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vegan baby food, is that possible?

Updated: May 5, 2022

It's not a short term diet. It's a long term lifestyle change

Admittedly, this is a very sensitive topic. The vegan diet for babies and children is not (yet) publicly accepted. It regularly hits the headlines, causing fear and uncertainty. Yet we are talking about a small percentage of cases compared to the amount of people who live vegan. Also, these headlines are sought after. Yet nutrient coverage is important in any diet. A diet that includes meat and dairy does not automatically mean nutrient coverage. Even mixed dieters suffer from iron deficiency or have too little vitamin B12, to name two. The body is a complex organization. It forgives us a lot and has developed many mechanisms to corral our malnutrition. But when it's too much, it's too much. One thing is clear, though:


Raw foods must be included in any diet

a lot of greens | raw | organic | delicious


Let's get one thing out of the way - no matter what topic I write or talk about with my counterpart, the "all or nothing" discussion always comes up. I'm not a fan of that. Not when it causes a sense of stress. It's the mix that makes the difference. Intuitive handling is the key to success. So also here. The vegan diet from the beginning, does not have to be implemented 100% from day 1, if it overwhelms the parents. A step by step introduction is absolutely fine. As it is also fine to call yourself a flexetarian. There is no one way, only your way. And most importantly, confront our children with the taste of vegetables and fruits from the very beginning is the best gift we can give for them. Not only that, it will also benefits from the numerous health-promoting enzymes that uncooked food has in store.


What are you learning here today? I'll talk about BLW (Baby Led Wining), as well as introductory steps and you get a few recipe ideas. Finally, learn something new about the underestimated importance of enzymes.


 

Overview

Jump directly to the topic that arouses your interest.


ABOUT US ENZYMES STARTER TIPS



THE FIRST FOOD


 

About us

My two children were fed differently. The first child was weaned early and was subsequently fed formula milk. A few years passed between the first and second child and I was certified as a nutritionist. Thus, my second daughter benefited from a completely different knowledge than I could have given to my first. The second daughter was breastfed for 7 months, only getting formula-milk when she was in daddy's care. Otherwise I fed her with (besides the mother's milk) homemade vegan milk with alternating ingredients. In addition, she was already interested in our food at 3.5 months. Most probably because she observed her big sister attentively. It was unavoidable and she sat with us at the table and tasted through one or the other food already. I knew it was way too early, yet it could not be avoided. She screamed and cried and calmed down only when she sat with us at the table and was allowed to hold a cucumber in her hand. It made no difference if I breastfed her shortly before, she had to be there. Breastfeeding at the dinner table didn't work either, because she constantly turned her head towards the table.

And so we adopted BLW (baby led wining). At that time I did not know the term. It just kind of happened intuitively.

BLW has its advantages when the child is open to it. It deals with the food, already recognizes its shapes, colors and the corresponding taste. It will be more open to unpeeled food when it gets older. What it does not replace, however, is nutrient coverage. BLW is unlikely to meet a baby's daily nutrient needs. Rather, it is a supplement to breast milk or formula milk or baby food.

Both of my girls are healthy, although they had very large different upbringings with nutrition. They are unfortunately both not as open minded to healthy food (veggies, especially cooked, healthy carbs...) as I would like, however I also see that they are more open minded than other kids. But very interesting though is their love to raw vegetables. They always get some before the main meal and they love it.

There are three implementation methods that are crucial for me and that I'd like to share with you today:

a) be and remain a good role model

b) encourage and take into account the children's intuition

c) assertiveness


By being assertive, I mean that I am not willing to prepare several meals at the same time. There is one dish, if you don't like it, get up and make your own. That fact however, makes the offer suddenly good enough :) And it won't hurt them. In contrary, they will in time learn to love more and more food products, because when you taste something over and over again, we get used to that taste and learn to like it. At least, that's what happened to me with beetroot. I tasted it regularly and never liked it. Suddenly, at the age of 25, I began not only to like it, but to love it. It is quite possible that children confront us with longer periods of dislike. To this I say: "Grit your teeth and get to it". Therefore, the first 3 years of life are quite decisive. This is where children get to know the world of food and are shaped by it for later life. It is not uncommon that children, as soon as they are grown up, revert to old habits and the world of food opens up for them again. Just like mommy and daddy's example.


 

But why does it have to be raw?

Nutrient coverage through varied foods is one thing. But the other is the integration of raw foods. The term "raw" is used in nutrition when the food is uncooked or heated to no warmer than 42 degrees Celsius. When heated above 42 degrees Celsius, the nutrient content of vitamins and minerals is continually reduced. The list goes on, but in this article I focus on the enzymes that are destroyed when heated above 42 degrees Celsius.

