Tips for Feeding Vegetarian Kids What do vegan toddlers drink instead of milk?

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Here are 7 healthy drinks for kids

Most children have a sweet tooth and are prone to asking for sugary beverages. However, guiding them towards more balanced options is important for their overall health.


When your child tells you they’re thirsty, you should always offer water first.This is because water is critive greater water requirements than adults due to their rapidly growing body and higher metabolic rate (2 Trusted Source ).

Unlike many other drinks, water won’t provide liquid calories, making it less likely that your child will feel full and refuse solid food. This can be especially important if you have a picky eater.

What’s more, drinking enough water is linked to healthy body weight, reduced risk of dental cavities, and improved brain function in children (3 Trusted Source ).

Additionally, dehydration can negatively impact your child’s health in many ways, potentially reducing brain function, causing constipation, and leading to fatigue (4 Trusted Source ).

Naturally Flavored Water

Because plain water may seem boring, it’s possible that your child may dislike this essential fluid.

To make water more interesting without adding extra sugar and calories, try infusing water with fresh fruits and herbs.

You can try out many flavor combinations to find one that your child enjoys.

Plus, your child will get a boost of nutrition from the fresh fruit and herbs used in the water.

Some winning combinations include:

  • Pineapple and mint
  • Cucumber and watermelon
  • Blueberries and raspberries
  • Strawberries and lemon
  • Orange and lime

Get your child involved by letting them choose a favorite flavor pairing and help add the ingredients to the water.

Stores even sell reusable water bottles with built-in infusers, which can help your child stay hydrated when away from home.

Coconut Water

Although coconut water does contain calories and sugar, it makes a healthier choice than other beverages like soda and sports drinks.

Coconut water provides a good amount of several nutrients, including vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium — all of which are important for children (5 Trusted Source ).

It also contains electrolytes — such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium — which are lost through sweat during exercise.

This makes coconut water an excellent hydration alternative to sugary sports drinks for active children (6 Trusted Source ).

Coconut water is also beneficial when your child is sick, especially if they need to rehydrate after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

However, it’s important to carefully read the label when purchasing coconut water, as some brands contain added sugars and artificial flavors.

Plain, unsweetened coconut water is always the best choice for children.

Certain Smoothies

Smoothies are a scrumptious way to sneak fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods into your child’s diet.

While some premade smoothies are loaded with sugar, homemade smoothies — as long as they’re rich in nutritious ingredients — make excellent choices for children.

Smoothies can be especially helpful for parents dealing with picky eaters. Many vegetables — such as kale, spinach, and even cauliflower — can be blended into a sweet-tasting smoothie that your child will love.

Some kid-friendly smoothie combinations include:

  • Kale and pineapple
  • Spinach and blueberries
  • Peach and cauliflower
  • Strawberries and beets

Blend the ingredients with unsweetened non-dairy or dairy-based milk and use healthy add-ins like hemp seeds, cocoa powder, unsweetened coconut, avocados, or ground flax seeds.

Avoid purchasing smoothies at grocery stores or restaurants, as these may contain added sugars, and opt for homemade versions whenever possible.

Since smoothies are high in calories, offer them as a snack or alongside a small meal.

Unsweetened Milk

 Even though many children prefer sweetened milk drinks like chocolate or strawberry milk, plain, unsweetened milk makes the healthiest choice for kids.

Plain milk is highly nutritious, providing many nutrients that are critical for growth and development.

For example, milk contains protein, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium — essential nutrients for bone health that are especially important for growing children (7 Trusted Source ).

Additionally, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, another important vitamin for bone health.

While many parents tend to give children fat-free milk, milk with a higher fat content may be healthier for younger children, as fat is needed for proper brain development and overall growth (8 Trusted Source ).

In fact, children have a higher need for fat than adults, due to an increased rate of metabolism (9 Trusted Source ).

For these reasons, higher-fat milk choices, such as 2% fat milk, makes a better choice than skim milk for most children.

However, it’s important to note that drinking too much milk can cause children to become full, potentially causing them to consume less of their meal or snack (10 Trusted Source ).

To ensure that your child doesn’t become overly full on milk before eating food, only offer a small portion of milk at mealtime.

While milk can be a nutritious drink choice, many children are intolerant to dairy milk. Signs of milk intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, gas, skin rashes, and abdominal cramps (11 Trusted Source ).

Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect a milk intolerance.

Unsweetened Plant-Based Milk

 For children who are intolerant to dairy milk, unsweetened plant-based milk is an excellent alternative.

