One question that comes back time and time again in my nutrition practice and in my DMs is: Which plant milk is best for children?
Many parents wonder if they can give children vegan milks? Which vegan milk is best for toddlers? Is soy milk safe to give to children? What are the best vegan milk alternatives or dairy free milk options?
Either your little one has a dairy allergy, intolerance or you are raising your children on a vegan diet, it is a common question amongst parents to know which plant milk is best to give to children and whether is it safe to do so. In this blogpost I will recommend which vegan milk is best for children.
Why give children plant-based milks?
But first I want to briefly mention some of the advantages of plant-based milks over dairy milks. Plant-based milks are free of the breastfeeding hormones found in the cow’s milk meant for the calf, it doesn’t require as much earth resources (land/ water) to create 1 L of plant-based milk compared to dairy. Dairy is often badly digested by many people and is found to create inflammation and the hormones can lead to early puberty, acne, obesity.
Choosing the right plant-based milk for children:
Choosing the right alternative to dairy means choosing the milk which not only your children will drink but one that is also nutritious and contains important nutrients for their development and growth.
First of all swapping from cow’s milk to plant milk can take a little bit of getting used to. Plant milks taste different to dairy milk and it might take 1-2 weeks for your children to find the dairy free milk options they like. I recommend trying a few different ones while transitioning to find the brand and type your children love the most. Also don’t give them straight glasses of plant milk while they are still getting used to the taste but rather serve it in smoothies, porridge, baking and cereals to let them get used to the taste.
(quick personal tip: the soy milk called MILKY is the best for a creamy taste to please children in drinking straight glasses of plant milk mine love it!)
Best plantbased milk for children:
The winner is SOY MILK! As a mum and nutritionist, I recommend using soy milk for toddlers, children and mothers. It is packed with protein, calcium and the one we buy is fortified vit B12, A, D and vit Bs. It also tastes great and milky and is loved by all my 3 children.
Second best vegan milk for children:
Now for nutrition all the fortified plant milks are also good. Almond, rice, oat milk and coconut milks are pretty much equal although coconut milk contains more fats which is good for very young children. I also like hemp milk but being homemade it does not contain enough calcium for young children.
But it is very important that children drink a fortified plant milk with calcium as one glass of almond milk fortified with calcium contains between 300and 400mg of calcium which is the equivalent of the amount of calcium found in a glass of dairy. Overall children benefit the most from drinking any calcium-fortified milks.
The reason for this is to help meet your You can easily achieve your child’s daily calcium requirements by serving fortified plant milk at breakfast, as a drink post nap/school and before bed (around 700mg per day of calcium is required for a child).
Organic plant milks are rarely fortified with calcium and as such I do not recommend them for children of all ages or for women. (In Australia I found some – macro organic and coles have an organic plant milk fortified with calcium). These days more and more brands offer calcium fortified options.
What about sugar in plant-based milks?
This is also a common question I receive. Many brands do have added sugar but there are a few brands that do plant milk fortified with calcium with no sugar (Califia for example or some organic brands) but the added sugar is really minimal and matches the same level of galactose (sugar found in dairy).
The amount of sugar found in a glass of plant milk is 5gr which is less than the amount of sugar found in the dairy glass of milk 11.5 from the galactose (for a glass of 250ml comparing soy milk and full cream dairy milk).
What age can you give plant milk? Can babies drink vegan milk?
You can introduce dairy free milk options or vegan milk alternatives as young as 6 months old served in food BUT not as a drink. Breastfeeding or formula is best until 12-24 months. After 12 months you can give glasses of plant milk but limit them to 2-3 per day to avoid reducing their appetite for other healthy foods.
If you liked this post on the best vegan milk for children and would like some more help with plant based nutrition for children, I offer consultation worldwide to help families thrive on a plant-based diet.
Or if you prefer I have an ecourse Nourishing Plant-based Kids where I teach plant-based nutrition in an online self-paced course for parents of plant-based children to avoid nutrient deficiencies and thrive on a plant-based diet in the long-term. Click here to purchase my course.
I invite you to now check out these other blogposts I wrote on children’s nutrition on a plant-based diet. And if you are on Instagram I share kids meal ideas and tips @healthy.little.tummies