Meal Plans & Recipe Ideas for Your Dairy-Free Baby or Tot

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Some babies and toddlers are not able to tolerate dairy, whether from a lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy.1 Knowing what foods and beverages to feed your little one while avoiding dairy can help make sure they are getting the nutrients needed for growth and development.

When do babies need to avoid dairy?

Breastfed Baby

If your breastfed baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance, you can likely continue to breastfeed as long as you eliminate sources of dairy from your own diet.2,3 Continue to work with your or your child’s health care provider as you eliminate sources of dairy.

Be sure to always read all foods labels to see if there are any dairy ingredients in the product you purchase.

Read more:

Meal Plan & Tips to Eat Dairy Free while Breastfeeding

Is Your Baby Reacting to Something in your Milk?

Formula Fed Baby

If your formula fed baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy or sensitivity to lactose, you will likely need to choose either a low lactose or lactose-free formula, or a formula that does not contain intact cow’s milk protein.4

Always speak with your child’s health care provider before switching formulas.

Read more:

Does Your Baby Need a Sensitive Formula?

Does my Baby Need a Hypoallergenic Formula?

Once your baby begins to eat solids, look at labels carefully to avoid dairy ingredients. Read on for information, tips, and meal ideas.

For more information on lactose intolerance versus a cow’s milk protein allergy, check out this article:

Does my Baby or Toddler have a Milk Allergy or a Lactose Intolerance?

Making sure your child gets the right nutrition while eliminating dairy

Dairy foods provide several important nutrients, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D (which is often fortified, or added to, dairy products).5 When eliminating dairy, it is necessary to incorporate other food sources (in the texture your baby is ready for) that are rich in these particular nutrients.6

Food sources of calcium: Fortified plant-based milk alternatives, fortified orange juice, canned sardines and salmon with bones, fortified dairy alternatives such as a non-dairy yogurt, tofu, soybeans, spinach, kale.8

Read more: Why Does Calcium Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama

Food sources of vitamin D: Salmon, fortified plant-based milk alternatives, fortified cereals, eggs, canned light tuna, portabella mushrooms, and sunlight.9

Read more: Why Does Vitamin D Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama

Food sources of protein: Fish, poultry, meat, beans, legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs, whole grains.

Read more: Protein: Getting Enough and the Best Sources

Offer a wide variety of dairy-free foods to your child

It’s important to know that there are plenty of other foods that do not contain dairy. Offer these foods often as long as your child is not allergic to them. All whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, and eggs are dairy free. Be sure to feed your child a wide variety of these foods to help meet their nutrient needs.

Search out non-dairy alternatives

Non-dairy alternatives can be used for a child with a lactose intolerance or allergy, such as plant-based milk alternatives and plant-based yogurt alternatives. But it’s important to note that not all of these products have the same nutrients as their dairy equivalent.1

If you do choose a plant-based milk alternative, such as almondmilk or oatmilk, be sure the product is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Note that plant-based yogurt alternatives often have more added sugar and less protein than regular yogurt. Read nutrition fact labels and ingredient lists to ensure you’re providing your little one with foods that best meet their nutritional needs.

*While a plant-based milk alternative can be used in small amounts in baked or cooked foods, or plant-based yogurt alternative can be provided as a snack or part of a meal, babies under the age of 12 months should not be given cow’s milk nor a plant-based milk alternative to drink by the cup-full.11

These drinks do not contain all the nutrition your baby needs, and adding them in by the cup may take up valuable space in your baby’s tummy – edging out more nutritious foods, formula, and/or breastmilk.

Read more: What Type of Milk Should My Toddler Drink?

Reach out to your child’s healthcare provider

If you suspect that your child has lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy, call their healthcare provider immediately for further support.

Wondering what might be the best choice for your baby or tot? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (EST). Chat Now!

Pro Tip:

Some babies and toddlers will react to dairy ingredients that are “hidden” and not so obvious.10

Hidden dairy may be found in foods like breads, cereals, crackers, pancakes, waffles, soups, sauces, toppings, dressings, and deli meats. It’s important to read labels and avoid any foods that list “contains milk or milk ingredient.”10

Meal Plan and Recipe Ideas for your Diary-Free Baby and Tot  

The below meal plan, snack, and recipe ideas will help you choose the right foods for your baby when progressing from mostly single purees to more advanced textures and finger foods, while also excluding dairy.

Be sure to check all labels for both obvious and hidden sources of dairy.

Breakfast

  • Option 1: Scrambled eggs, clementine 

  • Option 2: Dairy free yogurt such as soy, coconut, or almond, with sliced berries    

  • Option 3: Strawberry Quinoa Cereal for Baby

  • Option 4: Whole grain French toast fingers with nut butter* and 100% fruit spread 

  • Option 5: Banana pancakes (combine 1 ripe banana, 1 egg and 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour. Cook 3 minutes on each side over medium heat)

Lunch

Dinner

  • Option 1: Black beans with soft cooked peppers  

  • Option 2: Whole grain pasta with ground turkey, marinara, and roasted veggies 

  • Option 3: Baked fish fingers with cubed and roasted sweet potato 

  • Option 4: Mild Curry Chicken & Veggies with Brown Rice

  • Option 5: Lean hamburger cut into pieces with baked zucchini fries 

Snacks: 

  • Option 1: Soft cooked veggies with hummus

  • Option 2: Warm Peach Chunks with Nutmeg

  • Option 3: Hard-boiled egg, diced 

  • Option 4: Fruited dairy free yogurt such as coconut, soy, or almond 

  • Option 5: Applesauce mixed with small amount of nut* or seed butter   

*Speak with your baby’s pediatrician before introducing allergenic foods

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (Et).Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Does my Child Have a Food Allergy or a Food Intolerance?

Guidance When Raising a Child with Food Allergies

Introducing Major Food Allergens to your Infant

Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions for your child. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances, other than lactose intolerance and a cow’s milk protein allergy. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for your child. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for your child.

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