Welcome back to the blog everyone!
Today I have decided to go into as much detail as possible into what my vegan children eat, why, how, and what resources I use to figure it all out.
What My Vegan Children Eat!
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I know that being a Vegan mom can get confusing and there are so many different opinions being thrown at you from “they need meat!” to “how are they going to get their B12!” and so forth. If Veganism is your chosen lifestyle then have no fear, I am here to help!
So first off, WHY VEGAN??
It is my personal preference as a human being. That is really ALL anyone needs to say about the matter, as we all have a right to our own preference of what goes into our bodies (wooo that’s a mouthful!). I chose the vegan lifestyle for the animals (my turning point), the environment, my health, my spirit, my soul, my consciousness, to make a difference, to fight for something good, to eat what grows from my garden, to feel alive in this World that can sometimes turn us cold and jaded…..too much? Thought so. It is my personal preference!
“But lady, why you gotta force your kids to be Vegan?!” Is what I imagine many are asking (maybe not in that exact wording, but you get the picture) and my answer is this: I believe, through all of my research, morals and nutritional guidance from award-winning dietitians and doctors, that this IS the best choice for my children.
We could ramble all day about the studies, the research, and so on… but all I really have to do is look inside. Our entire family is THRIVING in this lifestyle. We are so happy, energetic, spirited and balanced. We sleep well, we eat well, we are active and we have no issues with our physical health, mental health, concentration, weight fluctuations, depression, anxiety or any of that. I had plenty of those issues before I went Vegan – there is no way in the World that I would ever go back.
I am currently a **Mostly** Whole Foods Plant Based Vegan. This means that I try my absolute best to eat the fruits and veggies in their WHOLE state (no oils or butter for this gal) and limit my processed foods as much as possible. Our family still enjoys pasta, pizzas, and bread, but we make them at home and choose the brands with the best ingredients and cooking process.
I found that living this way was the best for myself AND my children.
Children do not need oils, butter or processed foods in their diets. Children have an innocent palate that has not been destroyed by too much salt, too much oil and fried food. They enjoy the freshly picked apple, the steamed broccoli and the yummy bites that are shared from your plate to their own.
Eating in the same fashion as your child helps out A LOT. First off, you do not have to cook two meals! They can eat exactly what you are eating and all you have to do is cut it up into small enough pieces for their tiny hands and mouth. Another benefit is that you are reaping all the benefits of a healthier vegan lifestyle. Your children are essentially your new health motivation :).
Now that our food is on the table, let’s go ahead and talk about what kind of foods we typically eat in a week:
Our boys enjoy a wide range of vegetables that are eaten raw, steamed, roasted, juiced, or whipped up into a nice smoothie or smoothie bowl! I would say that each day they have about 4-5 servings of vegetables and this is made super easy with a green smoothie.
If your child is VERY picky, go for a smoothie or “nice cream” bowl. It is so easy to hide the taste of kale, spinach, peas and even broccoli with some ripe bananas and berries/citrus fruits. Again – have FUN! Experiment! Have your child throw in the fruits themselves and I promise they will drink it up with pride!
GREEN SMOOTHIE RECIPE
2 cups kale/spinach
1 celery stalk
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 ripe banana
1-2 cups fortified plant milk
This has to be one of the easiest requirements to eat because fruits are delicious! If my boys look at their meal with a “not today MOM” look then I just cut up some fruit and head for the smoothie machine. It really is that simple and sometimes we overthink things too much.
Fruits are so hydrating, vitamin-rich and super fun to eat for children. Let them hold the fruit by themselves and explore the different textures, juices, and colors. Fruits are like art – each is beautiful in its own way.
Don’t you dare think that carbs are bad for your baby – they thrive on these! This is the food that will fill your baby up and give them lots of energy to master that crawl, walk and run. These are also amazing foods that will keep your child sleeping LONGER and HAPPY, which means that YOU will sleep longer and BE happier!
Some fun recipes to try are Vegan pizza, cornbread, fries, baked wedges, homemade cereal with Medjool dates and coconut, banana bread, zucchini muffins, and so much more.
