Why and How to Incorporate Plant-based Proteins into Your Babies/ Child’s Diet

Written By: Sarah Remmer, BSc. RD
Registered Dietitian

A topic that frequently comes up in my counselling practice is protein. How much does my baby or child need, how do I make sure they’re getting enough, and how can they eat meat if they only have three teeth! I have to admit, I have seen a toothless toddler scarf down slow-cooked beef with ease. It’s not the prettiest thing to witness, but it is possible. But not all babies and toddlers enjoy the taste and texture of meat. It can be a tricky food to introduce, but the important thing is to keep introducing even if your baby doesn’t immediately love it. For those babies and kids who are not carnivores, or who eat little to no meat, there is a way to incorporate protein without worry or pressure. I’m talking about plant-based proteins.

But first, it’s important to know that kids (and adults) don’t require a steak the size of their plate in order to receive the recommended amount of protein. Portion distortion is a real thing people! For example, according the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) for protein, kids between the ages of 4-8 years old only need 19 grams per day or 0.95 g/kg/day. So, what does this look like? In plant-based protein this would be ½ cup of chickpeas or 1 cup of lentils.  What’s important to remember is that babies and children are most likely obtaining their protein requirements through food, especially if protein is offered at multiple occasions throughout the day.

In my household, meat is not an everyday occurrence. I try to incorporate plant-based protein (also known as pulses) into my family’s diet not only because they are excellent sources of protein, but because they are quick, versatile, cost-effective and delicious! And did you know that Canada is one of the biggest exporters of pulses!? That includes beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas! If you follow me on social media, you may know that I have a serious love of lentils. My pantry is always stocked with cans of lentils to add to meals or baked goodies. I find it an easy way to boost the fibre (and therefore the feeling of fullness) to my kid’s meals and snacks.

And I’m SO thrilled that Baby Gourmet has jumped on board with this plant-based trend and created a new line up of nutritious and delicious 100% plant-based, lentil and chickpea finger food for babies —no rice or weird ingredients here! As a mom and Dietitian, I love that there’s finally a nutritious, high quality snacking choice down the baby aisle.

I thought I would share with you my love of lentils (and all plant-based protein) by giving you my top five reasons WHY you should add plant-based protein to your baby’s and child’s diet, as well as my top five reasons HOW to add plant-based protein to meals and snacks. So here goes!

Top Five Reasons You Should Be Including Plant-based Protein in Your Child’s Diet

  1. They are a great way to increase satiety (the feeling of fullness). Kids have little tummies. Which is why they require smaller more frequent meals. Pulses not only contain protein, but fibre too. Protein and fibre can help keep kids feeling fuller longer, which means less snack requests five minutes after a meal!
  2. Help with digestion. As a new parent I was obsessed with my kids poop. Why was it yellow, why was it green, what does THAT mean, is it supposed to smell that bad? The list was endless. Finally, my dietitian brain kicked in and I realized that as long as they were pooping and growing (and their stool didn’t contain blood) the colour or smell didn’t matter. All kids at some point or another develop a bit of constipation. Trying new foods, water intake, and so on can affect bowel movements. Pulses contain two types of fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre helps with digestion and regularity, and pulses are a fantastic source! Also, Baby Gourmet’s new lentil and chickpea finger foods contain tummy-friendly probiotics that can help this cause too!
  3. They are convenient. What’s for dinner?! The panic sets in. In my opinion (and experience) this is where lentils really shine. Canned lentils are a staple in my household. Simply rinse them thoroughly and add to just about anything. They add flavour, texture, and a whole lot of great nutrition.
  4. Super kid-friendly. We’ve all been there. Supper comes and goes, and your toddler still did not eat their chicken. Surely, they will be hungry and miss out on essential nutrition that they need to grow and thrive! Wrong. Parents often think about their kid’s nutrition meal by meal, when in fact they should think about the day as a whole. So, on the night that they decided “no” to the chicken, keep in mind that they said “yes” to the carrot and hummus snack and to the lentil nuggets you made for lunch! Remember you are in control of what (and when) food is offered, and the kiddos are in charge of if they eat and how much.
  5. The possibilities are endless. When it comes to plant-based protein the possibilities are endless. Chickpeas are a fantastic finger food or snack, and lentils can be used in main dishes and baked goods! Yum.

 

Top Five Ways to Incorporate Plant-based Protein in Your Child’s Diet

 

  1. Snack time. What kid doesn’t love snacks. Try hummus (chickpea spread) and veggies or for older kids, roasted chickpeas! They’re crunchy and delicious. Bonus if you ask the kids to help make them.
  2. Baked goods. Lentils are the perfect pulse to add to baked goods. Check out this recipe for flourless chocolate lentil protein muffins.
  3. Meatless Monday. We all get stuck in meal preparation ruts. It’s easy to fall back on the sample old recipes. By opening up the protein base you give yourself the opportunity to try new things. Why not aim for plant-based protein once a week?
  4. Add to sauces and casseroles. I’ve added lentils to spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, you name it. It’s an easy and affordable way to add extra protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals (like iron)!
  5. Finger food. Chickpeas are a fantastic finger food for babies and toddlers. Simply rinse canned chickpeas thoroughly and serve. They are soft and entertaining and great way to practice the “pincher grasp”. Another great finger food is lentil nuggets. Perfect for little hands and the whole family!

