Trying to help your family go vegan? I’ve been there! 10 tip for raising vegan kids + lots of kid friendly meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Want to go vegan but not sure what to feed your kids? I can help!
I have 10 + years of experience feeding my family vegan foods, and have learned a lot along the way. I have had one super picky child, one adventurous eater, and one that falls somewhere in the middle (my youngest). If you have picky kids like I have, I have a lot of good tips for you. I want to help you make meal times less of a struggle!
Remember, different strategies work for different children. For example, my twins (now almost 12) never enjoyed eating fruit that much, but my youngest loves pretty much all fruit. Talk about an easy snack. The twins also didn’t care too much about having a dip for veggies, but my 4 year old will eat loads of brussels sprouts and broccoli if he has a dip to go with them!
10 Tips for Raising Vegan Kids
1. Let them get involved and help you meal plan.
Ask your kids what they would like to see on the menu for the week. Let them browse recipes with you so they can pick what looks good. And if you can, grow a garden, visit the farmer’s market and involve them in cooking and baking.
2. Make familiar foods.
Are your kids used to eating spaghetti, burritos, meatballs, burgers, mac and cheese? Create vegan versions of all their favorite dishes. You can try new recipes as well, but make sure you let kids (and adults for that matter) enjoy the flavors and types of meals they are used to. Also, embrace vegan meat and cheese alternatives if it helps. Gardein chickenless nuggets are a lifesaver, as well as vegan sliced and shredded cheeses and tofurky slices. My older kids LOVE beyond and impossible burgers when we go out.
3. Make green smoothies, and let your kids help.
There was a time when my twins enjoyed a green smoothie, and they occasionally still do. My 4 year old is not a big fan unfortunately! He really seems to like to chew his food, and he just loves to eat. He does like to take drinks from my cup, so whenever I have a green smoothie I share it with him. Smoothies are a great way to get greens, fruits and nuts/seeds into picky kids. Just don’t force it or your kids may come to despise them!
4. Keep foods separate sometimes.
I am the kind of person who likes to put everything in a bowl together, but my kids generally don’t appreciate this. If we are having buddha bowls, or tofu-rice-veggie bowls, I’ll give my kids the ingredients separate 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 vegan snacks in the house!
There are tons of snacks that are vegan. Fruit, pretzels or pretzel thins with hummus, or vegetables with hummus, rice crackers, tortilla chips and salsa, energy bars (larabars, luna bars, clif bars), toast, popcorn, cereal, vegan yogurts, applesauce cups or squeezies, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts… The list goes on and on. My kids are active and need snacks they can grab in the afternoon or evening.
6. Celebrate with fun desserts!
Delicious vegan desserts are such a great way to introduce someone to the vegan lifestyle. From chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, vegan mug cake to funfetti vegan cupcakes, there are a million desserts you can bake with your kids (and impress their friends!).
7. Give your kids lots of fruit.
Kids usually love fruit, even if they don’t love vegetables. Some of my kid’s favorite fruits to eat are apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, pineapple, watermelon, mango and pears.
8. Don’t cook separate meals for your kids.
I have definitely cooked separate meals for my kids before and it causes me so much stress! Try to keep them in mind when you plan meals for the week, and even if it’s not something they love, offer a few sides they do like, such as apples, bread, corn or whatever. If they absolutely hate what I’ve made, I do offer to let my older kids to go make their own PB and J.
9. Don’t stress your kids out about food and create anxiety.
Celebrate and enjoy eating food with your kids! Don’t make eating a big deal, don’t talk about diets or show them other restrictive behavior. Eating vegan is not a “diet” but a way of life. One that can be satisfying, delicious and normal! Help them practice “intuitive eating” and learn to listen to their own bodies. For more on this check out Ellen Satter’s division of responsibility when it comes to feeding kids. I have found her ideas so helpful. 🙂
10. Depending on their age, let them make their own decisions outside the home.
This might be a little controversial, but at some point, as your children grow up, they will have to learn to make their own decisions around food. The age will vary depending on your family, but kids will eventually have to decide for themselves if they are going to continue to be vegan. Of course, you can still control the food you make and keep in your home, but they will eventually make their own decisions. I believe leading with kindness and openness is always the best option.