My personal favorite HEARTY recipes come from this category and the boys are just as eager to gobble it all up as well. Think stews, chilies, curries, mash-ups and more. Think warm, soulful, filling and loaded with herbs and spices. THIS is what “cooking” is all about!
I was thrilled when my boys tried their first chili. It was absolute chaos! It was like they had never tried food before.
They could NOT get that chili into their little mouths fast enough haha…so cute!
The key to cooking for little ones is to limit the salt (I use zero added salt, just a low vegetable broth), stay away from HONEY (we don’t use it anyway but just in case) and say no to SPICY. Salt is too hard on their little kidneys, honey is potentially fatal to infants due to a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum and, obviously, children cannot handle spicy foods just yet 🙂
Another thing to understand is the SIZE of the beans, lentils, and legumes. Be sure they are cooked all the way through and tender.
Nuts and Seeds
I believe it is very important to choose the HEALTHIEST fats for our little ones. This means no oils and butter, but lots of avocados, breast milk, nuts, and seeds!
Fat encourages the development of your child’s brain and nervous system, aids in wound healing, and helps to soak up all those nutrients from the list of foods above!
NEVER limit fat intake for children under the age of 2. If they want 2 full avocados, by golly, thank your lucky stars and shell out that cash for those avocados!
Our boys enjoy rice cakes with peanut butter in the mornings, avocados (raw or in smoothies), sunflower butter, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds and more. Be sure to stock up on lots of fatty HEALTHY foods for your baby and give it to him or her daily.
If breastfeeding, simply take a B12 supplement and it goes right to your children! If using formula, please be sure there is b-12 present. Once they are old enough, you can supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
To ensure that our children receive this fatty acid, we add flaxseed to their smoothies! You could also give your children a teaspoon of canola or walnut oil as well. Of course, we choose the WHOLE food instead and flaxseeds are super easy to come by.
There are loads of fortified plant milk, bread, and yogurts to choose from to reach daily calcium requirements (700mg per day). Another great option is to use Whole Foods such as kale, figs, chia seeds, almonds and more!
Iron is a tricky one! You could be eating loads of Iron each day and your body will not store it. What is up with that?? Your body needs a few things to “accept” your Iron gifts…
- Your body needs calcium to absorb Iron, so be sure to get your calcium-fortified foods in!
- Avoid drinking coffee or tea while consuming Iron-rich foods (please don’t give your children caffeine haha )
- LESS is more and MORE is less. Huh?? If you have too much Iron at one time your body will not absorb as much. It is much better to have a little bit of Iron throughout the day.
- Good sources of iron include: lentils, beans, tofu, cashews, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, dried apricots, dried figs, raisins, pumpkin seeds, kale, quinoa, and fortified breakfast cereal.
RESOURCES for What My Vegan Children Eat
Here are a few links and resources that I use to help me choose the best for my children.
Finding a plant-based doctor is a great start and I highly recommend it.
FINDING A PLANT-BASED DOCTOR: https://www.plantbaseddoctors.org
PLANT-BASED NUTRITION CERTIFICATE: https://nutritionstudies.org/courses/plant-based-nutrition/
A FABULOUS VEGAN BABY FEEDING SCHEDULE BY RD REED MANGELS: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.php
Do you have a B12 supplement recommendation for a soon to be 1yo that has been formula fed but will be stopping formula soon?
Hi Courtnie! So I chatted with our plant based paediatrician and this is what she told us: A child between 1-3 years old needs about 0.9 micrograms of b12. With the formula/breast milk ending early, she suggests to supplement with a b12 fortified milk (maximum 1 cup per day – please check the nutrition label of the fortified milk to ensure 0.9 micrograms is met). If a plant based milk is not what you are looking for, you can also supplement with a vegan multivitamin. Multivitamin is highly suggested over full b12 supplements for this age because the dosage is too high. Multivitamins will typically have a lower dosage and include other important vitamins that the child may be lacking due to the stopping of formula/breast milk. We have loved using drops natures aid drops in our smoothies (a multivitamin drop including b12). If you love to make smoothies then I highly recommend the drops. You can also opt for the vegan gummy bear multivitamins. Either way, be sure to supplement in the morning and evening.