I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what I feed my 13-month-old, Alexia. Heck people were even asking me when I was pregnant if she was also going to be a vegetarian, and if so how would she get protein, iron, etc. Well I am very happy to say she is indeed a vegetarian and her annual blood work shows that she is perfectly healthy. This shows, it’s not only possible to give a toddler a great vegetarian diet, I truly believe it’s also helped keep her extremely healthy during her first 13-months. She hasn’t even had so much as a cold! The worse she has had is a runny nose from teething and shots. Oh and she sleeps like a champion. I also think that has a little to do with how well she eats (12 hours a night straight through since she was three weeks old).
So what does my sweet angel eat? The easy answer is almost anything and everything I eat. Actually she probably, in some ways, makes me an even better eater because I always make sure we are having balanced meals (meaning a protein, veggie and often a starch at every meal). Alexia gets her protein and iron from things like dark leafy vegetables. She eats kale, spinach, this week she even had swiss chard and loved it. She also gets protein from beans. Eveything from edamame to white beans to lentils. She loves avocado and guacamole, macaroni and cheese, veggie lo mein, Lightlife Smart Deli, broccoli and zucchini. The list just goes on and on. She is a great eater!
I don’t give her a lot of “sweets”. It’s not that I’m totally against it, I just don’t want her to develop a sweet tooth like her dad and I have. She will have the occasional bite of dessert here and there, but that’s it. Luckily she doesn’t seem to care yet.
Breakfast might be blueberries and multi-grain cheerios.
Lunch could be a Lightlife Smart dog (cut up into tiny diced pieces) and green peas. Oh yes, green peas are her favorite food! It may be because pea puree was the first thing she ever ate. So glad my doctor told me to start her on veggie purees, before fruit. She loves veggies so much more than fruit. I literally can’t give her enough green peas. I use the frozen kind (defrosted and just a little warm). Don’t use the canned peas. The frozen ones are so much more appealing to the eye and the taste buds. You also don’t have to worry about any added salt with the frozen variety.
Dinner might be a pasta I cooked with white beans and swiss chard with olive oil and garlic.
She usually snacks on little crunchy puffs or has a yogurt or apple sauce.
As for milk, I don’t do whole milk. Alexia drinks enriched rice milk and absolutely loves it! One of the best things I heard in a class during culinary school was an argument against drinking cow’s milk. Basically the point is that a cow can weigh up to 1600 pounds. Baby cows drink their mother’s milk in hopes of one day weighing 1600. Do you want your child to weigh that much? No! So why are they drinking whole milk? Of course, the other argument is that the dairy industry is, for the most, awful. The cows are treated horribly by a lot of factory farmers, loaded with hormones, their calves taken from them and just generally miserable. So there are a lot of reasons to avoid cow’s milk.
I will admit that I am vegetarian, not vegan so I do occassionally eat cheese & eggs. I have given Alexia some cheese, yogurt & eggs too. I’d say we are basically 95% vegan (with the last 5% being vegetarian), but I don’t call myself a vegan because of that last 5%. So I’m not perfect, sue me (I know cheese comes from mistreated cows too and that is awful to think about)!
I am proud, though, that Alexia hasn’t had any meat products and hopefully never will. She will, of course, decide when she is old enough what kind of diet she wants. I do think armed with the knowledge she will have had since being born that she will be a lifelong vegetarian. That hopefully means a long, healthy & happy life too!