Feeding The Bonzai Baby: Vegan Baby Breakfast

February 16th, 2011 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for wee Waits Rebhal that couldn’t be more true. This is the only time he’ll reliably eat – afternoons are spotty and dinner depends entirely on mood. But morning meals are consistent, so this is where I seek to maximize nutrition.

Waits still doesn’t eat a whole lot of quantity, so my focus is on offering a wide variety of options – all of them of the highest quality. A little taste of everything, to both broaden his palate and to mix up the vitamins and minerals. Of course, he’s still getting the vast majority of his needs met through breast milk. It’s also important to note that we only introduce one new food at a time, and keep a careful eye out for allergies/reactions.

So, what does the Bonzai Baby eat for breakfast?

Fat Comes First
Growing babies need lots of fuel in the form of straight-up calories. But more importantly, babies are building their big brains – brains which are mostly made out of fat! Basically, the human brain is a big ol’ lump o’ lard. And that’s why dietary fat is so important for development.

Of course, not all fat is created equal! You know this already – it’s why nuts are great for you and partially hydrogenated corn oil is not. So we choose our fats very carefully. My number one, above all else, is coconut. I make a cultured yogurt using full-fat canned coconut milk, and it’s pretty much the perfect baby food. Here’s why:

The “cream” separates, rises to the top, and hardens (in the fridge). This makes it a breeze (and clean!) to serve and it’s easy for babies to eat. It literally melts in the mouth! Coconut is uniquely high in a rare medium-chain fat called lauric acid . . . which is also an important component of breast milk!

So coconut yogurt is basically a direct delivery of probiotics and ideal fats. Perfect baby food? Methinks! Learn how to make your own yogurt at home here.

Other sources of excellent fats include avocados (this is a really great “first food”, unfortunately Waits is intolerant – yeah, I cried), olive oil (added to purees), flax oil (for essential fatty acids), and hemp oil (also for essential fatty acids). Most authorities recommend holding off on nuts and nut butters for at least the first year.

Green Smoothies!
Waits takes after his mommy for sure, and we both adore a good smoothie for brekkies. This is definitely not a “first food”, as you’ll need to introduce each ingredient on its own before giving the blend a go. But you can start super simple – banana/spinach/water – and then increase complexity as more options cross to the safe side. This is a SPECTACULAR way to get nutrient-dense greens into that picky little mouth. And start them nice and young, so it’s normalized before they realize that drinking green sludge is supposed to be weird!

Waits has enjoyed the following foods blended into easily-digestible green goodness: water kefir, nettle infusion, spinach, kale, bok choy, cilantro, mango, pineapple, blueberry, raspberry, spirulina, chlorella, hemp protein, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and homemade almond milk (whoops, that one was an accident – should have waited until after 1 year)

Plain Fruit, Fresh Or Steamed
Fruit is great because it contains key vitamins and minerals. However, it’s also full of sugar! We do fruit but try to keep it in moderation, lest Waits develop an unhealthy “sweets bias”. That said, a hunk of banana is great for gumming and even better for squishing through baby fingers! FUN! Waits is a fan of apples, both steamed and raw, made into ‘sauce’ with a little cinnamon. He also loves frozen blueberries and raspberries, thawed to the perfect texture. When they warm up they get delectably mushy!

Molasses In The Morning
Is it a food or is it a supplement? Who knows, but we take it daily! Blackstrap molasses is incredibly mineral-rich, boasting 20% of the daily allotment for calcium and iron. I took a tablespoon every day during the final phase of my pregnancy and it helped to fend off the dreaded third-trimester anemia. I started letting Waits lick the spoon when he was roughly 6 months old. At his 9-month iron check, he was in perfect range (many, many babies/toddlers become iron deficient – cows milk is a big contributing factor!). Coincidence? I’ll never know . . . but I love me some molasses!

And that’s how breakfast goes here at HQ. Coming soon – Vegan Baby Dinners!

  • Jen

    I love this post, it’s so wonderful hearing about what you do with your boy. And what an amazingly cute little man!! Can’t wait to have my own herbivore babies!

    How do you take your molasses? Do you put it in smoothies or oatmeal? Sounds like a good idea I’ve just not used it in anything other than baking!

    Thankyou for this website. It’s inspirational!

    And I wondered, will your book be available to buy in the UK?

  • http://thymebombe.com/ Alayna @ Thyme Bombe

    The eyelashes on that child are amazing! These are all really great healthy breakfasts. I love a bowl of mashed banana and avocado with a splash of almond milk too. It’s not just baby food, it’s good stuff!

