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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


May/June 1997
Volume XVI, Number 3

Avoiding the Baby Food Trap

By JoAnn Farb

Check out the recipes!

I don't include much processed food in my own diet, and so I certainly didn't want to feed it to my toddler.

With our lives moving at a fast pace, I knew that I needed to come up with some simple, healthy, toddler-tempting foods if I were to continue raising our daughter Sarina on a vegan diet and still have time for all the other activities that are important to me. Of course, now that shes' nearly two and a half, she eats just about whatever I've prepared for the family, but often she's hungry at other times, or I need something quick and easy to send along with her for a visit to the grandparents. It's funny to think about this now that our eating habits are so well established, but I never considered buying a jar of baby food, although I knew that there were some pure vegetarian choices available. To actually bring a jar into my house and serve it to my baby would have been almost as unlikely as serving her Spam.

Before I share with you how we do feed our two-year-old, let me preface by saying that there is one thing that has made this whole baby-feeding process infinitely easier. After we introduced solid foods to our baby, I continued (and still am) breastfeeding her. Breast milk is the ultimate convenience food. It has given me the peace of mind that regardless of how picky she might be on a particular day, or how little actually gets swallowed, breast milk is filling in the gaps. And while many vegan foods are high-fiber and lowfat and can fill up a toddler's tummy before she has consumed enough calories to meet her needs, breast milk is calorie dense and contains the important fatty acids crucial for brain development. Also, since I make sure that my diet includes reliable sources of vitamin B-12, like nutritional yeast and fortified foods, I am assured that Sarina gets B-12 from nursing.

When introducing new foods to Sarina, who is now struggling to be more independent, I get better results if I don't offer them directly to her. I simply prepare the food for myself, and act totally absorbed in eating it_ignoring her. She almost always comes a-begging. In fact, she once ate about 15 bites of plain, steamed Swiss chard from my bowl, though it was obvious she did not like it (you should have seen her face). Yet she continued to mooch from me because I was so absorbed in eating.

To make food prep easy, I always keep the following staples on hand:


Freezer or Fridge

For some people, veggie burgers and dogs and other meat analogs are acceptable choices to feed their toddlers. I prefer to wait to introduce these foods to her, until we find ourselves needing to cope with peer pressure, or her desire to be more like other kids. At this early age, meat analogs might confuse what is vegan and what is not. For a two-year-old, it is much easier to understand that grains, beans, tofu, fruits, and veggies all come from plants. It is not as easy for them to see that a tofu pup is vegan, while a hot dog is not.

Now that you have the staples on hand, what can you serve that is quick, easy, and healthy? Try some of the following: