Sources of Plant Based Protein for Toddlers

Kenny Louie at flickr.com_slash_photos_slash_kennymatic
Photo credit: Kenny Louie

As young eaters begin their transition from milk and smooth textures to a variety of finger foods, it doesn’t take long to notice a toddler’s preferences in terms of taste, temperature, and texture. During this transitional phase when many toddlers may only accept certain foods (don’t give up!), many parents worry about whether or not their child is getting enough nutrients. One common area of concern is protein.

Studies have shown that babies between 12 and 24 months of age typically consume about 14-19 ounces of breast milk or formula per day, accounting for about 50% of the baby’s nutritional needs. The amount of protein typically found per ounce of breast milk is almost 0.4 grams, meaning the amount found in those 14-19 ounces usually ranges between 5.3 grams and 7.3 grams. Children between the ages of one and three years old need 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. So what do all these numbers and measurements come down to? Basically, if the average 28 pound toddler needs 16 grams of protein every day, he or she is getting just under half that amount from milk or formula, leaving the other half to solid foods.

So where can toddlers fulfill the rest of their protein needs? Meat or dairy aren’t the only sources of protein available for this job. Here are five plant-based, high-protein foods with a variety of flavors and textures for new eaters to choose from!

1. Green Peas
In only half a cup, green peas provide 4 grams of protein, plus lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals. Peas are a fun finger food and easy to serve cooked whole or mashed and added to other soft foods such as mashed potatoes.

2. Cooked Oatmeal
Each half-cup of cooked oatmeal provides about 3 grams of protein, as well as plenty of carbohydrates. Many parents begin with warm cereal like oatmeal to introduce babies to semi-solid foods, but one important tip to keep in mind is to avoid offering sweetened oatmeal initially. This will help prevent a “sweet tooth” from emerging early on, and will help baby try a wider range of foods before craving the sweet stuff.

3. Brown Rice
Brown rice provides about 2.5 grams of protein for every half-cup, making it a great source for toddlers who may love eating the fluffy or sticky grains off their fingers. It may get a bit messy, but brown rice can be a tasty complement to nearly anything!

4. Avocado
Every half-cup of avocado holds about 1.5 grams of protein, in addition to plenty of the healthy fats they’re famous for. Avocado is also quite versatile–it can be served in slices, mashed in a bowl, or blended with many other foods, including baked goods! (Just swap some or all of the butter in a recipe for avocado!) The slight sweetness and soft texture appeal to many first-time eaters.

5. Hummus
One little tablespoon of hummus provides 1.2 grams of protein, making it the most protein-packed contender per serving size on this list! To avoid potentially irritating baby’s system with pre-made hummus that typically includes garlic (which some gassy babies may be sensitive to), tahini (a sesame product that toddlers at risk for a sesame allergy should avoid), and spices, make your own at home by blending cooked chickpeas, a little olive oil, and any other veggie you like that baby can eat. Show your toddler how to dip crackers or other finger foods in, and he or she will be thrilled to imitate!

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Baylor College of Medicine
Parenting Science

Exposing & Explaining: Tricks to Healthy Snacking Habits


Did you know 25% to 33% of daily energy intake among adolescents is from snacking? That’s a pretty big part of their diet! With childhood obesity rates growing each year, it is the parents’ duty to educate and teach their children healthy eating habits. Let’s face it, packaged snacks are EASY! Most of them are cheap too, which doesn’t make it any easier to not buy that pack of Oreo’s your kids are pulling on your pant leg for. Unfortunately, most packaged snacks and products are extremely processed and have no nutritional value. How do we get our kids to want good snacks, like fruit and veggies, and not want the bad stuff, like chips and cookies?

The trick to getting our children to become healthy snackers is something I like to call Exposing & ExplainingE&E has worked for me many times in the past (it even works on adults!) and is so simple to do, that you’re probably thinking “Wow, that’s it?”. Yes, yes it is. A lot of us adults know a decent amount of nutritional information, and if we don’t know something then we can just look it up on the internet. The point is, we are educated and know an apple is better for you than a bag of chips. But you’re children might not!

1: Exposing: Let your children know what a Big Mac is, what a Twinkie is, what a bag of cheese puffs are. If you as a parent show your children all sides of the food industry, they won’t be as curious as if they did not know what something was. Chances are they are going to be invited to birthday parties where chips, cupcakes, pizza, candy etc. are available. The chances of them choosing to eat those foods go way down if they already know what they are vs. a child who has no idea what a Laffy Taffy is. I’m not saying to feed your kids these foods, but just to expose them and get them familiar with what we have available on this planet. Take the curiosity away!

2: Explaining: Once that curiosity is gone, just briefly tell your kids why that food is “icky”, unhealthy or why we don’t like it. Refrain from using the term “bad”, because you want them to make their own decision on why the food isn’t good for them. Categorizing a food as “bad” lets them know it isn’t good, but it doesn’t tell them WHY. For example, if I was trying to get a child to choose an apple over chips I would first tell them I don’t eat chips because I don’t know where they come from, and are made with chemicals my body cannot digest. Then I would ask them back: Would you want to eat something that was made with chemicals? Putting it in a question makes the child think and decide for themselves. State basic facts as to why things are healthier than others, rather than just saying this is healthy/not healthy.

Simple, right? That’s what I thought. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! Healthy snacking habits are only an E&E away!

