Let’s face it, getting kids to eat anything can often be a challenge, so putting a plate full of veggies and legumes in front of them might seem downright impossible.
There are a tons of ways to make this process of meal time with kids easier, but one of the best ways to lessen the stress is to make a single meal for everyone. In other words don’t prepare a Plan B dinner for the picky eaters. What you make is what they get! The only exception to this might be when the adults are craving a lot of spice in their meal because that just isn’t fair to their young and sensitive pallets. I know this one size fits all when it comes to dinner, is easier said than done, but insisting they at least taste the meal, together with watching their parents enjoy the meal, will work out in the end. And besides, who has the time to prepare separate meals for their family?!
Another helpful tip is to have kids be part of the process. Have each child choose one meal a week; if they are old enough, have them help prepare at least one part of the meal; let them pick one or two of their lunch time snacks from your approved choices; include them while you are shopping (just kidding); and most importantly have conversations about why you are including them in a plant based lifestyle. Kids are very empathetic, so if you explain to them, you are doing this for the animals and the planet, they will be more likely to want to participate.
When introducing a new food, a great way to get them to try it is to offer them a very, very tiny sample. I mean like one pea or a single grain of rice. When they do taste this new item, offer them a reward of something they love to eat.
If you just can’t deal with your children going to bed hungry, you can put together a back-up plan for the days when they absolutely refuse to eat the meal you prepared. My suggestion is to offer only a single option like a smoothie or toast with nut butter, that way you know they are still getting something. This last straw option, shouldn’t change. If you decide the alternative is toast, then it is always toast.
Of course, this isn’t always an easy path with many kids but taking the opportunity to teach them about living a plant based life will help them to develop an identity around healthy foods, gain skills in the kitchen, and understand how food choices affect their health, animals and the planet.
With special planning a vegan diet can be healthy for all ages including toddlers. I have put together some recipes to get you started but with everything, check out your own resources or speak with a nutritionist to see what works best for you.
Since most parents don’t have a lot of time to prepare breakfast, especially on a school morning, here are some great breakfast options that are quick, nutritious and delicious:
- Bagel or whole wheat toast with the following toppings:
- Nut butter with thinly sliced apple or banana
- Vegan cream cheese with sprouts
- Mashed avocado and a thinly sliced tomato
- Oatmeal with fresh or frozen berries
- Vegan waffles topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup
- Breakfast Burritos with the following fillings (many of these can be made up ahead of time and frozen:
- Scrambled tofu with vegan cheese and as much of their fav veggies as you can stuff
- Mashed black beans with mild salsa and vegan cheese
- Healthy cereal with sliced fruit and nut milk
- Smoothies are one of the fastest and easiest ways to get nutritional food into your kid’s mouth
- 1 C of nut milk, 1 small banana, 1/2 C of frozen fruit, 1/2 C frozen veggies, 1 tsp hemp or flax seeds and 1 tsp nut butter. Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until really smooth. If it is too thick add more nut milk. This make about 2 servings.
- Here are some other flavor combinations: Milk, banana, blueberry, spinach, hemp seeds and cocoa powder; Coconut milk, avocado, mango, pineapple, flax seeds and sweet potato; Milk, avocado, strawberries, beets and maple syrup
As far as lunch goes, if your kids are at school, you will probably have to make their lunches school safe, meaning no nuts. The good thing is there are loads of choices for them and if you use leftovers from the night before it can make this task a little easier.
- Quesadillas, sandwiches or wraps with the following ingredients:
- Hummus, chopped tomato and vegan cheese
- Mashed pinto beans, mild salsa, grated carrots, finely chopped spinach
- Mashed black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, ground cumin, vegan cheese
- Cooked sliced mushrooms, chopped spinach, mashed avocado, garlic salt, vegan cheese
- Tofu scramble, finely chopped kale, any type of chopped veggies, barbecue sauce
- Sun butter with sliced bananas and hemp seeds, add jam if you like
- Pasta, quinoa or barley salad with chopped fresh veggies and vegan dressing, top with pumpkin seeds
- Pita or bagel pizzas with pizza sauce, thinly sliced veggies and vegan cheese
- Chopped fruit or veggies with dips like hummus or dairy-free yogurt
- Pretzels, dried fruit, granola, dry cereal
- Nut milk or coconut water
As I mentioned, dinners are made much easier if you make just one meal for everyone! This works as long as there are no food allergies or the adults want to add a lot of spice to their meal - even then you can remove the kid’s portions before adding the spice. Here are a few ideas that are a little more kid friendly:
- Pasta with tomato sauce and you can blend in spinach, kale or any other cooked veggies, top with nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste
- Pasta with avocado - here is my fav recipe
- Carrot or mushroom soup with a vegan grilled cheese - here is a really easy recipe
- Stuffed mushrooms - here is the recipe which uses potatoes as the stuffing but you can switch it up and use sweet potatoes or squash
- Fish tacos - here is the recipe
- Veggie Pizza, the sky is the limit with toppings - here is one easy recipe
- Noodle bowls can be adapted using any type of veggie your kids like. Here is a quick and easy recipe
- Roasted cauliflower bites - you can make these as spicy or mild as your kids like. Here is the recipe
- Gardein has some great crispy chicken and fish fingers that you can serve with mashed potatoes and a fruit or veggie salad
Snacks are something that kids are always asking for and as parents we do our best to give them the healthiest versions. Here are some easy and healthy choices.
- Organic air-popped popcorn – you can top with spices to bump up the flavor
- Hummus with baby carrots for dipping
- Organic tortilla chips with 1/4 cup of salsa
- Kale Chips - Add about 1 C of kale (remove stems) sprinkle with a teaspoon of olive oil and lightly salted, baked at 400 degrees until crisp
- Mini pretzels with 1/2 teaspoon of mustard for dipping
- Organic grapes, blueberries, raspberries, sliced kiwi, watermelon
- Chocolate almond or soy milk
- Vegan yogurt with sliced fruit
- Celery sticks with almond butter
- Dates stuffed with almond butter – add a slice of banana