absolutely loves drinking filtered water. When giving water to baby make sure it is filtered and fluoride-free. Naturally occurring fluoride is ‘calcium fluoride.’ This fluoride is naturally found in spring water and soil. The fluorides that are added to tap water are sodium fluoride and silicofluorides, and these fluorides are toxic waste by-products of the phosphate fertilizer and aluminium industries. Calcium is the antidote to fluoride poisoning, and when bound to fluoride, the calcium binds to the fluoride and helps to remove it from the body before it can store in the body and cause harm. With sodium fluoride and silicofluorides, they completely fall apart in water leaving the fluoride behind to store in the body.

Giving wholefoods to baby also helps to increase his nutrient intake, as wholefoods naturally contain a variety of nutrients that help each other do "their jobs." For example, the B-complex vitamins work together to help the absorption of each other: B6 helps the absorption of B12 and vice versa. B9 (folate) helps the absorption of B6 and vice versa. So taking B12 singularly, isn’t the best for absorption. Mushrooms are the only known food that contain all of the B-complex vitamins, and sea moss isn’t far off.

I opt for hemp seeds with most lunches or dinners because they’re a great source of protein, good fats including omega-3, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, some B vitamins including folate, and vitamins A, C and E. Hemp seeds also do not contain phytic acid making these nutrients completely bioavailable. Hemp seeds should be a staple in every plant-based diet or vegan household.

Opt for smoothies over juices as smoothies are wholefoods, while juice has the fiber removed. Fiber is needed to help baby digest the natural sugars in fruit.

As a treat, I also mix cultured nut butter (which is like dairy butter but made from nuts) into baby’s savoury meals. He absolutely loves it, and it adds good fats and extra nutrients.

Buckwheat is also a great staple. It’s a wholefood, and high in protein and fiber, and contains potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, several of the B-vitamins, and vitamin K. Buckwheat contains phytic acid, but it also contains phytase, which is the enzyme that we need to digest phytic acid. This means that buckwheat is much easier to digest and the minerals are more bioavailable than other grains and pseudograins. You can make soaked buckwheat groats into porridge or use buckwheat pasta.

I prefer sourdough because it doesn't contain added yeast and it's fermented; fermented foods are especially good for the gut, and much of the gluten dissipates. Added yeast contributes to candida overgrowing in the body, so it’s important to limit food that contains added yeast. Candida overgrowth is responsible for a plethora of health issues, including nutrient malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. Not all sourdough is created equal. True sourdough is fermented for at least twenty-four hours. Many bakers have shortened the amount of fermenting time and add yeast instead. Always opt for organic and check with your baker to see if yeast has been added.

Don’t be afraid to give baby tofu – especially if you’re struggling to get enough protein and calcium into baby’s diet – just make sure it’s organic and GMO-free. Try not to rely on tofu as baby's only protein source as baby should be eating an array of wholefood. If baby is eating sufficient legumes, hemp seeds, buckwheat, properly prepared wholegrains, nuts, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, giving tofu once or twice per week is plenty.

What about supplements?

Most supplements are made from synthetic vitamins, minerals that are sourced from non-food sources, and concentrated-part-foods. This means that a nutrient is isolated from a food (or non-food) source and then added to a supplement in