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    What a great post! Nina and I made breakfast smoothies together this morning, something we’ve been doing almost every day since she was about Waits’ age. :D

  • http://www.creativeanomalie.com sarah

    I second Jen – I was going to ask that too – do you literally swallow a tablespoon of molasses? (That’s what it looks like from the photo haha). I know I’m iron deficient and I keep blackstrap molasses around – for baking – for that reason, but I never thought to actually, I don’t know, eat it plain? Ha.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    You guys I do just eat it plain! I know, I’m such a fruit loop. Here’s the thing – I used to try to ‘hide’ it in a smoothie or oatmeal, but a tablespoon (which is the dose you need to get the minerals) is *really* flavorful. Instead of hiding the molasses, it just ruins the food! So I started taking it by the spoonful. The first time I did it I gagged. I had to use a chaser for about a week. But now . . . now I’m licking it off and smacking my lips. Mmmm! So yeah, it’s an acquired taste, but you CAN acquire it. And Waits just loves it. =)

  • Abby

    I will certainly try some molasses for my bambino. What are you planning to do for “milk” when cow’s milk is customarily introduced? I am getting really pushed to feed my child cow’s milk which I don’t think is healthy for a variety of reasons. But they say he needs it for the fat and for the calcium. I am hoping to still be breast feeding but apparently that isn’t enough?

  • Kate in SB

    Cutest baby! ever!

    You should figure out how to make a vegan shoo-fly pie. It has a molasses-heavy filling, popular in Pennsylvania. SO GOOD.


  • Jerry

    So I had a logistical question, is breast milk still considered technically vegan? Now, I understand you can consent that you want to give this child your milk, but breast milk is still considered a dairy product. What are your thoughts on this?

  • Minna

    Jerry… Breastfeeding your own child sounds like the most natural thing in the world. That’s why milk exists in the first place – cow’s milk is for calves and human breast milk is for babies. I don’t believe breast milk is ever considered vegan, it’s obviously not a plant :) lol.

    Sayward, what do you think really is the reason for children being intolerant to some foods? As a child I was intolerant to most foods (I wasn’t allowed to eat basically anything besides oatmeal, banana and a few more tasteless things) but I grew out of it and became allergic to dust mites and cat fur, which I enjoy much more (if one can say so). But what’s interesting is that I still suspect that there might be a few foods I don’t tolerate that well but I don’t ever want to find out because I believe that allergies are highly psychosomatic. And I’ve always thought food allergies have a lot to do with chemicals/pesticides found in the foods. But you probably only feed Waits organic stuff?

  • Charlotte

    My little one is the opposite, she’s not too bothered by breakfast, preferring breast milk but loves her lunch and dinner. I’m also proud to say my 100% breast fed baby had perfectly good iron levels as well. And fruit smoothies are a great way to get a reluctant toddler to eat some fruit.

    Jerry, not being a vegan I can’t really answer your question as to whether breast milk is considered technically vegan or not. But breast milk is so much more than a “diary product”. Its a food thats tailored to a babies needs, changing its composition as the baby grows and develops. It is the very best start you can give a baby, vegan or otherwise.

  • Leila

    Breast Milk isn’t really a “dairy product”. Yes, it is, technically speaking, an animal product – but one that is specifically intended for human infants. And if the mother is Vegan, like Sayward is and like I was when I was breastfeeding my children, then it can still be considered as part of a vegan diet for an infant.

  • Julie

    I used your yogurt recipe recently and it turned out great! My next attempt will be the coconut yogurt. But I have 2 questions for you…

    -Does your starter yogurt have to be the same type of yogurt as your alt. milk? (Rice milk yogurt starter + rice milk) Or can you mix it up? (Rice milk yogurt starter + coconut milk)

    -Do you use a different starter when making the yogurt for Waits vs. grown-up yogurt. I currently take probiotics that are adult specific and was hesitant to use it as a starter for my next batch since it will be for little Amelia (7 months old this week!)

  • Meghan

    I have never met a vegan (myself included) that didn’t consider breast milk vegan.

  • Tenise Rae

    I still can’t get over how entirely awesome your spirally utensils are! Man! What I wouldn’t give to get a whole set of those!! :D

  • http://thegreengeek05.wordpress.com Courtney

    This is just awesome! If I ever have kids, your blog is going to be a wonderful wealth of information!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Abby – I don’t plan to do a replacement for milk as far as something to drink straight-up out of a cup. I think Waits can get plenty of fats from food and I’ll make sure he has a great fatty diet. =) For calcium we do the molasses, the green smoothies, and various other plant-based sources. I may look into making my own fortified alt mik if I feel like he’s not getting enough, but I don’t think that will be the case. I would hesitate to do store-bought fortified alt milks because they are so processed and usually full of sugar, but that is just my own personal opinion. If I did decide to do store-bought alt milk, I would choose hemp or coconut first, followed by almond. I think rice milk is the least nutritious of all the alt milks.

