Plant-Based Kids

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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? 

YES!

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. 

Picky Picky

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.

Meal Ideas

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.
  • Oatmeal
  • Breakfast Quinoa
  • Bagel Pizza’s, for the 3 year old
  • Pancakes
  • 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. 

Tips

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. 

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Comments

  1. We got our kids transitioned by information. Literally every new veggie they did not want to try we looked up the health benefits of WHY their body needed it. We looked up the “pink slime” of their past love “fast food” and we also exposed them to the animal cruelty. It has taken almost a year, but now they eat whatever we put on the table.

    Time + Patience + Information = Results

    • I’m curious as to how old your kids are? Mine are 1 and 3 so they would not quite understand a lot of that. We do talk a lot about animals and what animals eat. My 3 year old get excited to eat the same things animals eat.

  2. Colleen McCormick says:

    I am totally new to this. I think I’ve got the meals under control, but what do you give them to drink? They were big milk drinkers and due to their ages (13,10,7) they are resistant to have a glass of soy, or almond milk. I don’t want to give them juice all day. Any suggestions besides water? Thanks.

    • Hi Colleen, Congrats on switching to a plant-based diet! I remember when our “big kids” were about that age, we went through a gallon of milk a day. Around that time milk cost twice as much as it does now so I had to restrict them. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to make the transition if my “big kids” would have been at home.

      To make things easier when they come to visit we have bought them cows milk but if they were living with us that wouldn’t have been an option. We buy almost or rice milk for cereal and we don’t really enourage them to drink it. We don’t really buy juice either. We encourage them to drink water. I also make smoothies often, they are a good way to get extra fruit and veggies in their bodies. Eating those fruit and veggies are better for you but if they aren’t going to eat them drinking them is the next best option. I also like to get lime flavored water, you could try different combinations of fruit flavored waters.
      If I were in your shoes I would have them drink water during the day and other drinks only at meals or special occasions. I let me boys have almond milk during the day but I’ve been having them cut back.

      Sorry I don’t have better suggestions. If I come up with more ideas I’ll let you know.

    • Hi Colleen, Congrats on switching to a plant-based diet! I remember when our “big kids” were about that age, we went through a gallon of milk a day. Around that time milk cost twice as much as it does now so I had to restrict them. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to make the transition if my “big kids” would have been at home.

      To make things easier when they come to visit we have bought them cows milk but if they were living with us that wouldn’t have been an option. We buy almost or rice milk for cereal and we don’t really enourage them to drink it. We don’t really buy juice either. We encourage them to drink water. I also make smoothies often, they are a good way to get extra fruit and veggies in their bodies. Eating those fruit and veggies are better for you but if they aren’t going to eat them drinking them is the next best option. I also like to get lime flavored water, you could try different combinations of fruit flavored waters.
      If I were in your shoes I would have them drink water during the day and other drinks only at meals or special occasions. I let me boys have almond milk during the day but I’ve been having them cut back.

      Sorry I don’t have better suggestions. If I come up with more ideas I’ll let you know.

    • Colleen,

      We drink Walmart’s brand (Great Value) Naturally Sweetened with Stevia Drink Mix. It’s like propel but better! They come in delish favors like Kiwi Strawberry, Lemonade, Blueberry Berry Splash and more.

  3. My husband and I are trying to make the switch to plant based, Like most everyone else we watched Forks over Knives and had a *what on earth are we eating!?* moment. I have looked at your recipes and lots of other sites and I don’t see much problem for my husband and I however.,.. I have a 10 month old daughter. She loves veggies and pastas and other “self feeding” foods but my biggest question is this – She has been formula fed since birth as I was unable to breastfeed. At 1 year old comes the transition to cows milk. Would I replace that was almond milk? Is she still getting what she needs without having milk or formula?

    • HI Jenn,
      I responded a few days ago but just realized it didn’t show up. 🙁
      Your daughter doesn’t really need cow’s milk. Our youngest never had cow’s milk. We switched to rice, almond, and coconut milk but flax and hemp are good options too. I would avoid almond milk for a while as an allergy precaution.
      Your best tool for making sure your daughter is getting all of the nutrition she needs is by giving her a good variety of whole foods.
      Congratulations on your move to a plant-based diet!

      • Thank you for the response. We are enjoying this change so far but its amazing how difficult it can be to change the way you think eat and cook when it was second nature before to just reach for meat cheese or milk. I appreciate this blog showing a real “normal” family living a plant based life.

        • Jenn you are welcome!
          Before going plant-based I used a lot of butter and cheese while cooking. It was easy to throw a casserole together and of course it tasted good, it was filled with fat.
          Hang in there, once you are over the initial hump it gets much easier. We don’t do it perfectly but we keep going. 🙂

  4. Dawn Schmitz says:

    Jenn,

    The truth is we do not need cow’s milk what so ever! I gave my son almond milk and he did great. He is 4 now and has never desired drinking cows milk.

  5. Hemp milk is a great choice for a growing child since it has more fat than some other non-dairy milks. Plus it’s super creamy and yummy.

    Love your blog, Holly! My husband and I are starting a family and plan to raise the kids plant-based. Now, to convince my MIL that I’m not starving them by not giving them cow’s milk! She’s the self-proclaimed “everything in moderation” queen!

    • Hi Megan! We didn’t use hemp milk a lot but I recommend it often. It tasted great!

      I know it can be difficult when extended family doesn’t share our convictions. I hope she comes around but if that doesn’t happen proper boundaries from the beginning are the only way to go.

  6. My son (we have a 5 yr old girl and twin 3 yr old boys) has horrific eczema in the winter and switching to coconut milk has cured it completely! I’m not sold on the taste but it has made the transition much easier for them all. No more cow milk! It’s been a little tougher getting away from cheese and yogurt but we are getting there. Patience everyone!!

    • Melissa, It sound’s like you have a lot to celebrate! Great job on getting the cow’s milk out of the house. My son has occasional flare ups but it is so much more manageable. I’ve experimented with lots of different kinds of plant milks. We liked almond milk the best but then we learned my son was allergic to nuts too.
      Keep up the good work!

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