What makes enzymes so important, you ask? Well, without enzymes, neither the vitamins nor the minerals can do their jobs.

There are a number of types of enzymes, and for our little ones the growth-enzymes are particularly relevant. No less important, however, are all the other enzymes that support our metabolism, the work of our organs, digestion, the brain.... For us adults, firm skin is a powerful argument, because enzymes counteract the ageing process. This is because they are responsible for cell repair and cell regeneration. The older we get, the more we need to supply them through our diet. I could continue the argument for being pro-enzymes, but I think the ones mentioned are already strong enough.


Otherwise, you might also be interested in my article about cooked foods.

 

First steps

Only spoons, not jars

Introducing baby's first food takes patience. The change that the baby is now experiencing is drastic and formative. In addition, the digestive tract is now really challenged. It makes no difference whether the baby is ready for this on its own or whether the timing is chosen by the parents, this change takes time. In this respect, I recommend that the first steps of complementary feeding should not be started in jars, but spoonfuls. A spoonful here and there and slowly increase. Always try to strengthen the child's intuition and take it into account. This can be achieved by observing the baby's reaction. Is he happy? What expression does it have? Does it like it, or not? This time is also a wonderful way to get to know each other better.


Variety

For me, a healthy diet includes variety. Only variety provides us with all the necessary nutrients. However, this only becomes important once the food-introduction period is over and the baby has gotten used to the diet. Hence, in the first few months, mono food is very important. On the one hand, in order to be able to determine and assign allergies and intolerances, and on the other hand, to give the digestive tract time to adjust. In practice, this means that a newly introduced food should be given as mono food 2-3 times before it is mixed with known other foods. This according to the recommendation of the SGE (Swiss Society for Nutrition). In the beginning I even stuck to one menu per week. It facilitated the purchase, the planning and the implementation so much easier for a sleepless mom.


Importance of quality

"Only the best for our children!"

This also applies to the quality of the food. Including any baby food, too. But it becomes especially important when the food is consumed raw. That's why I strongly recommend buying organic quality food. At a minimum. I reach for Demeter products whenever possible or go directly to the farmer in the neighborhood I know.

Another not insignificant tip is to always serve raw vegetables and fruits freshly cut. The longer it is stored or left cut, the more vitamins and enzymes are lost.


Timing

The SGE recommends starting complementary feeding at the earliest from the 4th month and at the latest in the 6th month of life. The first baby food should be minutely pureed so that it is completely free of pieces. It does not matter so much whether the first meal is a fruit or vegetable porridge. Just start with the food that gives you the most pleasure. However, it will prove beneficial, if the first porridge is not introduced when the baby is particularly hungry. It will be too impatient for spoon feeding. It is best to schedule the first trial between breastfed meals.


 

Breast milk - formula milk - homemade milk

Important for me was not to feed my child with (or only with very little) formula milk after breastfeeding. This does not mean that I am against formula milk. For many moms, it's a blessing. But for me, it wasn't right and I decided to introduce homemade milk. I used the following variations:

  • Cashew milk

  • Hemp seed milk

  • Oat milk

  • Almond milk (the quick variation with almond paste).

Here, the first two are the more straightforward compared to the latter two. The great thing is, it can be prepared much faster than the formula milk:

add ingredients | mix it | done

The last two have yet to be filtered with a nut bag or strainer. An extra step that I didn't always have the energy for. Still, variety in homemade milk is hugely important in early infancy. I changed the milk, as I did the porridge in the beginning, weekly. Later then every 3-4 days. That sounds like a huge effort, but actually it becomes a new routine quite quickly.


I resort to the preparation form of homemade milk, which is actually faster and less complicated to prepare than formula milk. Because for the homemade milk, you just throw the ingredients in the blender and voila, done. For formula milk, you first need to temper the water and count out the powder with a measuring spoon. Often people forget about the hot water and don't think about it again until it's too cold. All no issue for homemade milk.


Now you're probably asking yourself,: "But I'm hardly covering the nutritional need with homemade milk, don't I?" Correct. But there's a huge variety of delicious, nutrient-rich baby food recipes that complement a daily baby's diet. I'm happy to share a few recipe ideas to get you started.

 

MILK RECIPES

Nuts are ideally soaked overnight and rinsed in the morning. The water is preferably a filtered water. All ingredients in organic quality. Minimum. Soaking nuts has the advantage of breaking down phytic acid (a secondary plant compound). The phytic acid blocks our enzymes pepsin & trypsin (break down our protein), which is why we then have a harder time digesting the food.

