Raising your family on a plant based diet By leading children’s cookery author Annabel Karmel

Whether you’ve chosen to remove certain foods from your baby’s diet on health, religious, environmental, or ethical grounds or their diet has to be restricted for other reasons such as allergies, it’s important to ensure that your baby gets all the essential vitamins and minerals they need.

Annabel Karmel's Plant Based Diet

It is possible to raise your baby on a vegetarian diet, though you may need to take a little extra care to make sure that your baby gets all the nutrients they need. And a vegan diet will require even further essential planning.

For the first six months of your baby’s life, they will naturally get most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need from their regular milk. And for babies weaned before six months, first taste fruits and vegetables will form the basis of their diets alongside milk for the first month or so anyway.

It’s after those first tastes have been mastered that you’ll need to keep a close eye on your baby’s diet to ensure they aren’t lacking in certain vitamins and protein.

They will need to have two portions of iron rich protein a day (i.e. beans and pulses or nut butter for example) but ideally, this should be combined with a source rich in vitamin C as this aids all-important iron absorption.

Why not offer a small portion of fresh fruit, for example, a few chopped up strawberries or blueberries, or some chopped-up raw veggies such as peppers or tomatoes.  And you could also add a small squeeze of lemon into a puree at the end.

So if you are planning to raise your child on a plant-based diet, here of a few of my favourite vegan friendly recipes for your growing tot!  

LOVELY LENTILS

Vegetarian and vegan babies need to have a source of protein with every meal. It’s needed for the growth and creation of enzymes which help to control a whole host of bodily functions. Beans and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas are a great addition to your baby’s diet as they are full of all-important protein, iron and fibre. This lovely lentil puree is a fantastic weaning recipe – soft, fresh, colourful and packed with vital nutrients.

Plant Based Lovely Lentils recipe by Annabel Karmel

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 6 portions

Suitable for freezing

Ingredients

½ small onion, finely chopped 
100g carrot, chopped
15g celery, chopped 
1 tbsp vegetable oil
50g split red lentils 
200g sweet potato, peeled and chopped
400ml unsalted vegetable or chicken stock, or water

Method

1.     Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until softened.

2.     Add the lentils and sweet potato and pour over the stock or water.

3.     Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

4.     Puree in a blender.

COLOURFUL QUINOA SALAD

Quinoa is highly nutritious and an incredibly versatile ingredient to have to hand. You can use this ancient grain in porridge, risotto, burgers, bites, salads and stir-fries – the options are endless! Quinoa provides a source of protein, fibre, iron and zinc for little ones adopting a plant-based diet and it’s is also a great way to introduce texture too.

Plant based Quinoa Salad recipe by Annabel Karmel

Prep: 10 minutes (excluding chill time)

Cook: 15 minutes

Makes: 6 portions

Ingredients

250g cooked red and white quinoa (or 150g dried quinoa)

198g tin sweetcorn, drained

½ sweet red pepper, deseeded and diced

4 spring onions, finely sliced

4 tbsp chopped cashew nuts (optional)

30g sultanas or raisins

Freshly chopped parsley, to garnish

Dressing

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ garlic clove, crushed

6 tbsp light olive oil

Method

1.     If using dried quinoa, rinse it in a sieve under cold running water before following the instructions on the packet. Once it is cooked and all the water has been absorbed, remove from the heat and leave uncovered for about 5 minutes, then fluff up the quinoa with a fork.

2.     Add the remaining ingredients to the quinoa and season with salt and pepper (if using).

3.     Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a bowl; pour it over the salad and mix to combine.

4.     Chill for 30 minutes then garnish with parsley to serve.

MY FAVOURITE VEGAN BURGERS

Ready to build up that burger recipe repertoire? My vegan burgers are a tasty alternative and a fantastic way to add lots of veggies to you family’s meal. Instead of using egg as binder in the burger mixture, I use chia seeds soaked in water.

This super-charged vegan option includes carrot, courgette and mushrooms and is sure to be a tasty way towards our family’s 5-a-day!

Plant based vegan burgers recipe by Annabel Karmel

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 5-6 minutes

Makes: 8 burgers

Suitable for freezing

Ingredients

2 medium carrots, grated

1 medium courgette, grated

50g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped

½ tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

½ tbsp soy sauce

150g fresh brown breadcrumbs

1 tbsp chia seeds or 1 tsp egg substitute powder

2 tbsp sunflower oil

Salt and pepper

Soup or salad, to serve

Method

1.     Put the grated carrot and courgette in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl and add the mushrooms, oregano, parsley, cayenne pepper, ketchup, soy sauce and 100g/3½oz of the breadcrumbs. Mix well and season with a little salt and pepper.

2.     Put the chia seeds (if using) in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of cold water and leave for 5 minutes until thickened. Add the mixture to the vegetables in the bowl or, if using egg substitute, mix the powder with 2 tablespoons of cold water then add it to the mixture.

3.     Shape the mixture into 8 burgers and coat each burger in the remaining breadcrumbs.

4.     Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the burgers in batches for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Serve with soup or salad.

5.     The cooked burgers can be frozen (once cooled) for up to 2 months. Defrost, then reheat in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for about 20 minutes,

For lots more recipes inspiration visit www.annabelkarmel.com

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