The Vegan Way for Babies
Q My one year old son recently had a regular doctor’s check up. Although my wife eats chicken and seafood, I am a vegan which presents this problem. My son’s doctor told my wife that he is not gaining weight at a fast enough rate and that he needs to start drinking whole dairy milk as opposed to the rice milk that I was beginning to give him. The doctor also said that he should also begin to eat cheese. We were already giving him the food that we were eating in an effort to transition his diet from the “fake” milk to food. But with that being said, I am very much against any dairy products. Yet, I am searching for an alternative means for my son to gain weight without exposing him to unhealthy dairy products. I would also like to find a pediatrician in the metro Atlanta, GA area that is familiar with a vegan/wholistic diet for adults and children.
A You definitely need a doctor who understands that growing children, like yours, need calories and not necessarily from dairy products. I agree with the doctor that rice milk, because it is low in fat, protein and calories, might not be the best choice. There are a lot of alternative “milks” on the market these days which come from other sources such as hemp, coconut, flax, sunflower, multigrain blends and more. I would look for an organic nondairy milk with a decent fat content to give your son.
My son was not gaining a lot of weight when he was young and my doctor suggested that I feed him an avocado a day. I wasn’t able to get him to eat an entire avocado but he did gain weight from including that in his diet.
As long as your son is not allergic to nuts, which is hard to tell without feeding him nuts (a parent’s Catch 22), you could make simple blended nut cheeses or spreads for him, as well as using tahini (sesame seed) or sunflower butter in his food to provide ample fat. You can make bean spreads by blending whole beans with tahini, sunflower butter or nut butter and put that on crackers or bread for your son. There are plenty of alternatives to dairy products.
Regarding a doctor, I just heard about (but have not met) Dr. Maiysha Clairborne who is in Atlanta. http://www.mbswellness.org/about-dr.html I bet that if she cannot help you, she can probably give you a referral to someone who can. Good luck with your son. It is possible to raise vegan children who eat a wide variety of “real” foods.