From the time your child is born, doctors advocate the importance of feeding him milk and other dairy products. This becomes a problem for parents of kids with allergies and intolerances to milk proteins. However, with an increasing amount of available milk alternatives, there are plenty of meal options for families with young children who can't tolerate milk. While other kids are munching on popular childhood snacks like cheese and yogurt, dairy-free toddlers can join in with soy products and a host of other tasty foods.
Since dairy products are an integral part of a traditional breakfast, it can be difficult to come up with quick and easy breakfast ideas for a dairy-free toddler. Breakfast foods are relatively simple, however, and you can whip up a suitable breakfast with just a couple of tweaks. Many popular cereals do not contain any milk protein. Carefully check the label to make sure the cereal is milk-free and serve it dry or with an alternative milk such as soy, rice or almond milk. Other good breakfast choices include homemade -- not instant -- oatmeal, scrambled eggs made with a non-dairy milk alternative and oil rather than butter, bacon, and calcium-enriched orange juice.
Milk-free toddlers can still enjoy a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich as long as you are careful to buy dairy-free breads. Although many brands of bread do not contain dairy products, you should always check the labels or consult the baker. You can also serve your toddler a sandwich made with deli meat if you buy kosher meat, which never comes into contact with dairy. Tuna and salmon salad sandwiches are another calcium-rich alternative, as long as they are made with dairy-free mayonnaise. If you want to give your toddler cheese on his sandwich, choose a soy cheese. Put plenty of fruits and vegetables on the side to ensure your toddler has a balanced meal.
At dinner, try to offer calcium-rich foods to ensure your toddler is getting his recommended daily intake of calcium. Most meats are safe to eat, but avoid processed meats unless labeled kosher. Also be wary of packaged sauces, as they may contain milk protein. Salmon and other fishes are good main courses as they are good sources of calcium. When preparing side dishes that usually contain milk such as mashed potatoes, use a milk alternative or applesauce to add moisture. Vegetables like broccoli, kale and okra are all also very high in calcium -- if you can get your toddler to eat them.
Toddlers are notoriously voracious snackers -- and there are plenty of milk alternative snacks to keep them going throughout the day. Toddler favorites like yogurt and cheese are available in dairy-free soy varieties. Be sure to read labels on any cookies or crackers to find a dairy-free brand. Milk-free sorbets, ice pops and soy ice creams make for a nice toddler treat. It goes without saying that fruits and vegetables are also always a good dairy-free choice. Your little one can wash his snack down with a wholesome glass of soy, rice or almond milk or a calcium-enriched juice box.
- MIT: Eating Without Casein: A Practical Primer for People with Allergies to Milk; Beth Kevles; 1999
- Avoiding Milk Protein
- The Children's Hospital at Westmead; Milk Free (Dairy Free) Diet; October 2009
- Children, Youth and Womens Health Service: Milk for Toddlers
- Vegetarian Resource Group; Calcium in the Vegan Diet; Reed Mangels; March 2006
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