Being a family of four and a mother to two mini vegans, I am often asked, “What do you feed your children?” Nutrition is important when it comes to feeding children, you want to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need to grow up strong and healthy. As a parent to two vegan boys, ages 3 and 1. We have at times had our hurdles, but never gave up on our vegan way of living. We kept moving forward.
When I first became pregnant with our oldest, I interviewed a pediatrician. He was impressed that I wanted to interview him and a bit surprised. I told him, that he would be caring for my child, so I had some questions to ask and wanted to make sure he understood a vegan lifestyle, feeding vegan kids, diet, etc. He was very understanding and supportive of our children being raised vegan.
Of course the first year of raising a vegan baby was quite simple, breast milk is the main meal. Once our little one hit 4 months we started on cereal, which is already vegan, no labels to read. Then we moved onto the pureed fruits, vegetables, and soon grains. It seemed like a simple transition.
Once our guy turned 1 we started to introduce new foods. Peanut butter came into play, avocadoes, beans, and more grains. This is about the time a picky child will start to appear. It can be frustrating for a vegan parent. No one wants to feed his or her kid PB&J everyday. As much as your kid may not mind it, you know they need more options. Out of our two boys, our oldest is the picky one. The youngest will eat anything.
As a mother, I became creative in the kitchen. Or sneaky in the mind of an older child. Luckily, my kids aren’t old enough to know that yet. Meals I have created that are healthy and delicious are the following:
Breakfast-Pancakes, fruit filled with ground flax mixed in to them. You can also add oats. Homemade muffins and breakfast bread, once again adding flax and oats, or other whole grains. Quinoa is great to mix into muffins. It is a wonderful source of calcium. Incredible Hulk Smoothies are a favorite with boys especially. They are green, which makes them fun. We add soy yogurt, a splash of orange juice, a handful of greens (usually spinach), a tablespoon of ground flax, a tablespoon or two of nut butter, banana, blueberries or strawberries, and a splash of soymilk. You can also add a whole avocado. This is a good source of fat. This smoothie has turned out to be a winner, just don’t let your older kids see you put the greens in there. That is an automatic turn off in their eyes. We have made these smoothies on the days when our oldest decided “no” was the answer to whatever we offered him. It offers a large serving of fruits and vegetables as well as the orange juice helping aid in absorption of iron.
Lunch- PB&J, an old standby. Bean and vegan cheese quesadillas with finely chopped spinach thrown into the mix. Brown rice with mixed vegetables. Quinoa with pintos. Vegan mac and cheese mixed with chickpeas or mixed vegetables. Pasta with sauce(We made a 5 vegetable marinara. The kids think it is plain pasta sauce, when in reality, they are also getting a handful of veggies.) Bagel pizzas, once again using the 5 vegetable marinara.
Snacks-Mashed avocado and tortilla chips. Hummus and crackers. Crunchy chickpeas. Baked polenta fries, they are shaped like French fries but a much healthier version. Kale chips. Fresh fruit. Fresh vegetables with a vegan dressing. Kids seem to like the crunch of fresh carrots and celery. Celery with peanut butter. Marinated and baked tofu cubes. Bagels with peanut butter.
Dinner-This meal is similar to what you could feed your kid for lunch. Ideally we would love to all eat the same meal, but it doesn’t turn out that way sometimes. Pasta with a mild peanut sauce mixed with edamame, baked tofu cubes and sesame seeds. Lasagna. Quinoa with pineapple chunks, sweet peas, and a splash of tamari once again topped with sesame seeds. Mild enchiladas. Veggies topped with a creamy nooch sauce. Mockloaf,and no-meat balls.
One thing our two little guys have taught me about feeding vegan children is patience. I am not a doctor or nutrition expert nor do I claim to be one. I have read a lot, done my research, asked questions and was happy once the oldest turned two so he could take a vitamin to ensure he got his B12. My boys are big and healthy vegans. People are always impressed by their size and even more shocked when they hear they live meat-free.
Introducing kids to new foods can be tricky. Growing a garden has helped. There is something fun about picking your own vegetables in the mind of a child. They seem more apt to try it. Having a CSA share has helped as well. They love opening the box of fresh organic vegetables and seeing the “surprise” for the week. And then there is the “try it once” rule. A kids will usually turn their nose up to something new without evening knowing if they like it or not. My rule, just try it once. Having your kid help cook adds fun to meals. They seem proud of what they made and want to persevere, share and eat it with the rest of the family.
Eating and feeding vegan children can sometimes be a challenge. It can be done. Just keep and always have a smile while doing so. Best of luck and here’s to happy, healthy, vegan families.