“Is your baby going to be vegan too?”
I can’t even count how many people asked me the question when I was pregnant with my son. Here in Korea, many non-vegans think feeding a baby a vegan diet results in nutrient deficiency and is tantamount to child abuse. But because of my own long experience with veganism over nearly a decade and all the scientific research I’d read over that time, I was confident that a whole food plant-based vegan diet would be great for my baby. Just to be sure, I went to the library looking for a Korean book on vegan nutrition for babies. The only books I found emphasized the importance of feeding children beef to avoid iron deficiency.
Now, it is 16 months since then and you are probably wondering, “Well, are you raising your baby vegan”? The answer is, “Of course I am!”
My husband and I are raising our baby on the brown rice-based vegan diet that was made so popular by the Korean neurosurgeon and vegan evangelist Hwang Seong-su. At ten months old, my baby was already in the top 2 percentile of development (height and weight). I heard from other parents about how much they struggle with their children’s constipation. We have never had that problem and the other parents have started talking about how well my son eats and how regular he is. Even my husband, who is still pre-vegan, admits that the diet is good for our son and helps make vegan baby food at home.
I know that there must be a lot of other new parents who want to raise their kids on a healthy vegan diet but who are struggling to find information too. So I decided to share one recipe my husband and I use at home. The photos here are from when our baby was 7 months old.
Eunju’s Vegan Baby Food Recipe
1. Rinse That Rice
We mix equal parts of brown and glutinous rice but you can use any combination you like. We use a pressure cooker so we don’t need to soak the rice ahead of time; just rinse the rice until the water is mostly clear after stirring.
2. Prep Your Veg
Aim for local, seasonal vegetables. For sweet flavors that babies enjoy, we add onion and white radish (daikon). We usually aim for two sweet fruits or veggies to keep him happy. We also add kelp as it has an abundance of vitamin B12 and iron, and, along with shitake mushrooms, adds a deep umami flavor. Depending on the season, you can add other things like potato, broccoli, sweet potato, apple, cabbage, or carrots.
3. Put Them Together
Add the vegetables to the rinsed rice in the pressure cooker. We don’t have an exact measurement for the amount of water needed, but a rule of thumb passed down through the generations is to lay your hand flat down onto the rice and pour water until the back of your hand is covered in water. Believe me, it works.
4. Turn the Pressure Up
Now it’s time to cook the rice and veggies in the pressure cooker. After putting everything in and putting the lid on tight, turn the heat up high. When it whistles, turn the heat off and do not open the lid until all the steam is released.
We interrupt this post to offer A Helpful Tip
Freeze seasonal veggies separately ahead of time in single serving portions and then add later to the rice. The vegetable cubes that you see below are spinach, carrot, and potato. The silicon trays featured here are from Korean brand Benian (베니앙). Some other options for freezer-safe containers are these silicone trays or freezer jars from Amazon.
5. Spoon it, Baby
Put the rice into freezer containers. First, add some veggies at the bottom and then cover them with rice. At the time our son was 7 months old we blended it a little in a food processor so it was easier to eat. Now, we still usually make enough for 7 days and freeze it until we need it.
6. Time to Eat
Now all that is left is to defrost and serve. Take the rice cubes out and let them thaw to the appropriate temperature.
7. Mix Well and Feed!
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
It is that simple. A whole-food, plant-based diet is one that avoids processed foods and animal products, focusing instead on nutrient-dense plant foods. You can learn more about WFPB vegan evidence-based nutrition at Nutrition Facts where Dr. Michael Greger has over 225 videos that talk about children’s nutrition. Please let me know what you think! Would you like to see more of these types of posts? Leave your questions or requests in the comments.