Finally, note that a handful of nuts per day is very healthy. However, too much of nuts per day are pro-inflammatory.


Cashew milk

1 handfull Cashews | 500ml water | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


Hempseeds milk

50g hempseeds | 500ml water | 1 date | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


Almond milk

100g almonds | 500ml water | mix it | sieve it | bottle it | enjoy

or for the fast option without the sieving step:

2EL almond puree | 500ml water | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


Oat milk

60g oats | 500ml water | 1 date | mix it | sieve it | bottle it | enjoy

 

The first food

As explained above under the heading "timing", SGE recommends a gradual introduction of complementary foods between the 4th and 6th month. I recommend the same. Thus, a newly introduced food should be offered 2-3 times before it is changed. This way, baby's reactions can be more easily detected. Once the mono preparations have been tested through, the fun really begins. Now we can be very creative in putting together porridges.

Sometimes we like it simple and help ourselves to the great variety of baby porridges on the market of the supermarket. It is important to know that there is NO baby food in raw food quality on the market. It is therefore worthwhile to focus on raw porridges at home in order to cover the variety of nutrients in the best possible way. Here are a few ideas for uncooked baby porridges from me.


CEREAL BABY FOOD RECIPES

Nuts are ideally soaked overnight and rinsed in the morning. The water is preferably a filtered water. All ingredients in organic quality. Minimum.


Oat baby food

50g oats | 50ml homemade milk | 1/2 apple | mix it | bottle it | enjoy

in a second step add a little cinnamon.


Sweet chestnut baby food

50g sweet chestnut flour | 50ml homemade milk | 1 mandarine | mix it | bottle it | enjoy

100g of chestnut flour covers the daily calcium requirement of a baby (0-4months). 150g of chestnut flour covers the daily requirement of calcium for babies between 4-12 months).


Buckwheat baby food

40g buckwheat (soaked over night) | 50ml homemade milk | 1 handfull raspberries | mix it | bottle it | enjoy



But what about calcium?

With a calcium value of 100g, the cow's milk provides 120mg of calcium. But the chestnut flour or the almonds bring us over 200mg of calcium. The daily requirement is 220mg (0-4 months) and 330mg (4-12 months). From 1 year, the daily requirement jumps to 600mg/day. In this respect, the calcium is very easy to implement in a vegan diet.


 

BABY FOOD WITH FRUITS

Banana party

Mash one banana with a fork to a pulp. Done.


The local-superfood one

1 apple | 50g wild blueberries | some freshly pressed lemon juice | mix it | bottle it | enjoy

The apple is most convincing with its high content of pectin. A fiber that cleans our digestive tract like a broom. The secondary plant substance quercetin in the apple has an antioxidant effect, as well as the blueberries. Which is why this porridge is a true local power.


The exotic one

50g Papaya | a couple of drops of fresh orange juice | 1/2 banana | mix it | bottle it | enjoy

The papaya is not local. However, from a health point of view, it is extremely rich in enzymes.

 

VEGGIE BABY FOOD RECIPIES

When it comes to vegetables, I see a lot of uncertainty when it comes to raw processing. Zucchini and spinach can be eaten raw without any problems. Also as a baby. If a warm meal is preferred, the porridge can be warmed in a water bath after pureeing. Above 42 degrees C, but the enzymes and some of the vitamins are lost.


The green one

1 handfull spinach | 1/2 sweet potato (steamed) | 1/2 pear | a little fresh lemon juice | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


The veggie-bowl one

1/2 potato (steamed) | 1/4 zucchini | 2 tbsp quinoa (cooked) | 1/2 apple | a pinch of Nori-algae | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


The Italian one

3-4 tomato's | 1/4 red pepper | 2 tsp hempseeds | 1/4 zucchini | 1/2 carrots | a little fresh lemon juice | a pinch of Nori-algae | mix it | bottle it | enjoy


The mix of iron-rich vegetables like spinach combined with vitamin C rich fruits like lemon increases the iron content 3-4 times. The hemp seeds cover a considerable part of omega-3 fatty acids. These can be further supported with en few drops of DHA/EPA rich algae oil. Nori algae is a natural source of iodine and replaces the iodine-containing table salt.


Offering raw food can be continued for the older children who have grown out of the baby food age. I put a bowl full of freshly cut vegetables at each child's table every day before serving the main meal. The children are then hungry enough to devour the starter and they like it so simple the best. Sometimes I complement the vegetable sticks with a homemade raw dip. For me, the dip is the easiest way to sneak in the nutritional variety in a raw form. It's no less difficult to sneak in raw food with sweets. You can find many ideas on my Instagram account.


 

xoxo your good-life coach Claudia 💋

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