By: Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RDAna Reisdorf, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and freelance writer with 13-years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics. She is the author of three books, including theAnti-Inflammatory Diet One PotCookbook. Through her writing she demonstrates her passion for helping people achieve ideal health and make transformational changes in their lives
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Baby formula has come a long way since its inception. Today, there are many options to choose from and while we’re grateful for the innovation, it does make it more difficult to decide which option is best. While formulas can be dairy-based or soy-based, the new wave of formula is plant-based and vegan. Plant-based formula, such as Else, is a safe and reliable option for vegan and health-conscious parents who are seeking a dairy-free and soy-free alternative for their children
As with anything you feed your child, as you search for the best vegan baby formula, it’s important to research the brand, ingredients, and nutritional value, and comparison shop to select the option that is right for your babies and toddlers.
What Should You Consider When Choosing a Vegan Baby Formula?
Choosing the best vegan baby formula begins with knowing how you will be using it. Will the formula be a supplement to breastmilk in the first year of life, a supplement to food for toddlers, or a complete alternative to breastmilk?
If your baby is depending fully on formula milk to meet all their nutrition needs, it is extremely important to select a nutrient-dense option that will provide everything they need during this pivotal phase of development, and that they also enjoy the taste. After all, you won’t be able to nourish your newborn if they won’t drink the formula.
Breast milk is like liquid gold for a baby, but infant formula has been created to mimic its highly-nutritious properties. A formula includes similar amounts of fat, protein, and calories. In fact, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires minimum amounts of 29 different nutrients in baby formula to ensure it provides proper nutrition. Any FDA-approved formula available that is marketed for babies under 12 months old will have to meet this criteria.
When your child reaches 12 months of age , they will need different nutrients from a formula. At this stage, your child will also be consuming regular food, but a formula such as Else Complete Nutrition for Toddlers can fill in the gaps. A toddler formula provides the essential protein, fats, and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals your growing toddler needs at this stage. Plus, it should taste good too—a must for picky toddlers.
Pay Attention to Ingredients
Ingredients are what separate the average vegan baby formula from the best vegan baby formula. Carefully inspect all ingredient labels, searching for potential allergens specific to your child and indistinguishable ingredients. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t understand all of the ingredients or determine what they are with minimal research, it’s probably not the healthiest or cleanest choice.
To put your mind at ease, consider shopping only formulas granted the Clean Label certification. A food is considered to be Clean Label if it contains only natural, familiar, and simple ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand, and pronounce. This means there are no artificial ingredients, added corn syrup, or synthetic chemicals in the food.
It’s also important to know what the ingredients present in the formula do for your child. Understanding how each ingredient in a formula benefits your baby will make you feel even better about feeding it to them. For example, you can read about the benefits of Else’s main ingredients: almonds, buckwheat, and tapioca, here.
Understand How It’s Made
Is it organic? If you choose to eat organic, you would likely choose the same for your newborn. To be USDA certified organic, foods must be grown and processed in a way that meets the federal guidelines for soil quality, treatment of animals, pest control, and the use of additives. It must also not contain artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, or GMOs.
Is it sustainable? A formula is sustainable if it has a low ecological footprint, which means it uses minimal limited natural resources in production.
Selecting an organic and sustainable baby or toddler formula will ensure you are feeding your child a natural, environmentally-friendly option that is free from potentially harmful chemicals.
Does it Align With Your Values?
When you have learned the ingredients and understood the way a product is made, you can determine whether or not vegan formula for babies aligns with your values. For instance if organic and sustainable farming are important to you, Else may align well with your values. The plant-based formula is produced through a unique, science-backed and sustainable process that is the cleanest, most natural in the industry.
No two formulas are the same. It’s important to know what options are available to you before settling on one. Do your research and compare ingredients, nutritional properties, production, and price between formulas. Perhaps you may want to read clinical studies to understand the full scope of the benefits and/or side effects of the formulas you are considering.
Is It Right for Your Child?
At the end of the day, only you can decide what is right for your child, and you know best. Once you have gathered all the information, talk to your pediatrician and discuss the benefits and potential impact of your choice. Only then can you choose the best vegan baby formula for your baby’s health. As your child enters toddlerhood, it will be time to revisit what vegan formula is best and will serve their needs as they grow.
The content and advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment, advice for specific medical conditions. Always consult a pediatrician to understand the individual needs of your child.