 

Written by: @babyfooduniverse

Quinoa, apple, raisins and Pear purée suitable from [8-10m+]

This is one of our favorite quinoa recipes! Thin it out with coconut milk or just some of its own boil water and it makes a great toddler smoothie!

The health benefits of quinoa is endless it includes high protein content, good source of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and high fiber content which acts as a natural laxative. Smooth bowel movement will reduce flatulence, gas and keeps your baby’s digestive system healthy.

Ingredients:

-1 cup of organic quinoa

-1/2 cup of organic raisins

– 2 organic sweet apples

– 3 ripe pear

Baby Quinoa Recipe

Method:

  1. Wash the quinoa thorough so that any remaining bitterness can be washed away. it needs a thorough rinse in running water or soaked in water. Rub the seeds in both your hands during the rinsing process.
  1. Peel the apples and the pear optional though. I don’t because the peel contains a lot of nutrients and my son is old enough to tolerate it.
  1. Boil the quinoa with 2 cups of water and add the chopped apples and raisins all together and cook till the quinoa is done. Add 3 cups of water if you want to thin it out.
  2. Purée the mixture with the ripe pear and add a little oil and serve. Thin it out with its own boil water. You can also serve it as it is if your baby chews well it’s up to you.

❄️Freezable and serves 3 portions.

Tip: I thinned the purée out with its own boil water and served it as a smoothie to my toddler was obsessed!

Guest post:

Newborn Care

Helping Parents Care for Their Newborn

newborn babyBecoming a parent is an exciting moment in your life, but it also a hectic one. There are so many questions to answer that entire sections of bookstores are dedicated to the demystification of pregnancy and early childhood; still, it’s not always easy to understand every aspect of parenting a newborn. Your baby’s first well child visit is a great opportunity to ask her pediatrician all of the questions that have been plaguing you, and to get a personal response instead of impersonal information printed in a book. These are ten of the questions that you should ask your pediatrician at your baby’s first checkup, along with any others that may be plaguing you.

  1. “How Can We Reduce the Risk of SIDS?” – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is relatively rare, but it’s a heartbreaking situation that you should be well-informed about in order to mitigate the risk. Speaking with your pediatrician about the best practices and accepted methods of doing so is essential to her health, and something that should be addressed as early as possible.
  2. “What Should I Know About Umbilical Cord Care?” – That little stump left over from your child’s umbilical cord can be a confusing thing to deal with, and your pediatrician can help you to understand it more thoroughly. While the labor and delivery nurses will almost always give you a crash course in umbilical cord care before you leave the hospital, it’s easy to lose track of those tips in the onslaught of advice and information you’re given. Approaching the subject with your pediatrician can make it a bit less confusing.
  3. “Is Our Feeding Routine an Effective One?” – Whether you’re breastfeeding or you opted for formula, you’ll need to keep track of your feeding times, the duration of each session and how much your child takes at every feeding so that you can ask your pediatrician for verification that your routine is working out properly.
  4. “Can You Recommend a Lactation Consultant?” – Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization as the exclusive source of nutrition for your child’s first year of life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Because your pediatrician is focused on the care of your child more than the care of her parents, it’s wise to ask for a lactation consultant recommendation if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding.
  5. “Should I Wake My Baby For Feedings?” – Even in the earliest days of your child’s life, you want her to sleep as much as possible so you can get a bit of rest as well. Still, it’s difficult to know whether or not you should wake her for a scheduled feeding. Your pediatrician can give you answers to questions related to sleeping and feeding, helping you to make an informed decision.
  6. “How Many Diapers Should We Be Using?” – There’s a reason why the hospital staff kept track of your newborn’s diaper changes: they can be a valuable source of information. Quizzing your baby’s doctor about the expected frequency of diaper changes can help you both determine whether or not everything is progressing as expected.
  7. “When Should We Give Her a Bath?” – When your child gets older, she’ll discover a talent for getting filthy that defies imagination. During early infancy, however, it’s not always clear when she needs a bath. Rather than bathing her too frequently and running the risk of drying out or irritating delicate skin, you may want to discuss the matter with her doctor.
  8. “Can You Explain Your Recommended Immunization Schedule?” – Some parents opt to forgo immunization altogether, but vaccination is one of the most reliable ways to prevent the spread of infectious disease and lower your child’s risk of contracting dangerous illnesses. Discussing the matter with your pediatrician at length is recommended before you decide to skip them altogether.
  9. “Do You Provide On-Call Care, and Is Your Practice Reachable After Hours?” – There will be times in your baby’s life that she’s sick enough to require care after hours, but not so sick that a trip to the emergency room is justified. For this very reason, most pediatricians offer after-hours services and on-call care, and you’ll need to know how to obtain that help when it’s needed.
  10. “What Will Happen If You’re Not Available?” – Doctors and nurses go on vacation just like anyone else, and they also deal with personal emergencies that can remove them from the office. In larger pediatric practices, you will probably be seen by another doctor within the practice if an appointment or illness happens when your regular pediatrician is unavailable. Being prepared for this situation in advance can make it less stressful for you, and may provide you with the opportunity to meet the other pediatricians within the practice as a formality.

Making a list of questions for your pediatrician, including these and any others you may have, can help to keep you on track during the appointment so that nothing is forgotten. Don’t hesitate to pursue information you don’t have; a good pediatrician will never make you feel rushed or like a burden for taking up his time with parenting questions.

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