Feeding a Lactose-intolerant Vegetarian Child, April 06 | The Savvy Vegetarian: Q&A


Q: We just found out that our three-year-old is allergic tomilk. She also refuses to eat most beans. At the moment her only protein sourceis eggs. Do you have any ideas how I can get more protein and calcium intomy daughter?
—Anxious Mom

Dear Anxious Mom,

Just so you know, you’re not alone. Three-year-olds in general don’teat much – they’re too busy playing. The foods they will actually eatcan be counted on your fingers. My theory is that they live mainlyon mother love and air. At least yours eats eggs!

How was the milk allergy diagnosis made? If it was through your ownobservation, please back it up with a health check up, and allergytesting. It could be something else, or she could have other allergiesas well. Sometimes a child may have an environmental allergy, whosesymptoms are aggravated by sticky foods like milk and cheese.

If your daughter is allergic to cow’s milk, can she tolerate goat’smilk? A number of Moms I know have used that alternative successfully.It may take some patience to introduce, given 3 yr. old attitudes towardnew foods. Try hard goat cheese, milk on cereal, sweetened yogurt,or other already accepted forms of dairy. Maybe in french toast, pancakes,or muffins.

Soy has sixteen known allergens, last I heard. The usual culprit isthe soy meal left over from making soy oil. Most prepared soy basedfoods are made from that, and it’s in most packaged foods. Traditionalforms of whole soy such as tofu, miso, and tempeh seem to be more digestible.The most appealing way I know to make tofu for a toddler is cubed,sprinkled lightly with Braggs or soy sauce and browned in a dab ofoil. If your daughter doesn’t like it now, try introducing it one biteat a time, over several weeks.

Some kids like to eat tofu raw, which isn’t a good idea, becausewhen tofu is made, there is heat involved, but no actual cooking, sothere’s a risk of food poisoning. Treat tofu like you do eggs – don’teat it raw.

Use whole grains as much as possible, to boost her total protein intake.Spelt, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and oats are high in protein, andeven if your daughter won’t eat them, a little flour can find it’sway into things with no one the wiser. A bit of sunflower seed or flaxmeal in the oatmeal or muffins is another tasty trick.

Your daughter doesn’t like beans – no surprise. Whole beans are alittle rough for a three year old’s digestion. How about refried beanson a tortilla? Or hummus – my two year old grand daughter loves it.

Almonds are a good source of protein, unless your daughter is allergicto tree nuts, but sometimes a challenge for a small child to munchthoroughly. Not recommended for children under three. Almond milk oralmond butter is another possibility, as is cashew butter. Nuts havegood cholesterol, and are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, whichgrowing children need. Peanut butter has for many years been Mom’sally in getting protein into kids, but it’s also a notorious allergen,so go easy.

Make sure that any dairy substitutes you useare fortified with calcium,Vit. D, Vit. A, B12, and folic acid. Calcim fortified OJ is available,and comes in organic, too.

Many foods besides dairy and eggs have proteinand calcium. Like grains,vegetables and fruits. For example, an orange has 50 mg. of calciumand 1.23 mg of protein. It all adds up over the day, so don’t panic- as long as she is eating a variety of wholesome food, your childwill get some calcium and protein even if she doesn’t drink milk oreat beans. Plus, calcium is more readily absorbed when it’s not boundby the protein in milk.

You can also give a children’s vitamin supplement, but keep in mindthat supplements are just that, and not a substitute for real food.Don’t fret if your child isn’t always getting the full RDA of proteinand calcium. It’s something to aim for, but not the end of the worldif you fall short. As a safety margin, RDA’s are 2 or 3 times higherthan what we can absorb.

Gently persevere in your efforts to get other forms of vegetarianprotein into your daughter’s diet, using games, or trade-offs, or whateverworks for you. It may take a while. Remember that the gradual acceptanceof new foods is part of growing up. I’m sure your daughter will thrive,because she has a loving Mom.

Hope this helps! Please let me know how it goes.

For more advice from Judy Kingsbury, visit TheSavvy Vegetarian.

Health Disclaimer: Savvy Vegetarian provides educationand support to individuals who want to become vegetarian, or improvetheir diet. We don’t advocate any particular vegetarian diet. We don’tclaim to be health care professionals, or nutritionists, nor do wetreat any illness. Any changes that you make to your diet, or resultsof those changes, are your decision and responsibility. For your protection,we ask you to be completely open with us about your health, and we may recommenda medical exam before changing your diet. We reserve the right to refuse orto end a client relationship if we believe the client’s actions mayendanger his or her health.