    @ Kate in SB – oh NOM!

    @ Jerry – Breast milk is definitely, without a doubt, vegan! In fact I can’t think of anything that has less impact than making food of your very own body! The actual definition of veganism is:

    “…a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.”

    which clearly includes breast milk. I always say, nursing a baby is as vegan an act as *making* a baby. Both involve “using an animal” – both 100% vegan! ;-D

    @ Minna – Honestly, I don’t know! I have my theories – that the INSANE rise in the 4 A’s of the next generation (autism, ADHD, allergies, and asthma) must be a result of increased toxicity (environmental, plastics, pesticides, vaccines, etc) That’s what makes sense to me, but you know . . . I’m not a doctor. I think it’s interesting that each of these disorders is intimately tied to gut health and all of them can be eased/cured through digestive rebuilding. One more reason to eat the beasties!

    @ Julie – 1) Nope! I’ve used soy yogurt to culture coconut, and coconut yogurt to culture almond milk. It don’t matter. =)

    2) You don’t have to use an infant starter – certainly plenty of people feed their babies/children regular store bought yogurt. That said, I *do* use an infant probiotic to make my yogurt these days. I forgot to mention that! I figure why not? Specially designed for his little tum. I use Udo’s and am happy with it, and the company has a good reputation.

  • http://creativespiderbite.blogspot.com/ Pat

    oh this is a great post!
    But its strange how different countries have different rules for and when introducing certain foods. Like here the latest research says you should introduce potential allergens (i.e. wheat, nuts) while still breast feeding, but in small dosages. And they also say that you shouldn’t feed yogurts until they are 12 months old. Also they say you should wait until they are a year until you start them on fish (I know not vegan, but its just an example) and I was told in Norway and Finland they start with fish as first solid food (not sure how true that is though) So I am one of many confused mums (not by your post!!! have been for a while) By now I simply go with my guts. I like you take my time in introducing each fruit/veg/grain. I haven’t tried coconut yet, but you make it sound so good, that I will put it head of the list for the next new introduction. At the moment our breakfast is oatmeal with rapseed oil for fat and omega3′s and various fruit

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Pat – SO TRUE! More proof that parenting is all about following your gut and NOT the societal ‘rules’. Great reminder. =)

    Have you seen the film “Babies”? It has a similar sort of takeaway. It’s available on Netflix streaming if you’re interested – it’s an awesome movie!

  • http://creativespiderbite.blogspot.com/ Pat

    @ Sayward: You mean this one: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020938/ ?? I heard a lot about it, always wanted to see it.

  • Tenise Rae

    Babies was awesome. I tend to call it a documentary but I guess it’s not really that, is it? Kinda though…..
    I did enjoy it A LOT though. I’ll more than likely own it some day. ;)

  • Bridget

    a little late, but we came up with a persimmon-ginger-molasses smoothies that is AMAZING. The molasses enhances the subtle sweetness of the fuyu persimmons to the point where it tasted like a persimmon-y cake batter with a hint of tartness from the ginger :) it totally soothes my tummy & helps me out when I can’t keep food down.

  • http://www.windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’ve been adding mine to chocolate banana coconut smoothies, and the bitterness of the black strap molasses complements the cocoa powder nicely.

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    im so happy to be able to read comments of other caring and nutritionally informed parents! today was simon’s 6 month apt. & i am feeling frustrated & sad. we totally upset our dr. because i accidentally mentioned that we werent giving simon the vitamin d drops he gave us (full of sugar & artificial color, no thank you! my breast milk is just fine for now, si can get vitamin d through healthy foods now!) & then we argued a bit about some of the immunizations. not a pleasant visit today =(

    sayward, and anyone else who gives their child coconut milk, at what age did you introduce the coconut milk/yogurt? i got some organic coconut milk (says its “original” rather than light, hopefully this means it’s full fat!) but the ingredients are coconut milk & guar gum. does your milk also have the guar gum, or does this indicate it’s processed more and that i should look for another kind of coconut milk? i am so excited to make yogurt for simon!