Meal Ideas for Kids
- Peanut butter toast, with or without jelly or banana slices
- Avocado toast, if you child loves avocado
- Oatmeal with blueberries (I always have frozen on hand)
- Cereal with non-dairy milk (check ingredients to ensure vegan)
- The Best Green Smoothie
- Tofu Scramble
- My older kids like vegan breakfast sausage (Gardein brand usually)
- Sandwiches: PB and J, Hummus sandwich (bread, hummus, lettuce, cucumbers, maybe tomatoes), tofurky vegan cheese sandwich (my older kids have this almost every day right now), pita with hummus and veggies, chickpea tuna sandwiches or wraps.
- Burritos (my kids love Amy’s non-dairy burritos)
- Leftovers from dinner, we do this a lot
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Vegan Nuggets, Gardein brand is my favorite
- Add vegetable sides: Peas, green beans, carrots and ranch, cucumber slices, corn, steamed broccoli, tomatoes and any other veggies your kids like.
- Don’t forget the dip! My youngest will eat so many vegetables if he has a dip he likes to go with it. His favorite is actually peanut sauce, but ranch is good too.
- Pasta dishes: Lasagna, Alfredo, Mac and Cheese, Baked Mac and Cheese, Instant Pot Spaghetti, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Baked Ziti, Stuffed Jumbo Shells, Mushroom Stroganoff, Vegan Pesto, Spaghetti and Easy Vegan Meatballs.
- Tofu dishes: Orange tofu, Sriracha tofu, Butter “Chicken”, Peanut tofu, Marinated tofu, Tofu Nuggets with “fries” or oven baked potatoes.
- Mexican: Vegan Tacos with Tofu, Quesadillas, “Chick’n” Burritos, Enchiladas, Sofritas, Nachos, Burritos, Cauliflower Tacos.
- Other: BBQ Sandwiches, homemade pizza with vegan cheese and field roast sausage sometimes, Vegan MeatLoaf, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Biscuit Topped Pot Pie, Vegan Pot Pie, Veggie Burgers, Sloppy Joes, grilled cheese and Tomato Soup, Orange Cauliflower.
- Soups/chili: Ultimate Vegan Chili with Cornbread and Vegan Sour Cream, Broccoli Cheese Soup, Potato Soup, Lentil Soup, Black Bean Soup, Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Kale, Minestrone Soup, Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup.
*This article has been updated from when it was first posted in June 2017.
I only have an almost 22 year old (who loves vegan foods but works in a non-vegan restaurant…) He grew up vegetarian till school and social pressure got in the way. But I believe he’ll join me in having another vegan restaurant, maybe?? Just wanted to say your suggestions are ON POINT. Agree 200% on your advice and I had no idea you were a mother of three!!!!! Have been following you for a couple of years now and thought you were in your early twenties and had all the time in the world to recipe test. Should have known, by the quality of your recipes, that you were more experienced than that by the amount of content I have shared and Pinned. You go mamma <3 Much Love and Peace from Upstate NY
Thank you for this article and links. I am new to plant based and I’ve been trying to do it for myself for over a year. I tried right away to get my family eating this way and they rebelled against me. So I just kept at it for myself and now I’m slowly transitioning them to join me. I need all the ideas I can get!
Hi Shonda. I’m so glad you’ve found this helpful for you! Welcome to my site, and enjoy your journey!
Wondering about Omega 3s? Do you supplement you and your family ? My husband and I get walnuts, chia, & hemp seeds on the daily but my children do not consume those things much unless of course they are in a recipe. Any suggestions? Also what multi would you recommend for kids(teens)? Thank you ? Your recipes are in constant use and rotation in our home.
Interesting article and thank you. All my family member is vegan so I think we needed some change my vegan food routine. So tell me what you know How to change it?
This is the best article I’ve found on Pinterest!!! Thank u so much! I can’t wait for my patients to read ur article and get great ideas!! ?
Thank you, glad it was helpful!
I love this! My husband and I went 100% vegan about 7 months ago, and I would say our child, who is ten, is about 80% vegan. We teach her why we choose to eat the way we eat and why it is so important, but we also emphasized to her that she is her own person with her own body. We can’t force her to believe what we believe, we can only encourage and guide. So when she eats real cheese pizza at Grandma’s house, she doesn’t feel guilty or ashamed or like she’s doing something “bad.” Like you, I believe the best way to inform her decisions is with love and example. Thank you!!!
