A few years ago, my husband and I tried a vegan diet. I'm not a diet professional, and am not giving you nutritional advice - but I will share some flavor and texture-based food hacks that I discovered in that time. Am I suggesting you do the same? Not at all. But since the most common dietary irritant of the exclusively breastfed infant is dairy (in mom's diet), I get the please-help-me-cut-dairy-for-my-baby-even-though-I-love-it-more-than-coffee plea on a weekly basis.
Before you cut dairy or any other food group from your diet, please consult a lactation or nutrition professional. Not Dr. Google. As you cut dairy, you often cut calories, and this can mean you're not getting enough food (and therefore cannot offer as much to your little one).
Step One: Banishment
If you're cutting dairy, you have to cut ALL dairy. Review all packaged products for the highlighted, bolded word MILK either in the ingredient list or in the allergen disclosure below. Put those items into a special place for your other family members to enjoy and use a large marker/tape to label the item so you do not consume it.
Step Two: The Cheese Situation
Refuse to eat artificial cheese. Trust me, don't bother with it. Soy cheese is horrific on a good day. Some vegans I know enjoy the Daiya non-dairy cheese made from pea protein, but I think it tastes like expensive plastic. Instead, replace cheese with things that also taste good.
Pizza: use no-cheese pesto, caramelized onions, olives, artichoke hearts, and other salt/fat combinations to replace the salt/fat you're missing from the cheese. Also note you'll need to eat more pizza because of the number of calories and amount of fat you're missing.
Quesadillas: instead of cheese, use hummus in your quesadillas. Just hummus, maybe some black beans, salsa, peppers, onions, etc. Prepare as usual. It's delicious.
Dip: this accidental invention comes courtesy of my bro-in-law who lived at our house for nine months and ate his weight in salsa every week. Combine equal parts salsa and hummus and use as a chip dip or veggie dip. No, it isn't queso, but it is rich and tasty.
Sandwich/burger/wrap condiment: try avocado, roasted red peppers, sunflower seeds, olives or other tasty treats. The exception to the artificial cheese is tofutti cream cheese. I'm sure it isn't good for you, but it tastes and feels like dairy cream cheese (and is equally unhealthy). If you're seriously craving a creamy spread on your sandwich, this will do.
Step Three: With Cookies?
There are lots of delicious non-dairy milks out there. Some are healthy, and some are essentially soda. I recommend having a variety of milks available, from soy to almond to hemp. Note that most non-dairy milks have little protein and are fortified with vitamins (and sometimes sugar). Hemp and soy have the most protein while coconut and almond are tastier. Use some for cereal/oatmeal/baking and others for a latte.
Step Four: I Will Scream
Avoid the soy ice cream and almond ice cream (I think they're icy and not satisfying) and head straight for the coconut stuff. It costs twice as much and has just as much fat and sugar as the dairy kind, and it tastes just as good if not better. Yogurt is another story. It's hard to find good yogurts, but you can find something that will do if you mix in some granola or fruit. At least we know they have their priorities straight?!
Step Five: Family Recipes
The most alarming thing we realized when we went dairy-free was how much our cooking and meal planning relied on dairy. Try some new stuff! I've found many good recipes online.
Step Six: Dining Out
Go ethnic. Try to find some Thai, Japanese, or Kosher food (since they will not mix meat and milk in the same meal, you know you can easily avoid dairy). Take Out!
Hope this helps!
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
My 2 year old daughter had always been a pretty good eater. She was fairly fearless and willing to try anything at least once. She liked Indian, Thai, and Mexican cuisine, and fruits and veggies were her favorite. We had some tough times between 8 months and 1 year because I was doing the whole, puree/mash everything method and really, who wants to eat that? (With our second kid, we are planning on doing baby-led weaning and I will be taking Michelle’s class on that at Enso for sure). So, everything was going great until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Suddenly, meals were these difficult ordeals: things she’s always loved, she would no longer eat; foods she loved one day became cry-worthy the next, there were tears, huge messes, and lots of stress. My daughter has been pretty tall and thin from the get-go, but her food-difficulties were starting to show. At her 2 year wellness check-up, the doctor was concerned at how prominent her rib-cage was and to be honest, so was I. I think it was a combination of toddler-itis and her coping with a new baby in the house and all of the big changes that come along with it.