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com windycityvegan

    @sara thomas: The only alt milk we introduced Nina to before the age of 18 months was rice milk (lowest risk of allergic reaction). However, our situation may be unique in that Nina has a close relative with very severe food allergies to just about *everything*. Since allergy testing on wee ones is not reliable at such a young age, we didn’t want to take any chances with Nina before we could have her tested. Once Nina weaned from breast milk (at 15 months), we slowly introduced full fat coconut milk. Guar gum (and also xanthan gum, carrageenan, the list goes on and on) can trigger an allergic reaction in some people who have other allergies-esp gluten, so we avoid these additives as much as possible.

    Don’t get me started about fighting with a pediatrician over vaccinations. All I can tell you is to stick to your guns, do your research and prep for possible confrontations so that your doc doesn’t make you feel flummoxed or start to doubt yourself, and hang in there!! I have so much more to add on this subject but need to get to work.

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    @windycityvegan thanks so much for your help & encouragement! i’d really like to go right to the coconut milk with si for the fat, but am a little worried about the “extras”. wonder if you can get it without the guar gum somewhere?

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    @sara thomas: Yes, you can absolutely get it without any stabilizers/additives! The only private label I remember seeing that does not have any added ingredients is Trader Joe’s. I can’t remember the brand names I’ve seen that contain just coconut and water, but they’re available at my co-op and Whole Foods.

    Pretty much anyone I know who drinks coconut milk buys the So Delicious brand – but no one in my family drinks coconut milk (unless it’s in a smoothie), so I just buy cans of the full fat stuff that I use mostly in recipes. Sometimes if I get on a roll making alt milks, I’ll make my own coconut milk from filtered water and dried/organic/unsweetened coconut flakes.

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    @monika i am having a real hard time finding a good coconut milk =( we dont leave near a whole foods, or trader joes, or anything close to them unfortunately. i even looked online to see if i could order some and everything i have found has guar gum. i am also worried about making sure there is no bpa in the can as well. how hard is it to make coconut milk using your method with the dried/organic/sweetened flakes? is this something you’d be willing to share with me?

    @sayward- when you give the coconut yogurt to waits, do you just have him eat the fat off the top? or do you mix the fat in by stirring the yogurt and then feed it to him?


  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    Great little conversation here, I love it! Just to answer a few questions, I started Waits on the coconut yogurt around 10-11 months I think. Right around when we really starting trying with the solids (he was pretty disinterested for a long time). I do use the coconut milk with the guar gum because I havn’t been able to find any full fat without it. We have no allergy history in either of our families and it didn’t worry me. I do usually just feed him the cream off the top, because it’s so nice and easy for him to eat. The runny stuff underneath goes into my (our) smoothie. =)

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    thanks so much sayward!

    a couple weeks ago simon was acting super interested in eating so i thought i’d give it a try. he did good for a week & then didn’t want anything to do with it so we took a week off. it’s better again this week but i am going about it differently. before i felt like i was supposed to be making him eat all this food (rice cereal, etc.) to make him drop a feeding. but i can tell he’s not ready for that yet. he totally still favors the boob so i guess i kind of feel like right now it’s more about letting him try some foods so hopefully we can set the stage for good eating habits later. of course i wait at least 4 days before introducing a new food, and he’s tried really random things (i just go with whatever i can get organic at the time & that is safe for his age) but im just not going to stress about trying to feed him all these solids. he’s only 6 months! we have lots of time and breast feeding is still what’s best for him anyway. but man, nothing made me happier than seeing his gummy little smile smeared with avocado! =)

    thanks again for this wonderful blog! it just makes me so happy to have such a great resource & sweet, supportive people who feel as passionately about natural living as i do. you are a rock star! =)

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    @sara thomas: There are myriad coconut milk recipes out on there on the web, many of which actually refer to one on Tropical Traditions. So, here is the link for TT’s recipe: http://www.freecoconutrecipes.com/recipe_HomemadeCoconutMilk.htm

    I make so many alt milks nowadays at home that I rarely measure anything – I’m sort of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook. Hope this recipe works for you – it’s ridiculously easy!

  • http://www.mynaturallyfrugalfamily.blogspot.com Rachel

    I had not heard of people eating molassses straight, instead it was always in something yummy. What a great idea for any iron deficiencies though.

  • Nursie ’13

    I’ve held a brain in anatomy and physiology class and it is definately NOT a big ole lump of lard. In fact, the fat content of the brain is roughly 10%. Just FYI…

  • Pingback: Raising Vegan Children Part III – Food Based “Supplements” For Super-Charged Children | Bonzai Aphrodite

  • Emily

    How much molasses do you take in daily? Thanks! :)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I take 1 tablespoon per day.