If you want your kids to eat more plants (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts/seeds) then you’ve come to the right place!
Whether you are 100% plant based or just trying to get your kids to eat healthier, you are welcome here! Since my twins were little, I have been on a journey to create healthy habits in my kids and try to help them develop a good relationship with food. It’s an ongoing experiment, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.
When we went plant based as a family years ago, I searched and scoured the internet for help with feeding my kids this way, only to be primarily disappointed. I did find a few good resources, such as Vegan Lunch Box and Dreena Burton’s cookbooks and blog (she is AMAZING). There are a lot of great resources about becoming plant based as an adult, but not as much about feeding a large family this way, in a frugal and sustainable way. And if you happen to have a picky eater, forget about it! It can be SO overwhelming and frustrating. I’m making it my mission to help you! I want to help you get your family healthier and make meal times more enjoyable and less of a battle.
So here goes! I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 tips for feeding my kids a healthier and plant based diet.
10 tips for raising plant based kids
1. Give your kids lots of fruit! Kids usually love fruit, even if they don’t love vegetables (yet). Some of my kid’s favorite fruits to eat are apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (usually straight from the freezer!), peaches, nectarines, pineapple, watermelon, mango and pears.
2. Make a list of healthy plant based foods they already enjoy, and give them those often. This is something I remind myself of often. I often catch myself saying that my 9 year old son is so picky and won’t eat anything, but that’s not really true. He likes cucumbers, carrots, edamame, brown rice, will eat plain salad, loves hummus, oatmeal, my healthy waffles and pancakes, peanut butter, and he will eat many meals I make even if he doesn’t love them, yet. Keep a list somewhere you can refer to it often, when you’re not sure what to make for your picky kiddo.
3. Make green smoothies, if they like them. There was a time when my twins enjoyed a green smoothie, and they occasionally still do. My toddler is not a big fan unfortunately! He really seems to like to chew his food, and he just loves to eat. I don’t really mind because he likes almost everything and eats 99% whole plant food. He does like to take drinks from my cup, so whenever I have a green smoothie I share it with him.
4. Keep foods separate sometimes. If I’m making a stir fry or buddha bowl, I will let the kids choose whether to have the ingredients separate or together. My son usually likes things NOT touching, so I’ll give him tofu, rice, vegetables and beans separated on a plate. If it’s a meal where you can easily do that, it can really help out a kid with a picky palate.
5. Keep snacks simple: fruit, nuts, toast with peanut butter, hummus and veggies or pita bread or pita chips. Don’t buy processed, expensive snacks for the kids! If they need in between meal snacks, just give them real food. You can also just give them leftovers if they are really hungry! It doesn’t have to be traditional “snack” type food.
6. Make healthy desserts for fun: avocado chocolate pudding, date nut balls, healthy fudgesicles , black bean brownies, blondies made with chickpeas (recipe coming soon!), banana oat cookies, banana nice cream, chocolate cherry ice cream, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, almond meal cookies.
7. Let them help you meal plan, grow a garden, visit the farmer’s market.
8. Don’t cook separate meals for your kids, but do keep them in mind while meal planning. When I make meal plan for the week, I keep my kids in mind. I try to make sure that they will be excited about at least a couple of the meals I will cook. For my kids, that could be Spaghetti, Mac and Peas or Pizza. They might have to be challenged a couple of nights to eat something new or that they don’t yet love, but at least that’s not happening night after night.
9. Don’t stress your kids out about food and create anxiety! This is advice for myself as well. Enjoy food together, simply because it tastes good. Yes, healthy whole foods taste amazing! Don’t drill into your kids that you “have to eat this” because “it’s healthy” and then you can eat the really good tasting food that’s bad for you. I have totally been guilty of this in the past, and I’m trying hard NOT to do it anymore. The food we eat tastes AMAZING, and helps nourish and energize us for all our activities. I would argue that there is more satisfaction with a whole foods plant based diet than a SAD (standard american diet); there is so much flavor. I know I enjoy food so much more than I used to! Don’t make them feel like they are missing out on something, because they’re not!
10. Depending on their age, let them make there own decisions outside the home. My older kids will usually eat birthday cake or cheese pizza at a birthday party and while I don’t love it, I’m fine with it. They don’t ever choose to eat meat, at least yet. I hope they won’t, but as they get older and older I want to help empower them to make their own food decisions, I can’t do it for them forever and I don’t want them to feel like they need to “rebel” because they are so controlled at home. I think when they get a tad older, I’ll introduce them to some documentaries like Forks Over Knives.
Here are some meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This will vary depending on your kid’s likes/dislikes but it may give you some ideas to start with. Don’t be afraid to try out something different; your child might surprise you by loving something you never thought they would! My daughter is crazy for a hummus sandwich with sprouted bread and lettuce, for example.
Hummus sandwich (whole wheat bread, hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus, shredded carrots, spinach, lettuce, whatever they like)
Peanut butter and jelly or banana
Refried bean burritos, or Amy’s non-dairy burritos
Add veggies and fruit to lunch and dinner! Try cold peas, green beans, carrots, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes and any fruit.
Dinner Ideas (can also work for lunch)
Veggie bean burgers
Pizza with non-dairy cheese or cheeseless
Baked tofu stir fry and brown rice
Burrito Bowl with vegan queso
There are so many other meals that I haven’t even mentioned. Pretty much every recipe I post here is kid-friendly, and you can find many more around the web. Here are some more good resources about feeding kids a whole food plant based diet:
Disease Proof Your Child by Dr. Furhman