It is recommended that babies and toddlers eat plenty of iron-rich and protein-rich foods. And if a baby is vegan/vegetarian, then many recommend an iron supplement. I do not believe in supplements and found an easy way to make sure that my vegetarian toddler is getting enough protein, calcium, iron and other important nutrients. I simply grind nuts and seeds and add to apple puree.
Nuts for Babies
Nuts and seeds are highly nutritional and easy to digest when ground. They are basically perfect for vegetarian babies and toddlers since they are so rich in iron and protein. Different sources give different information regarding the age when babies can be given nut butters. However, most agree that after 12 months babies can eat nut meals or nut butters safely (guidelines from Super Baby Food). Note that you should definitely start with nuts slowly and carefully to make sure there is no allergic reaction on nuts, especially if other members of the family are allergic.
Since toddlers still cannot be given whole nuts because of possibility of choking, using nut butters is a convenient option. I however, prefer to grind whole nuts myself. This method is cheaper and does not take much time, just thirty seconds to grind a tea spoon of nuts or seeds. I do not roast nuts and seeds, since heating decreases the amount of nutrients. And nut meal still tastes great when raw. So, my recipe is easy:
Nutrient Rich Puree:
Grind 1 teaspoon of nuts or seeds (pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds or others) in a nut grinder, food processor or powerful blender. Stir into half a cup of apple puree, apple sauce or other fruit puree.
The nuts and seeds are rich in protein and iron. Some are rich in calcium (flax seeds), omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (flax seeds, walnuts) and many other elements. Moreover, iron is best absorbed if consumed along with vitamin C. Thus, the fruit pure does not act just like the base for the nuts, but also provides the so important vitamin C. Thus, it is a great snack. Moreover, most kids like fruit purees even on those days they do not seem to want anything else.
And if your toddler does not want his fruit puree, you can eat it yourself, and what a treat it is! My favourite is prunes and walnuts.
Of course, you can use any fruit puree. I only use apple since I live in Meaford, the so called “apple capital” of Ontario, Canada. I believe that local season fruit is best and thus recommend to use whatever fruit is available in your area. Raw fruit puree is the best; however, unsweetened purees and sauces are better than nothing or course. Note that if you are making your own raw puree, it is best to use a plastic grate. Metal grates cause oxidation and some nutrients might be lost.
Variety is important, so it is best to use different fruits, nut and seeds every time if possible to ensure that your child get all nutrients he or she needs. For example, flax seeds are rich in calcium, omega-3 and omega-6. However, pumpkin seeds have a much greater quantity of iron and protein, and also are told to help get rid of pinworms. Therefore, alternating those two seeds you are ensuring the best results.
Sure, food is not all about the chemical elements and content. However, too often I have a problem feeding my little guy anything at all. So my goal is to ensure that every bite he eats is healthy and nutritious. And fruit puree with grinded nuts and seeds just does the trick for me.