Can you raise your kids plant-based eaters? Is it healthy? Will they get all of the nourishment they need to grow strong and healthy?
It is your job as parents to make sure they are eating a healthy diet, even if you choose to include meat or dairy. We all get caught in a rut from time to time but what your child eats or doesn’t eat is solely in your hands.
The Earlier the Better
The younger your kids are when they begin eating healthy the easier it will be. Kids who have never had fast food, candy, or soda will not throw a fit for it. When I was pregnant with my second child I was a fast food queen; my oldest and I would eat fast food burgers, nuggets, or burritos probably 4 times a week. I cringe now when I think about all of the garbage we ate. I don’t dwell on that, nothing can be done, I simply focus on feeding my kids healthy food now.
Starting today is better than starting tomorrow. As a mom I had bought into the “3 a day” dairy campaign. I was so please that my son LOVED plain yogurt, cheese was another favorite snack. As we transitioned to a plant-based diet I would allow my son to occasionally have a cheese stick. He loved it. I don’t buy them or keep them stocked in the house any more. Don’t tell anyone but he had a grilled cheese last week from Sonic. I don’t feel condemned over this. Every other meal that week was healthy and full of life giving nutrients.
Bigger kids maybe harder to convert. Some friends of mine made the plant-based switch this year. They watched “Forks Over Knives”, “Food Matters”, and “Food Inc.” with their kids. The kids want to eat healthy! They are doing it for their health, animals, and the planet. The son (who is probably about 10) said he missed meat and would eat it again but he is eating healthy now.
If you’ve read any parenting books you’ve probably heard it takes something like 15 different attempts of feeding your child a particular food for them to like it. If your kid doesn’t like something don’t give up. Their taste change as they change, and I’ve never known a toddler to not change their mind.
I am not a “sneaky chef” but I’m not completely against it either. Some kids don’t like the texture of a particular veggie. If you puree it and add it to another dish they may begin to love the taste, then give the veggie a chance.
My 3 year old was never a fan of carrots until he saw Mommy eating carrots and hummus. Now he will abandon whatever he is doing and come running for “carrots and dip”.
PB&J and Beyond
If your kids eat lunch with other kids they are gonna want to eat what their friends have. Ask your kids what kind of food they want. If they are happy with a sandwich, fruit, and a drink then hey it’s not junk and they could do much worse.
When my(big) kids were in elementary school I made a chart to help them prepare their lunches. The columns were Main Dish, Fruit or Veggie, Snack, Dessert, and Drink. Each column then had foods that were acceptable. Once they got to junior high it wasn’t cook to be seen with a lunch so they would usually take a sandwich and a granola bar. I’m convinced this was still healthier than anything they would have eaten at school. The choices there were pizza, nacho bar, fried fish sandwich, and the like.
Here is a partial list of food I feed my kids.
- Baked Sweet Potatoes, you can even add cinnamon or a few drops of maple syrup. My boys eat them plain.
- Baked Potato, my 3 year old always wants ketchup.
- Almond or Peanut butter sandwiches
- Apples or bananas dipped in almond butter
- Almond butter toast
- Steamed Veggies, my 1 year old does best with these, broccoli, squash, mushrooms, carrots, etc.
- Pasta with veggies and sauce
- Beans, my 1 year old loves whole beans, the 3 year old likes them smashed.
- Rice with veggie and sauce
- Bean burrito, the 1 year old can’t handle burritos yet but he loves beans.
- Bean/grain loaf, the 1 year old loves any variation of this.
- Breakfast Quinoa
- Bagel Pizza’s, for the 3 year old
- Breakfast Stir Fry
- Nachos with faux cheese, guacamole, salsa, beans, and taco quinoa!
- Fresh Fruit, apples, bananas, strawberries, pineapples, mangoi
- Frozen fruit, my 1 year old LOVES frozen blueberries, especially when teething.
- Smoothies, you can add kale, spinach, or a host of other healthy foods.
This is only a partial list, please add your favorite Plant-Based kids meals (or snacks) in the comments.
When in doubt add a dip. Hummus, Unfried Beans, salsa, guacamole, nut butter, faux cheese sauce, ketchup or even a non-dairy yogurt can make a difference. Give it a fun and special name like Hippo Hummus.
If a dip is not fitting add a sauce. Last night we had gluten free noodles and steamed veggies (squash, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, onions, mushrooms and spinach). I knew the 1 year old would eat it but the 3 year old and my husband would need a sauce to be completely won over. As usual I didn’t measure but mixed about 1 cup of veggie broth, less than 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast, less than 1 tbsp of rice flour, a few shakes of garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper and a squirt of Braggs Amino’s. I stirred the mixture on medium heat until it thickened then poured it over the veggies and noodles. It was very taste. Everyone except the 3 year old had seconds.
Do you have a tip to share? Please do so in the comments!
A quick note, I am not a doctor and I have never played one on TV. My opinions are just that, opinions based on my experience, research and the teaching I’ve received. I’m happy to answer questions or give advice just know that I am not an expert.