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
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:
- Edensoy Extra (contains B-12)
- Canned garbanzo beans
- Barbara's O's cereal
- Barbara's potato flakes
- Mori-Nu tofu
- Canned black olives
- Nutritional yeast flakes
- Soy sauce
- Amaranth graham crackers
- Brown rice
- Olive oil
- Baked corn chips
- Balsamic vinegar
- Dijon mustard
Freezer or Fridge
- Frozen blueberries
- Frozen chapatis
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain bagels
- Cooked brown rice
- Maple syrup
- Waterpack tofu
- Peas in the pod
- Tahini or almond butter
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:
- Instant eats:
- Fresh apple, pear, banana, avocado,
- frozen blueberries
- Cold brown rice (precooked and sitting in fridge)
- Barbara's O's (dry or in soymilk)
- Black olives from the can
- Amaranth graham crackers (made by Health Valley;. don't get the fat-free
- version, it contains dairy.)
- Fresh peas in the pod
- Avocado smeared on bread
- Chunks of plain, water-packed tofu
- Corn chips with mashed avoca-do for dipping
- 5 minutes or less to prepare:
- Green potatoes
- Chapati roll-ups
- Quick-browned tofu
- Steamed broccoli over rice
- Bagel with tofu spread
- Nut butters on rice cakes or
I was looking for a way to make kale palatable to my toddler, who loves
potatoes, when I stumbled upon this.
1/2 cup chopped kale or broccoli
1/2 cup water
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup Edensoy Extra (soymilk)
Barbara's mashed potato flakes
In small saucepan combine kale, water, and salt and boil briefly until
kale turns bright green. Quickly pour entire contents of saucepan into
blender, put on lid and blend on high until you have green liquid with
no large fragments of kale.
Return entire contents of blender to saucepan, add soymilk, oil, and potato
flakes and stir until consistency of mashed potatoes.
Total calories per serving: 68
Fat: 3 grams
A quick way to make tofu versatile and delicious for your toddler.
4 slices of firm tofu (2"x 4"x 1/2")
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Heat oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Quickly add and turn
each piece of tofu to lightly coat both sides with oil. Cook tofu, turning
frequently, until barely brown on both sides.
Mix soy sauce and water in a cup and then add all at once to skillet. Continue
turning tofu until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let cool.
Cut tofu into little cubes and serve as finger food, or serve on sandwiches
with mustard and lettuce.
Total calories per serving: 68
Fat: 5 grams
(Makes 6 snack-sized servings)
A great finger food.
1 package chapatis (Indian flat bread)
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
One 101/4-ounce package firm Mori-Nu tofu
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 medium carrots, grated
Chopped green onions (optional)
Place all ingredients except carrots, onions, and chapatis in blender and
blend on high until smooth. Lay one chapati out flat, and cover thinly
(like spreading jam) with tofu mixture.
Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the carrots on the left half and about
2 teaspoons of the onions (if using) on top of carrots. Roll up from left
to right to form a long cylinder and slice into about 8 pieces. Repeat
until all chapatis are used.
Total calories per serving: 240
Fat: 5 grams
Tofu bagel spread
Nice mild, slightly sweet spread for toddlers.
1/4 cup firm tofu that has been pressed in a towel for a moment, and then
squashed into a 1/4 cup
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
Mash all ingredients with a fork until smooth; smear on bagel.
Total calories per serving: 14
Fat: 1 gram
Feeding a toddler a minimally processed, vegan diet is easy once you know
some quick and easy things to prepare. The trick to having them love this
food is to set the example yourself, and just as important, have no other
food choices available. Limit the choices that you offer at each meal or
snack (too many choices can overwhelm them, and they may actually become
pickier), but over the course of the day offer a good variety. Make meals
fun, and full of love, and you will be giving your child a terrific start
The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the
complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine.
Anyone wanting to see everything should
subscribe to the magazine.
Converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman
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