Plant-based milk includes hemp, coconut, almond, cashew, rice, and soy milk.

Like sweetened dairy milk, sweetened plant-based milk can contain loads of added sugar and artificial sweeteners, which is why it’s best to choose unsweetened versions.

Unsweetened plant-based kinds of milk can be used on their own as a low-calorie beverage or as a base for kid-friendly smoothies, oatmeals, and soups.

For example, 1 cup (240 ml) of unsweetened almond milk has under 40 calories (12 Trusted Source ).

Providing low-calorie beverages with meals decreases the likelihood of your child filling up on liquids alone. Plus, many plant-based milks provide a variety of vitamins and minerals and are often fortified with nutrients like calcium, B12, and vitamin D (13 Trusted Source).

  • Certain Herbal Teas

Even though tea isn’t usually thought of like a kid-friendly drink, some herbal teas are safe and healthy for children.

Herbal teas — such as lemongrass, mint, rooibos, and chamomile — are fantastic alternatives to sweetened beverages, as they are caffeine-free and provide a pleasing taste.

Additionally, herbal teas offer nutritional benefits and may even provide relief for children who are sick or anxious.

For example, chamomile and lemongrass teas have long been used to calm and soothe both children and adults with anxiety (14 Trusted Source).

Chamomile has also been used as a natural treatment for intestinal symptoms — including nausea, gas, diarrhea, and indigestion — in both children and adults (15 Trusted Source).

Research shows that chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce symptoms related to intestinal inflammation (16 Trusted Source).

While some herbal teas are considered safe for children, it’s important to consult with your pediatrician before giving your child any herbal teas.

Keep in mind, too, that herbal teas are not appropriate for babies and should be served to children at a safe temperature to prevent burning.

What foods are high in protein for kids?

For vegetarian children on very restricted eating plans, not getting enough calories may result in poor growth. Vegetarian meals can be low in fat and high in fiber (“bulky”), so they fill kids up without supplying enough calories. To meet the nutrient and calorie demands of growth, offer frequent meals and snacks. Provide some foods with more unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, and nut butter. Foods with some added sugars, such as oatmeal cookies and ice cream, may provide food energy, but go easy. These nutrient-rich snacks provide food energy too: a peanut butter sandwich and milk, raw vegetables with hummus or tofu dip, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, fruit, or finger-food veggies.

High Protein Foods Kids Like

Now comes the tricky part: getting your child to eat the protein! When the more obvious tactics (like, “eat your chicken sandwich; it’s good for you”) don’t work, here are some alternatives to try:

  • Eggs are great protein sources. We make a “Protein-wich” out of scrambled eggs between two mini whole-grain waffles. Or turn boiled eggs into egg salad (use low-fat yogurt for an even bigger protein punch); serve on whole-wheat bread. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes for little fingers.
  • Having waffles for breakfast? Skip the syrup and smear a light layer of peanut or almond butter on top. (I add in flaxseed to my kids’ pancakes and waffles to give them more protein).
  • For breakfast or an afternoon snack, my friend makes a super-simple parfait (her kids love the fancy ice cream sundae glasses she bought at the grocery store, but any transparent glass will do). Spoon in a layer of low-fat Greek yogurt, then a layer of fresh fruit and repeat. Sprinkle on some fortified cereal for a protein snack that looks and tastes like dessert.
  • Grilled cheese is an all-time favorite. Amp up the protein by adding ham and using whole grain bread. Serve with apple wedges and peanut butter for dipping.
  • Spoon leftover chicken or pork tenderloin chunks onto mini whole-grain basket-shaped tortilla chips. Add a sprinkle of cheese, some black beans, microwave and finish with a touch of mild salsa.
  • How about some edamame? I buy them in the shell (cook in boiling water for two minutes) and my boys get busy popping the pods and eating the beans inside. And cooking the frozen ones in the microwave is even easier.
Which food is good for child growth?

10 healthy foods to include in a growing child’s diet and how to prepare them. The Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) share more.


We ask a dietitian for tips on preparing healthy foods for children.

1. Berries

 Strawberries and blueberries are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals. They protect healthy cells from damage, boosting the immune system.

How to prepare it: Use berries as toppings for ice cream, yogurt, pancakes and cereal. Add blueberries to pancake batter to make blueberry pancakes.

2. Eggs

 High in protein and vitamins, eggs are one of the richest sources of choline – an essential nutrient that aids brain development.