Thanks Kristin! I’m so glad you can relate. 🙂
What about B12 for vegan kids? Anyone here give it to their children? I take B12 occasionally. I try to get it through what I eat too. My daughter just turned two. She’s still breastfeeding some, but much less. She loves her soy milk too… I think I’m going to start giving her some B12 soon.
I give my kids a multivitamin with B12 in it, but I know people have different opinions on vitamins. But B12 is likely a good idea for sure! I take one myself, even though I drink non-dairy milk fortified with it and eat a lot of nutritional yeast which also has it.
Thank you for your response!
It’s SO refreshing hearing from a fellow plant based mom who lets her kids eat the birthday cake and cheese pizza at parties. Even I will have the cake when the parents insist it be eaten because they don’t want to deal with the leftovers.
My husband and I just recently decided to switch to vegan. My biggest concern is getting my picky eater preschooler to eat. He’s been an egg, chicken nugget, waffles, baked goods, and fruit kid most of his life. Some of your ideas on the baked goods is sparking all sorts of ways I can get in all his nutrients while keeping him on a plant based diet too. I just have to get a bit creative in the kitchen. Thank-you so much for these ideas.
I’m so glad I could spark some ideas! I have a picky kid myself (he’s 10 now) and a 3 year old who can be quite picky these days. He loves any vegan chicken nuggets, I usually get them from Trader Joe’s or Target (gardein brand). Those might help a kid who loves chicken nuggets! I’ll be posting tofu scramble soon (which is a lot like eggs) so stay tuned for that. My kids love it when I make it without any vegetables. 🙂 Best of luck!!
Great article, thank you!! Our family chznhed our eating habits after watching all the documentaries last summer. I have a two year old and im so glad we made the change sheets when we did!
Do you have a hard time finding like minded moms and families? I want to find other families in Maryland that eat the same way and I find it tough! Any suggestions?
Hi Lindsy! I’m so glad you enjoyed the article, and congratulations of making changes! It’s easier to change eating habits when your kids are younger, so you have that going for you. I have a 2.5 year old, and he is a lot easier than my twins who are 10.
I do have a hard time finding like minded moms and families. I’m not sure I’ve ever had friends who are vegan or even close to it! I wish you were closer so we could hang out. 🙂
You could probably be proactive and try to join mom groups, or see what’s in your area in the way of plant-based or vegan groups? I’m not sure though. I have let it bother me sometimes more than others, but at this point I try not to worry about it too much, and instead I try to “wow” my meat eating friends with delicious plant based food. 🙂
Oh my goodness… thank you for this!! You are correct in that I can’t find too many vegan recipes for kids. I love this post. I am definitely bookmarking. My family and I have gone vegan and finding recipes for the whole family to enjoy can be frustrating especially with a 5 year old.
Hi Jessica! It can be frustrating to find recipes that whole family will enjoy, especially when you are making the transition to being vegan. I’m glad you found this helpful! I’m always looking for more recipes my kids will enjoy and make them excited about being vegan. 🙂
Thank you so much for your article, it was so encouraging! My family has been vegan for about 5 months and my oldest daughter (whose 4) is my challenging eater. I was starting to worry about her getting enough nutrients, but she loves all fruit, carrots, edamame, beans, rice, pasta, and nuts. We love making smoothies, healthy pancakes, and muffins. Your article made me realize maybe I’m doing ok, thanks again!
Danni, thank you for the comment! I’m so glad I could encourage you! It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job with your kids. It sounds like your daughter loves a lot of nutrient rich foods! I always find it helpful to focus on what my kids actually like, rather than trying new foods all the time and getting frustrated.
This is a great post, thanks. Just a heads up, I tried to get my kids (7 and 10) to watch Forks over Knives, and it was way over their heads and they were pretty bored. I fast forwarded a lot of the science that they didn’t care about or understand….after all, it was family movie night…lol BUT, my son is super athletic and I am going to show him just the clips of the athletes at the end of What the Health.
Thanks Terri! Yeah I hear you, I haven’t had my 9 year olds watch it, I don’t think it would do much for them at this point. It would be so cool if there was a video for kids out there, but I haven’t heard of anything. My son is into weight lifting and sports, so I do show him clips or share with him photos and information I find online sometimes. 🙂