If your toddler does not drink cow's milk, whether for allergies, personal beliefs or simply for taste, and you are looking for a healthy alternative, keep reading, you need to know this!
Plant-based milk has many benefits for children, however, not all of them are suitable for children, especially toddlers, and being aware of this fact is very important for your child's nutrition as "milk" is usually an important part of their diet, and it can directly impact your little one's health.
Plant-based beverages are not for infants
First of all, it is very important to stress that a plant-based alternative should not replace breast milk or infant formula in the first 12 months of life unless it is indicated by a Healthcare professional.
This is because infants need many key nutrients during the first year of life that plant milks do not meet.
Are plant milks good for toddlers?
After the first birthday of your little one, you can introduce a milk alternative, but finding the best non-dairy milk for children could be a challenge for many parents.
Plant-based milk may be the first choice to substitute cow's milk. Currently, we can find many options in the market: almonds, oat, soy, rice, pea, and many more.
However, most of these milk substitutes are not suitable for the nutritional needs of children under 4 years old.
In general, regular plant milk provides low energy (calories) and carbohydrates and virtually no fat and protein; they are designed for adults, and this nutritional value is ok for us, but for a growing toddler, these nutrients are essential for their growth and development.
The important thing to remember here is that your child has a small stomach that gets full easily, and when we offer between 2 and 3 cups of milk per day, we are filling their tummies with a low-nutrient density drink which can make them feel full and not want to eat other foods.
This is why you need to find a plant-based drink tailored to your child's growing needs.
Then, what is the best option?
You need to find a plant-based milk tailored for toddlers that provides the right amount of nutrients your child needs to complement their diet.
Each brand is different, so it's important to check the Nutritional Fact Label to know if it's suitable for your little one.
Here are basics guidelines for choosing the best plant-based milk for your kid:
One serving of 200ml or one cup must provide at least:
- Calories: 100 kcal or more
- Fats: 3g
- Carbs: 10g
- Protein: 3g
- No added sugar
Other important things to consider
The nutritional value is key, of course, but there are other important factors to consider when choosing a brand.
I recommend avoiding milk alternatives with preservatives or artificial sweeteners.
Some brands contain different ingredients that add value to the formulation and therefore improve the nutritional quality of the product.
Allergen-free: If your kiddo has an allergy or food sensitivity, be careful about the ingredient list, as some of these milk alternatives have known allergens such as almond, soy or gluten.
Organic and Non-GMO ingredients: To decrease your child's exposure to toxins, pesticide residues, hormones and other chemicals.
Probiotics: For healthy gut flora and immune system support.
Fortification: Especially Calcium, as milk is an excellent source of this essential mineral.
Healthy fats: Especially omega-3 fatty acids or DHA to support brain and eye development.
Stay away from the low-fat version of these beverages, as fat is essential to ensure healthy growth in toddlers. Fat should make up 30-40% of their diet at this stage.
Can I offer homemade plant milks to my toddler?
Now it is very easy to prepare plant-based milk at home; almond or oat milk is the most popular. But, unfortunately, they could have the same problem we mentioned earlier: They do not provide the right amount of critical nutrients (including vitamins and minerals) your child needs to complement their diet.
If you make homemade milk for yourself, you can incorporate it into your child's oatmeal or smoothies but not as a primary source of plant-based milk.
How can I find a suitable non-dairy milk alternative for my toddler?
You can research and compare the available options and try a couple of brands to find the one that best suits your toddler and your family.
A brand could have the best nutritional fact table and the most natural ingredients, but if your child doesn't like the taste, there is no way they would drink it.
Plant Baby is an organic plant-based beverage especially designed for toddlers.
A nutritious and delicious plant-based drink made with natural ingredients and specially designed to meet the growing needs of children under 4 years.
🧁 Only Naturally Occurring Sugar
Always talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions.
Dietitian & New Mom
Bachelor's degree in Nutrition
Master's degree in Food & Dietetics
Health Coach Certification