Children can be completely nourished on a vegan or vegetarian diet with the likes of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, beans and pulses. With the right knowledge and guidance, you can raise healthy and happy children on a plant-based diet completely free from animal products. Lucy-Ann, our go-to nutritionist, is on board to offer some tips and advice on how to go about introducing this lifestyle and highlights the great benefits it holds in store!
Remember that every child is different
It’s important to remember that what suits one child may not always suit another, so variety is really important to keep young children enthused. The first five years of a child’s life are the most critical, with nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin D being essential. Young children also need a diet with sufficient fats and protein, and it’s important to make sure that caloric intake is sufficient.
You should aim to provide a diet containing multiple types of grains, seeds, nuts pulses, beans and – of course – vegetables; variety is key to ensuring your child gets the proteins and fats they need to thrive. Fat-rich foods are also important, with nut butters, avocado, coconut and olives being perfect sources, as well as vegetable, nut and seed oils such as olive oil, hemp seed oil or flaxseed oil. Oils also help to increase the overall calorie content of the diet, which will help to give them the energy to be active, grow and develop.
Keeping it fresh
The most important part of any diet – whether plant-based or not – is that it is healthy and contains fresh, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods. Naturally, a vegan or vegetarian diet has a head start here, so most children will thrive perfectly well without meat or animal products in their diet.
Top plant-based meals and snacks for kids
- Nut butter on toast
- Bean or chickpea burgers with sweet potato chips
- Porridge or muesli with sliced banana and soya or coconut yoghurt
- Trail mix of raisins, sunflower seeds, dried apricot, and almonds
Banana, peanut butter and nut milk smoothie
Mango and avocado mousse or smoothie
Avocado on toast or corn cakes - or these terrific Quinoa Cakes
Lentil soup or lentil/bean stew with baked potato
Baked squash, stuffed with lentils and veggies
Vegetable and bean soup with wholemeal bread
Tofu and vegetable stir-fry
Quinoa, banana and orange porridge
Coconut yoghurt with fresh fruit, nuts and raisins, or alternatively this dairy-free yoghurt
Tips to inspire your child to love vegetables
- Grow your own vegetables! Tendering the soil, watering the plants, and watching seeds spring to life is one of the most exciting experiences for a child and best of all? They get to taste their very own ripened produce!
- Involve your child in the preparation and cooking of food. Chopping vegetables or fruits is a great place to start, enabling the child to feel part of the process of food to plate.
- Introduce them to new tastes, colours and textures as early as possible. Soft fruits, crunchy vegetables, fruits or veg with skins or seeds are all part and parcel of understanding and learning about the many varieties of plant foods available to us.
It is advisable for parents to seek the advice of a qualified and registered Nutritionist or Dietician before putting your child on a plant-based diet, to ensure that kids on a plant-based diet are covering all their nutritional needs.
Regards iron, B12, Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids, your child may need to supplement, especially during any transition phase towards an exclusively plant-based diet. Vegan Omega-3 supplements are usually sourced from algae. In the UK, good brands include Nuique - www.nuique.com and Nothingfishy www.nothingfishy.co