As a working mom, I hardly have the time or the energy to prepare fancy meals. Thankfully, I’ve found that raising my baby vegan has been anything but exhausting.

I toss fruits, breads, veggies, beans and rice into my grocery cart. Even traveling and dining out with a strong-willed toddler has proved to be as easy as pie, thanks to nourishing snacks like dried cranberries and rice milk boxes, plus restaurant salad bars and veggie burgers.

I point out to skeptics that most babies live their first year as vegetarians, as meat is usually the last food introduced, and the American Academy of Pediatrics frowns on feeding cow’s milk to infants. “Vegan babies” are far more common than you might think!

The USDA and the American Dietetic Association give vegan babies the thumbs up, and studies show that vegan children have a tremendous health advantage over their peers, who are almost 10 times as likely to develop heart disease—artery-clogging deposits can be found in kids as young as 3. Meat-eaters also face a two to three times greater risk of getting cancer—girls are four times as likely to develop breast cancer. Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that vegetarian kids score an average of 17 points higher on IQ tests; studies have also shown that vegan babies grow taller than their meat-eating peers; and research links dairy products to colic, ear infections, insulin-dependent diabetes, constipation and bleeding in the intestines.

If you’re a new mom or dad, take a look at my diary to see how omitting the milk and meat from a baby’s menu creates healthy, lasting habits.
It’s a girl! At breast-feeding class, I learned that breast milk enhances Berkley’s immune system, protects her against infection, and reduces her risk of developing allergies, asthma and iron-deficiency anemia.
A friend stopped by the hospital to lend me her “bible”: the late Dr. Spock’s world-famous Baby and Child Care. Thumbing through, I spotted this advice:
“I no longer recommend dairy products.” Dr. Spock also warns against feeding babies meat.

Back to Work. Berkley is drinking soy-based formula.
My pediatrician agreed that it’s better not to expose her delicate digestive system to cow’s milk—the number one source of allergies in kids.

Hooray for Purée!
I don’t have to play “here comes the airplane” with her veggies. Creamy kale, corn and fruit get her applause—and mine. So does spinach-pear purée (we boil, blend and freeze it in ice trays). Research shows that only 1% of U.S. kids eat enough fruits and veggies; 50% of vegan kids do.

This Little Piggy Ate Tofu. Doc says she’s growing off the charts (as if her chipmunk cheeks didn’t tell us). Serving protein, calories and fat is as easy as topping waffles with molasses or dishing up soy yogurt or “finger foods” like tofu or hummus-pita wraps.

Happy Birthday!
We celebrated with Ruby Tuesday’s veggie burgers, salad bar, and then a homemade thena vegan cake.

AKA “Busy Berkley.” “Wow! What did you feed her this morning?” Marveling at her energy and curiosity, other daycare parents are intrigued to learn that Berkley’s lunch bag and “sippy-cups” don’t contain hormones or antibiotics like those in her classmates’ bacon, eggs and cow’s milk.

Nutrition For Parents

Breast milk or fortified soy-based formula gives babies up to 6 months old everything that they need to grow strong and healthy. Following are some suggested foods for older babies and toddlers.
6-12 months: fortified juice and cereal, blackstrap molasses, collard greens
1-2 years: fortified soy and rice milk, seeds, nuts, tofu, dried figs, oatmeal, carob
avocado Fat
6-12 months: flaxseed waffles, fruit smoothies with soy milk and flaxseed oil, avocados 1-2 years: nuts and nut butters, seeds, vegan French toast with margarine, olive and canola oils

6-12 months: iron-fortified cereal, leafy greens, foods cooked in cast-iron cookware
1-2 years: whole-grain bread, peas, seeds, dried fruit, cashew muffins

6-12 months: soy yogurt, tofu, hummus, rice, lentil spread
1-2 years: veggie dogs and burgers, textured vegetable protein, nuts and nut butters, cooked beans

Vitamin A
6-12 months: cooked carrots, peas, oatmeal, mashed sweet potatoes and squash
1-2 years: pumpkin bread, tomato soup, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, raw carrots

Vitamin B-complex
6-12 months: mashed potatoes, granola, baked tofu
1-2 years: nuts, mushrooms, dried fruit, leafy greens, whole grains

Vitamin C
6-12 months: mashed or sliced bananas, apple sauce, watermelon cubes
1-2 years: citrus fruits and juices, sliced tomatoes, baked potatoes

Vitamin E
6-12 months:
corn, spinach, broccoli, wheat germ, vegetable oils
1-2 years: cucumbers, nuts, seeds, apricots, baked apples, whole-grain cereals

6-12 months:
whole-grain pasta, iron-fortified cereals
1-2 years: peanut butter, wheat germ, black beans

For your baby shower wish list

Healthy Eating for Life for Children by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Wiley Publishers, 2002)

Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care (7th edition)
by Benjamin Spock, M.D., and Steven J. Parker, M.D. (Pocket Books, 1998)

Dr. Attwood’s Low-Fat Prescription for Kids by Charles Attwood, M.D. (Penguin Books, 1996)