How to prepare it: Boil, fry or scramble them, or make omelets. Add them to soups, porridge, gravy, rice, and noodles, or make desserts like custard.

3. Cow’s milk

 It is a good source of calcium and phosphorus, which are important for building bones and muscles. Serve full-fat milk, not low-fat or skimmed varieties, if your child is not yet two years old. Unless she is overweight, she will need the extra energy to grow.

How to prepare it: For a quick and easy breakfast, serve milk with cereal or cookies, or blend with fruits to make smoothies.

4. Peanut butter

 Rich in monounsaturated fats, peanut butter provides children with energy and protein. However, some brands contain added salt, sugar, palm oil and partially hydrogenated fats, which reduce nutritional quality.

5. Whole Grain foods

 The fiber in these foods maintains digestive health and prevents constipation.How to prepare it: Give your child wholegrain cereals and biscuits as snacks. Mix whole grains (brown rice or whole-grain bread) with refined grains (white rice or white bread) to help her get used to the taste.

6. Meat

 It is a great source of protein and iron. Iron optimizes brain development and function and supports the immune system.

How to prepare it: Choose tender cuts of meat, and mince or cut into small pieces. Mix minced beef, chicken or fish with mashed tofu, eggs, breadcrumbs or mashed potatoes to make meatballs or patties.

7. Fish

 Packed with protein, fish helps build healthy muscles and bones. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which support eye, brain and nerve development.

How to prepare it: Coat fish in a batter of rice krispies, crushed cornflakes or wholegrain breadcrumbs. Mix fish with rice, tofu or potatoes to make sushi, fishballs or fishcakes.

8. Cheese

 Filled with protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, cheese is great for healthy bone growth.

How to prepare it: Children may prefer the milder taste of mozzarella and American or European cheeses, such as Adam or Emmental. Serve them in slices, cubes or strings. You can also toast cheese on bread or pizza (it tones down the smell), or grate and sprinkle over pasta, fried rice or noodles.

9. Broccoli

 It is packed with nutrients that optimize eye development and ward off cell damage. It also provides lots of fiber that boosts digestion and prevents constipation.

How to prepare it: Cut broccoli into small florets and blanch. Serve with dips (salad dressing, cheese sauce, tomato ketchup or sesame sauce) or sprinkle grated cheese over it. You can also use the vegetable as a topping for pizza or a filling for omelets.

10.Brightly colored fruits and vegetables

 These include carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, tomato, and papaya, which are high in beta carotene and other carotenoids that are converted into active vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for good skin and vision, growth and repair of body tissues.

How to prepare it: Cut vegetables into sticks and steam them before serving with dips like salsa, cheese sauce or hummus. Turn fruits into ice popsicles by cutting them into cubes and freezing them.

What do vegetarian toddlers eat?

Breast milk is the best “first food” for babies. When breast-feeding isn’t chosen, commercial infant formulas, including soy formulas, is a healthful option. Caution: Cow or goat milk, regular soy beverage or rice beverage, or homemade formula are not suitable substitutes for commercial infant formula! Infants exclusively breastfed for longer than six months are at risk for iron and vitamin D deficiencies. That’s true whether the mom is a vegetarian or not. As a guideline for all infants at this time: Healthcare providers may advise an iron-fortified cereal or an iron supplement, and perhaps a vitamin D supplement if the baby’s exposure to sunlight is limited. Vegetarian

or not, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises a vitamin D supplement for breastfed babies starting at two months of age; infant formula contains vitamin D.

For breastfed vegan infants a vitamin B12 supplement may be recommended, too, if the mother doesn’t consume vitamin B12-fortified foods. Time to introduce protein-rich solid foods? Offer pureed tofu, cottage cheese, cooked egg yolk, soy or dairy yogurt, and pureed or strained legumes to vege- tarian babies. Later start tofu cubes, cheese or soy cheese, and soy burger pieces. At age one year or older, it’s okay to start a full-fat commercial, fortified soy beverage or cow milk. When infants are weaned, provide energy-rich, nutrient-rich foods, such as mashed avocado, bean spreads, and tofu. Before age two, babies need enough fat to develop a healthy nervous system; this isn’t the time to restrict fat in food! If your family has a food-allergy history, you may be advised to be especially cautious of some foods; see page 390. Health advises. If your infant, child, or teen follows a vegetarian eating style, consult a registered dietitian, your doctor, or a pediatric nurse for support and nutrition counseling. For vegans, ask about nutrient supplements.

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