One question that comes back time and time again in my nutrition practice and in my DMs is: Which plant-based milk is best for children?
Many parents wonder if they can give children vegan milk. 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?
Whether 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.
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In this article, I will recommend which vegan milk is best for children.
Why give children plant-based milk?
There are many health advantages of plant-based milk over dairy milk.
Plant-based milk is 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 milk tastes different from 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.
Best not to give kids full glasses of straight 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.
#1 Best plant-based milk for children = Soy
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 vitamin B12, A, D and vitamin Bs. It also tastes great and milky. My own kids love it!
#2 Second best vegan milk for children = It’s a tie!
Now for nutrition, all the fortified plant milk types are also good.
That means almond milk, rice milk, oat milk and coconut milk are pretty much equal.
Almond milk is rich in healthy nutrients
In our home, we love almond milk. The kids drink it straight, and I mix it into my coffee.
Cashew Milk Is Great For Cooking And Baking
A subtle, nutty taste enjoyed by many.
Coconut Milk Has Fatty Benefits
Coconut milk contains more fats which are good for young children.
The Best Plant-Based Vegan Milk For Children – Quick Tips
Whichever type of vegan milk you choose, it is very important that children drink fortified plant milk with calcium.
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 vegan milk.
The reason for this is to help achieve your child’s daily calcium requirements.
You can do this 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 milk is rarely fortified with calcium and as such, I do not recommend them for children of all ages or for women. However, more recently these days more and more brands offer calcium-fortified vegan options.
What about sugar in plant-based milk?
As a vegan nutritionist, this is also a common question I receive.
Many plant-based milk 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 (a 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).
You can even make your own vegan milk from nuts and seeds at home! Get this book to learn how.
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.
The Best Plant-Based Vegan Milk For Children – Conclusion
If you liked this post all about the best vegan milk for children and would like some more help with plant-based nutrition for the whole family, join our 4-Week Plant-Based Reset program.
I invite you to now check out these other articles for children’s nutrition on a plant-based diet. And if you are on Instagram I share vegan meal ideas and tips @healthyfrenchwife