During this time, she had also become obsessed with rainbows. I’m talking, constant color-talk. I only want to draw rainbows and watch you draw rainbows over and over. Organizing her toys, books, and puzzle pieces by color. OCD. Rainbow. Obsessed. One night at dinner, I noticed her deconstructing her salad and putting the veggies in rainbow order. She then gleefully ate them after shouting out the corresponding colors. The next day at lunch I wanted to do something special for her. Other than the food issues, she really was handling these big life-changes very well and was very understanding when my 3 month old was still eating almost hourly during the day. I decided to blow her mind and make her a “Rainbow lunch”. I tried to give her at least 2 choices for every color because I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over. Red tomatoes, orange carrots, apricot jam on toast, and cheese, yellow romaine lettuce, green kiwi and broccoli, blueberries, purple cauliflower and pink salami.
She loved it and practically cleaned her plate! So for the past 2 months, whenever possible, we do rainbow lunch and sometimes even rainbow dinner. Mealtimes have become pleasant and fun, she’s eating so much better and she’s gaining weight, has filled out a bit and is out of the scary-skinny-zone.
When making these meals, you have to keep in mind the big picture, what did they have for breakfast? What will they be having for snacks and dinner? It’s so much easier to feel ok about just grilled cheese or pasta for dinner when they’ve eaten a rainbow of fruits, veggies, and protein at lunch. Toddlers love having options and making decisions so I try to give her choices like, “what red do you want? Tomato, apple, or strawberry? What about orange?” She loves having a say and she’s way more likely to eat everything if she gets to have some input. I definitely have to steer her in the right direction so that she ends up with a fairly balanced meal, and not just a plate of fruit each time. Truth be told, I’m having just as much fun with this as she is. When I have a little extra time, it’s fun to make mandalas or other fun food-art, but simple little piles of each color on the plate is easy and effective. I’ve been eating better since starting this as well, which means that the kiddo I’m nursing is eating better too!
Some food suggestions for each color:
Red- tomatoes, beets, peppers, radishes, apples, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, raspberries,
Orange- carrots, peppers, goldfish crackers, oranges, cantalope, papaya, nectarines, apricots, cheese
Yellow- corn, peppers, beets, tomatoes, carrots, squash, lettuce, bananas, pineapple, cheese, pears, apples, starfruit,
Green- snap/snow/green peas, beans, avocado, celery, lettuce, peppers, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, pickles, apples, grapes, kiwi, pears
Blue- blueberries, blackberries, grapes, blue corn tortilla chips, purple potatoes
Purple- cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, grapes, plums, lettuce, potatoes, eggplant, raisins/craisins
Meats, beans, grains, crackers & toast are good for pink and brown. Yogurt mixed with fresh fruit or jams can be used for just about any color as well as jelly/jam on toast. There are also quite a few natural pre-packaged foods that use fruit and plant based dyes that can be found (Annie's animal cookies and cheese crackers for example).
To make life easier and lunch prep faster, I try to wash/peel/cut up any fruits and veggies that keep well ahead of time, in one big prep session after grocery shopping. I have even given up my kid-free shower time to do this on occasion because it’s worth it to have lunch and snack prep fast and easy for the rest of the week/s. I’m not sure if this is just a phase she's going through, or if we will continue with this for years, but as long as it’s fun, effective and healthy, I’ll keep at it.
Beth Cecere is an Enso Mama and at-home mom, living in Colorado Springs, CO.
Enso offers Mom & Tots Yoga, Tots Morning, & Baby Led Weaning!
Recently my 14 month old got some sort of stomach bug which resulted in me washing more loads of sheets in one day than I ever thought possible (9 for the record). Vomit and poop city. He’s normally a pretty good eater of solid foods and breastmilk, but when he was actively sick (i.e. making the sheets dirty) he would not tolerate solid food or water. A toddler that is not eating or drinking is not a situation I would wish to find myself in. Fortunately, we were able to breastfeed through his illness.
It’s pretty common in our country for people to wean their babies from breastmilk at around 12 months, but my thought for my family is, ‘why fix what isn’t broken?’ Having a breastfeeding relationship with a toddler works for my family. I was so thankful that we were still breastfeeding while my son was sick; I knew at the bare minimum he was getting some valuable nutrients and staying hydrated even though he was throwing up all food and the water he drank from his straw cup. I also knew that my immune system was helping him fight off this nasty stomach bug. He was only actively sick for a day and recovering for another day, then back to his normal self.
Unfortunately, I managed to catch the stomach bug and got really sick myself. Again, I was so thankful I was breastfeeding because I was able to feed my just-recovering-from-his-illness son without having to get out of my sick bed/off of my couch. He still wasn’t tolerating solids that day, so thankfully I got to stay out of the kitchen that day.
