My little girl is 12 months old and I want to transition her to cocunut or almond milk. My 4-year-old drinks almond milk but I don’t think that is enough fat and vitamin D. I am open to other non-dairy substitues but do’t’ want to do soy. Is coconut milk a good option?
Once weaned, a child can receive a fully balanced diet from solid foods alone. Preferred drinks are water, herbal teas, and very diluted juices. If your child is not receiving the bulk of her calories from solid foods, an organic formula would still be the best option, when not breastfeeding. A toddler may still look for the comforting of a nourishing liquid from something they can suck on and, regardless of age, it can be convenient to have a widely nourishing drink. Home-blended smoothies are the next best choice after baby milks, though some ingredients don’t work well with the small hole of a bottle nipple. Once a child no longer needs the comfort of sucking on a nipple, smoothie ingredient choices can expand. Possibly beginning with one of the vegan “milks” available, your smoothies can include cabbage, raw beets, carrots, nuts, and frozen fruits.
A cup of coconut milk supplies half of a total day’s caloric need for a 12 month old child. At that rate, it should be supplying half the day’s nutrients but its nutrient availability is very low, per calorie. Almost all of coconut milk’s filling calories come from a healthy, saturated fat. While one cup supplies the full amount of fat a toddler needs in a day, its spectrum of important fatty acids is very limited. A quarter to a half cup per day of coconut milk would be fine.
At the opposite extreme is commercial almond milk. It’s a very dilute drink supplying 1/9th the calories as coconut milk. Almond milk has a much higher amount of nutrients per calorie. It’s a good choice when your child desires something besides water or tea to drink. You can create a denser almond milk at home than those found commercially, while the vitamin fortifications of commercial options are very convenient.
Don’t short change soy milk. While there is a large amount of negative, theoretical hype out there about soy, no food promises more longevity, in the science research on this legume. There is a multitude of epidemiologic and dietary based research on soy, all pointing to large reductions in cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and more. Non-fermented soy comes out looking healthier than fermented. The hyped focus on anti-nutrients (also found in grains) is of no value as there is no evidence that soy consumers are anemic, zinc deficient, or otherwise harmed. Soy’s phyto-estrogens (also found in flax) provide the major portion of their anti-cancer activity. There are reasonable concerns about a 100% diet of soy from birth, as some small effects have been reported in animal studies. These effects have not been detrimental to the animals’ health although concerns about human fertility affects are raised. No significant findings have appeared in human studies, when compared to milk formula feeding. Comparisons of any formula feeding to exclusive human milk reveal large differences of course. A cautious parent might wish to restrict soy consumption to one or two servings per day before puberty is completed.