Written by: Leana Varvella

Photo Credit:

Breastfeeding Superfoods

If you’re a breastfeeding mother, you’re probably already familiar with the importance of staying hydrated and eating healthy to provide your baby with the best supply of nutrients possible as he or she grows. In fact, the dietary recommendations for nursing mothers are quite similar to the recommendations during pregnancy, except during lactation your body can need an extra 500 calories! To take care of those calories and help them pack the biggest nutritional punch, consider these superfoods–whether you’re nursing or not!
Photo credit: F Deventhal
Collard Greens
While the recommended calcium intake for nursing mothers is the same as for other women (1000mg), it’s especially important for new mothers to meet that recommendation in order to rebuild bone density that may have been lost during pregnancy, on top of adequately fortifying milk stores. Dark, leafy greens are a great source of calcium, and also provide many other vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Collard greens are an especially fantastic source: for just a one-cup serving, they contain 268mg of calcium! Collard greens are also high in Vitamin A, containing 288% of the daily value.
Photo credit: Janine
Yellow and Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Vitamin C is important for both mother and baby in promoting the growth and repair of many different types of tissues throughout the body.   Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, the amount of this vitamin available in a mother’s breast milk is more closely related to the amount the mother herself consumes. While many fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, some of the highest levels tend to be found in those of yellow or orange color, such as yellow bell pepper (a whopping 568% of the daily value per large pepper!), papaya (147% per cup), pineapple (131% per cup), mango (100% per cup), and cantaloupe (97% per cup).
Photo credit: Andrea Nguyen
Organic Tofu
In order to avoid anemia for either mother or baby, especially in the earliest stages of life, it’s important for the nursing mother to have enough iron in her diet. Tofu is an excellent plant source of iron, carrying about 36% of the daily value in only half a cup. Tofu is also high in calcium (43% of the daily value) and offers an easy boost of plant-based protein at 10g per serving. As tofu is made from soybeans, one of the most genetically modified crops in the country, opting for organic is the way to go. The body absorbs iron most effectively when there is enough Vitamin C, so pair some tofu with one of the orange or yellow fruits listed above to achieve the fullest absorption possible!
Nursing is an incredibly special–and sometimes challenging–part of the relationship between you and your beautiful new baby. Enjoy it while enjoying all the tasty foods that can provide you both with the nutrition you need.
Written by Lauren Mesaros
Sources: MedlinePlus

Back To School Fuel

School is back in session! Whether you are sending your tike off to pre-school, half-day kindergarden or 2nd grade you want to make sure they are ready to start the day. You don’t have to make a gourmet breakfast to fill up with the essential nutrients for prime learning, you just have to get creative. Check out some healthy, fun (and easy!) ideas below!


Mug Cakes – What child wouldn’t want cake for breakfast? And guess what the best part is? It is filled with whole grains and protein with no added sugars so their brain is ready to work! Perfect for those hectic mornings we all have, it can also be taken on the go!

Try this chocolate nut butter mug cake (YUM!). Mix the following ingredients together:

  • 3 tablespoons oat flour
  • 1 tablespoon organic cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond/coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • PINCH of salt
  • 1 egg white OR 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)
  • 3 tablespoons almond/soy/coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter

Once mixed, poor into greased mug (I usually spray some coconut oil) and microwave for 1-1:30 min. Eat out of the mug or slide it out onto a plate to make it fancy. Feel free to top with chopped nuts, berries and/or some greek yogurt!


English Muffin Breakfast Pizza – A great way for your kids to create their own breakfasts! Toast an Ezekiel english muffin and top with whatever their little hearts desire! To get even more flavor, feel free to pop these bad boys in the oven until they are toasted to your liking! Some ideas to get you started are below.

  • Peanut Butter, Bananas, and a drizzle of honey
  • Cream Cheese, Apricot Reserves, and Almonds
  • Nutella, Strawberries, and Raspberries
  • Greek Yogurt, Blueberries, Peaches and a sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • Flavor Burst! Avoacado, Tomato, and Arugula topped with crumbled Feta and a touch of balsamic glaze

What are some fun ways that you play up breakfast in the morning? Let us know!

Written by: Leana Varvella


Have a Happy Labor (Day)!


Happy Labor Day everyone! In celebration of the hard working people, we also want to recognize all the mom’s out there! Being a mom is one of the most important “jobs” in this world, and too little do they get the thanks they deserve! So, Happy Labor Day to you too, moms! We wouldn’t be here without ya (literally)!

Mother’s have the wonderful task of giving birth, and although it may be an amazing time, it sure isn’t easy. Below are a few tips and tricks to jumpstart the process of labor and make it as smooth as possible. Check them out!

Eat Some Dates Studies have shown that women who ate dates regularly during their pregnancy had a very short labor and easy birth. Dates contain a compound that mimic the hormone oxytocin – responsible for causing those lovely contractions.

Evening Primrose Oil This oil can be taken in a gel capsule and is sworn to work by midwives and naturopathic doctors. The oil is supposed to help dilate the cervix and prepare the body for birth. It also helps in clearing up the skin, and easing pain on joints!

Take a walk! A nice, long walk is a great way to speed up the labor process. It has been said to help the baby drop and prepare for birth. Not only is it a stress reliever, but staying active during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do! Keeps the body in top shape, and if you do certain exercises (such as kegels) to strengthen your pelvic floor, giving birth will be a breeze! 

Pineapple Although there is no proof in the pineapple, doctors still recommend it for a labor stimulator and hey, many women have even said it works! Be careful not to eat too much because acid levels are high and can cause heartburn or an uncomfortable stomach.

Load up on the H2O! It is so important to stay hydrated during labor. Your body is working overtime and you need to keep those muscles and cells in tip top shape so they can do their job. Before, it was not recommended to drink fluids before/during labor, but now doctors and hospitals have actually seen less complications when women were properly hydrated. 

If you’re about ready to pop, try one or more of these strategies and let us know how it goes! Have a happy labor, and a Happy Labor Day! We appreciate you, moms!

Written by: Leana Varvella