It actually took just over a week for my son to get his full appetite for solid food back. During that time he was nursing every few hours, and I could tell my supply was going up to meet his needs. It’s so amazing how my body was able to respond to what my son needed without me having to fret over it. When he was just picking at his food because he didn’t want to eat, I didn’t need to worry he was going to starve since he was getting everything he needed from my milk.
We have no plans of weaning now or in the foreseeable future. The value of breastfeeding a sick toddler or breastfeeding to soothe a toddler just learning to walk who falls down a lot is definitely worth maintaining our breastfeeding relationship to me. I know breastfeeding past a year isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s what works for my family. In the end I think most of us agree you need to do what’s best for your family, even if it’s not what everyone is doing.
Michelle is mama to a sweet one-year-old boy. She also teaches Baby Led Weaning at Enso.
Preheat oven to 425. Put brown rice flour in bowl. Grind oats in a food processor until desired texture (I wanted it pretty smooth without chunks of oats, so I ground it pretty fine). Add to rice flour. Then add coconut oil, avocado, banana and water. With electric mixer mix ingredients together until very smooth. Form into a ball and roll out with rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. I rolled mine out to about 1/2 inch.
Cut into shapes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Turn the biscuits and bake another 10 – 12 minutes (until golden brown). These will not rise or expand at all so, you do not need to take this into account when baking.
I've hated ketchup for as long as I can remember. Something about the consistency. The pureed consistency just creeps me out. The thought of having to wash my brother's ketchup-laden dishes as a child still grosses me out.
When I was pregnant I thought a lot about how we were going to raise our baby. The thought of offering solids caused me anxiety even before I even laid eyes on my son. While at a La Leche League meeting a woman mentioned the term baby-led weaning (BLW). I was still pregnant at the time, but I made a note (in my phone - pregnancy brain is a killer, ugh!) to look more into this feeding technique - mainly because it meant no purees. The baby eats what the family eats, more or less. I was confused by the term 'weaning' but it's used in the British sense here - you aren't stopping breastfeeding or formula, instead you are merely introducing solids to complement your baby's main source of nutrition: breastmilk or formula. The baby is offered baby-appropriate pieces of food and the baby chooses what to eat (or not eat).
The idea of skipping the purees really appealed to me, and the more I researched baby-led weaning (BLW) the more I feel in love with its simplicity. Here are some reasons my husband and I decided to do BLW when our son was ready for solids:
1. My husband and I have struggled with our weight most of our lives. In the past we consistently ignored hunger cues, overate, and felt the need to clean our plates. We don't want our son to have those issues; with BLW the baby is in control. He eats as much (or as little) as he wants with no coaxing or bribing from us. Sorry, no hungry baby birds or airplane spoons here. He's learning how to listen to his body and how to use food to satisfy hunger (not some other emotion or to please his mommy and daddy).
2. I really love cooking meals for our family, and in general we eat pretty clean. Since our son eats pretty much what we're eating I'm extra cognizant to make sure the meal is as healthy as possible. That little extra bit of accountability ensures our family is eating well, even when I'm tired or just plain lazy during meal prep. It also means I do more meal planning and less frantic 'Oh, crap, it's 4 PM; what are we going to eat for dinner tonight?!'
3. My husband and I were guilty of eating dinner on the couch sometimes. It's a hard habit to break, but now that we eat at the table with our son (most nights) we've been able to reconnect and talk with one another instead of zoning out in front of the TV. And our couch is cleaner since no one eats on it anymore!
4. As I mentioned before, we love to eat, and I love to cook. During dinner I want to actually eat my delicious meal while it's warm and not have to wait until I'm done spoon feeding my son. Sure, we need to pause our meal to pick up a cup off the floor or to give our son a second helping of food, if he wants it, but for the most part everyone is enjoying dinner at the same time. Meal time is a pleasurable time to connect with each other.
5. Finally, our fat Chihuahua could not be more pleased about our choice to let the baby be in control of feeding himself. One drawback with letting a baby be in control is the mess, oh the mess! A dog definitely comes in handy if you plan to use BLW.
Are you thinking about Baby-Led Weaning? What interests you about BLW? Have you used BLW with your child? Why did you pick BLW? Do you want to learn more? Check out the calendar to see when the next BLW workshop is being offered.
Want to more? Sign up for author Michelle's Baby Led Weaning Workshop.
Michelle is a first time mom with a background in adult education who does copious amounts of research on all things baby. She loves cooking and creating healthy, homemade meals for her family as well as adding to her cookbook collection. She's been enjoying her family's BLW journey and wants to share the fun with you. If you love what she writes, visit her on her blog The Well Adjusted Pessimist.
This blog is not intended to be a source of medical information or advice. Please discuss all of your concerns with your care provider.