Aden is six months into eating solid foods, and I finally feel like I've got a handle on his allergy to milk (and avocado, but that intolerance isn't as difficult to avoid). I realize he's one of the lucky ones as things could be far worse in a variety of ways, but avoiding consumption of dairy products takes diligence ... or if nothing else, it's a pain in the butt.
The transition from breast milk/formula to solid food is a bit nerve-wracking for me anyway (is he choking? just gagging? phew! ... I think) and having a child with food allergies only complicates the matter. I think back to foods Tory ate when she was Aden's age and remember her devoured yogurt, cottage cheese and mac & cheese like nobody's business. Aden has always preferred finger foods over purees, so that raises the level of difficulty in finding dairy-free foods that are easy for him to pick up and soft enough to chew and digest.
Initially, I spent some time researching dairy-free meal ideas for infants and toddlers, but many of the resources I found suggested making baby food from scratch. While it is easy to control dairy ingredients by either substituting or eliminating them in this way, I found myself spending all afternoon in the kitchen preparing special "baby food" meals for Aden only for him to try one bite and refuse to eat the rest. The more time devoted to cooking a meal, the less likely a child is to eat it: Murphy's Law, or something like that.
Anyway, over time I developed a go-to list of Aden-approved finger foods that are both quick to prepare and easy for him to consume. No mind-blowing ideas here, but I thought it'd be worth sharing for anyone else searching for dairy-free toddler meal ideas:
Mixed in applesauce or soaked in soy/rice/almond milk to soften them
Scrambled eggs made with soy milk or olive oil
I add a splash of soy milk to scrambled eggs, or simply add a little olive oil into the pan as the eggs cook
Beat 6 eggs together with any extras (spinach, mushrooms, breakfast meat, etc.), then pour into a muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes
Mix two eggs and one banana together for an easy dairy-free pancake batter
I like Oat Fit Cinnamon Roll instant oatmeal, and I mix Aden's with applesauce to add some sweetness
Bimbo bread is dairy-free, and I spread Earth Balance butter and/or jelly on top
Baked apples with raisins
Slice and peel apples, toss with cinnamon and sprinkle with raisins. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes
Canned fruits and vegetables
I prefer canned fruits and vegetables over fresh or frozen because they're softer for Aden to chew. It's the one time mushier is better! Some of his favorites are canned peas and carrots, canned green beans, canned pears, canned peaches and canned mango.
Mandarin Orange No-Sugar Added Fruit Cups
Canned chicken with mayo
Aden isn't allergic to eggs, but before I was sure I purchased Earth Balance Mayo and it was surprisingly similar to regular mayonaisse
Diced rotisserie chicken
Baked chicken breasts are a good option, but I prefer rotisserie chicken because it stays moist when re-heated and can stretch for several meals
Aden is particularly obsessed with fresh pan fish (sun fish, perch, crappies) we've caught at the lake. Fry filets in a bit of olive oil - that's it!
Ditalini noodles with Earth Balance butter or marinara
I prefer Ditalini noodles because the tiny tube-shaped pasta is the perfect size for Aden's little fingers to pick up. I toss boiled noodles in a little bit of Earth Balance butter or marinara sauce.
Mashed baked potatoes
I was surprised to learn instant mashed potatoes contain dairy, so baked potatoes do the trick.
Turkey or Regular Meatloaf
Meatloaf is a good meat option for dinner that the entire family likes. It's easy to alter standard meatloaf recipes by replacing breadcrumbs (which contain dairy) with ground oats.
Applesauce squeeze packets
Gerber Graduate Puffs
Aden is now 13 months old, so I'm sure his personal tastes and ability to eat more complex foods will change and evolve over time. For now, these are the foods I've found to work best for him. Any other fabulous toddler meal ideas out there?