Almond milk is produced by blending powdered or pasted almonds with water and then straining the mixture to get a milky white, nutty-flavored liquid (1). The commercial variants of the milk contain added ingredients, such as thickeners, sweeteners, flavorings, preservatives, and micronutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D.
People use almond milk as a substitute for animal milk in sweet and savory recipes. Its use is also prevalent among vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant or have a milk allergy. But can you use almond milk for babies and toddlers? Does almond milk offer any health benefits to them?
This post tells you all you need to know about almond milk, including its nutritional value compared to cow’s milk. We also give you a few healthy almond milk recipes for toddlers.
Can Babies And Toddlers Consume Almond Milk?
Almond milk is not recommended as a replacement for breast milk and dairy milk for children below 24 months of age (2). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, plant-based milk, such as almond milk, may lack essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, protein, and calcium. Barring soy milk, the academy does not recommend plant-based milk as a replacement for dairy milk (3).
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to the first six months (4). Breastfeeding, along with solid food, should continue for at least 12 months. If breastfeeding is not possible, fortified infant formula is advised (5) (6).
Toddlers older than 12 months should be served fortified or whole cow milk (8).You may serve fortified almond milk to your toddler as a beverage and not as an alternative to dairy milk. Vegan parents and parents with children who have dairy milk intolerances should speak to a pediatrician before picking a suitable alternative to dairy milk (9).
Nutritional Value Of Almond Milk vis-a-vis Cow Milk
Almond milk contains less energy, protein, fat, and vitamin D per 100 grams than cow milk and soy milk (10). Even when fortified, almond milk has less protein, fat, and vitamin D than whole cow milk (11). Therefore, it is not recommended for children with protein-energy malnutrition, vitamin D deficiency and those at risk.
Therefore, experts recommend using whole cow milk while weaning a toddler since it can provide an optimum amount of protein and fat. However, you may serve almond milk to the toddler as a beverage or as part of food preparations.
Are There Any Health Benefits Of Almond Milk For Toddlers?
Unsweetened, fortified almond milk served as part of a well-balanced diet may offer the benefits of almonds to the toddler. For instance, almonds have high amounts of MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) and essential nutrients, such as potassium, zinc, manganese, and vitamin-E (1) (12). Almond milk could be a source of these nutrients for toddlers.
Almond milk also contains bioactive compounds that could impart health-benefiting properties, such as immunostimulation, over time. Additionally, whole almonds can be a choking hazard for toddlers (13), and almond milk could be a safer alternative if your toddler desires to eat almonds.
What Are The Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives?
If almond milk isn’t an option for your toddler, you may consider other plant-based milk, such as rice, oats, hemp, coconut, soy, and hazelnut milk. Consult a pediatrician or registered dietitian/nutritionist before choosing a non-dairy milk alternative. They can help you select the right plant-based milk after considering your toddler’s age, health, and dietary needs.
Precautions To Take While Using Almond Milk For Toddlers
- Consult a pediatrician before using almond milk for your toddler, especially if there is a family history of nuts allergy. An individual with a tree nut allergy can’t consume almond milk because it can trigger allergic reactions (14).
- Do not use homemade almond milk for toddlers as it lacks essential nutrients. Instead, buy unsweetened, fortified almond milk from a reputable brand. You may use homemade almond milk in some almond milk recipes, though.
- Check the nutrition facts label of the milk The label should give information about the product’s nutritional value, added ingredients, such as flavoring and other additives. Stay clear of variants that contain high amounts of added sugar. If you are unsure about choosing the right almond milk brand for your toddler, consult a pediatrician or certified nutritionist.
- Babies older than one year need almond milk only as a drink and not a meal. Serve almond milk as a beverage or as part of food preparations, such as porridge or yogurt.
In the next section, we share some simple and healthy almond milk recipes you can try for your toddler.
Almond Milk Recipes For Toddlers
If your doctor gives you a nod of approval, you may consider trying the following nutritious almond milk recipes for your toddler.
1. Almond milk yogurt
You will need:
- 2½ cups water
- 1 cup almonds (blanched)
- 1 pack non-dairy starter culture
How to prepare:
- Blend almonds and water into a smooth liquid using a fine-blade blender. Strain the liquid into a bowl through a cheesecloth. Set aside.
- Measure the starter’s quantity, as mentioned in the instructions on the package, and add it to the almond milk. Mix well and put the bowl into a yogurt maker for fermentation.
- If you do not have a yogurt maker, place the bowl into a Dutch oven and store it in a warm place for four to six hours. Later, store it in the refrigerator for an hour.
- After an hour, strain the yogurt into a fresh bowl using a cheesecloth. Set the bowl aside for an hour. Do not keep for long as the yogurt may turn sour.
- Add fruit mash or chopped fruits to this recipe and serve it to your toddler.
2. Almond milk smoothie
You will need:
- 1 cup almond milk
- ¼ cup spinach (chopped)
- ½ frozen banana
- ¼ avocado (diced)
- 1tsp fig puree
How to prepare:
- Blend all the ingredients into a smooth, lump-free liquid. Ensure no lumps are present.
- Transfer the smoothie into a cup and feed the baby.
- You can add more seasonal fruits and a teaspoon of chia seeds to this recipe for older toddlers.
3. Creamy almond avocado dip
You will need:
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1 ripe avocado (diced)
- 1 garlic clove (minced)
- ⅛ tsp sea salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper powder
How to prepare:
- Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until a smooth paste forms.
- You can add more almond milk if the dip seems too thick.
- Serve with boiled veggies and healthy finger foods to your toddler.
Almond milk is a healthy non-dairy alternative for toddlers when consumed as a drink or as a part of a dish. To reap almond milk’s benefits, ensure your toddler is eating a well-balanced diet. Do not serve almond milk to babies younger than 12 months. You can use store-bought, unsweetened, fortified almond milk and prepare several dishes that your toddler will relish.
2. Transitioning Your Baby to Cow’s Milk; Unlock Food; Dietitians of Canada
3. Recommended Drinks for Young Children Ages 0-5; Healthy Children; AAP
4. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months best for babies everywhere; WHO
5. Infant Nutrition and Feeding; USDA
6. Cow’s milk – infants; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. Jatinder Bhatia et al., Use of Soy Protein-Based Formulas in Infant Feeding; AAP
8. Fortified Cow’s Milk and Milk Alternatives; CDC
9. Your baby’s first solid foods; NHS
10. Elvira Verduci et al.; Cow’s Milk Substitutes for Children: Nutritional Aspects of Milk from Different Mammalian Species, Special Formula and Plant-Based Beverages; NCBI
11. Cow’s Milk Alternatives: Parent FAQs; Healthy Children; AAP
12. Swati Sethi et al.; Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review; NCBI
13. Choking Hazard Safety; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
14. Tree Nut Allergy; Food Allergy Research And Education