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Plant Power: Kitchen hacks to help you feed your vegan child

01/06/2018 3:30:41 PM | 0 comments |
The prospect of taking all animal products off the menu can be intimidating for parents who may struggle to understand how to find appropriate and nutritious foods to feed their child. Here are some tips to follow if your child decides to switch to plant-based eating. 

What should I do if my child asks to follow a vegan diet?  

Take a deep breath. It may sound restrictive, but appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, are healthy and can meet peoples’ nutritional needs regardless of their age or stage in life, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This includes childhood. Sure, it can be a little daunting to plan healthy vegan meals for your growing child, but with some easy ideas, a few kitchen tools and some practice, you’ll soon be comfortable in the kitchen feeding your child and family healthy, homemade plant-based meals. Here are some tips to get you started.

What are some helpful items to have in my kitchen to cook vegan?

Start with maintaining some basic foods and meal-helper staples in your kitchen or pantry:
 
  • Whole or multigrain breads, tortillas, buns, crackers, brown rice and quinoa
  • Spreads like nut butters, or guacamole 
  • Dried or canned lentils, split peas, assorted beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, navy beans
  • Cans of refried beans, hummus or packages of tofu for fast meals or snacks
  • Assorted vegetables, including green leafy vegetables such as kale, Chinese cabbage, broccoli or okra. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables and are often less expensive.
  • Assorted nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  • Plant-based beverages such as fortified soy milk 
  • A variety of fresh or frozen fruits for quick smoothies
 
You might also consider investing in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Slow cookers and pressure cookers can make preparation of dishes with beans and lentils surprisingly easy and fast. A strong blender can also be very helpful when blending nuts or seeds into sauces and when making smoothies.

What are some basic breakfasts, lunches and snacks I can feed to my newly vegan child?

Breakfast can be a breeze when you think of soft tofu (with a little turmeric for colour) as the perfect vegan egg substitute. Try:
 
  • Scrambled tofu and an English muffin topped with almond or peanut butter and banana slices and fortified soy milk
  • Oatmeal with ground flax seeds with orange slices and fortified soy milk
  • A smoothie or smoothie bowl such as Banana Berry Blitz, Breakfast muesli bowl, or Citrus Berry Shake (Note: substitute non-dairy beverage and maple syrup where needed.)
 
School lunch ideas that your child can eat on the go may include: 
 
  • Minestrone soup (kept hot in a thermos), whole grain crackers, fresh veggies with guacamole, apple slices spread with nut-free or seed butter
  • Sandwich with hummus and lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices, avocado kale and quinoa salad, and orange wedges
  • Veggie burger on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, red onion and tomato slices, chickpea and carrot salad, and a banana
 
It’s important to keep in mind when transitioning to a vegan diet that in general, vegan diets tend to be lower in calories than diets containing meat and animal products. So depending on their age and activity level, your child may need to eat more food and/or more calorie-dense food in order to meet their nutrition needs on a vegan diet. Remember not to pressure your child to eat more; trust your child to know when they’re hungry and full. 
 
That’s one reason why healthy snacks a few times a day can be a good idea to introduce to your child’s diet to help keep their energy up for play. Offer:
 
  • Homemade granola to snack on with an apple
  • Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks for dipping
  • Blackstrap molasses mixed with sesame tahini spread on toast

Where can I find vegan meal planning tips and recipe ideas?

You’re in luck. Vegan eating is increasingly popular and vegan cookbooks are now plentiful. To start, check out any number of recommended cookbooks and articles under the resources tab at Vegetariannutrition.net. Many of these authors are dietitians with websites and blogs who offer classes in-person or online. Check out the article, Vegetarian nutrition for school aged children, for a taste.
 
The Cookspiration web site and app also offers a vegan cooking section packed with tasty ideas such as avocado fries and chipotle dip, lentil and onion fritters and garden veggie Buddha bowls. And Dietitian’s of Canada’s Unlockfood.ca web site breaks down four simple steps to a balanced vegan eating pattern. You can also consult a registered dietitian about appropriate vegan foods and meal planning for free by calling HealthLink BC’s 811 hotline.
 
You can also read plant based nutrition articles and healthy meal how-to tips written by Fraser Health registered dietitians on:
 
 

Public Health Dietitian
Nadia Guirguis is a public health dietitian in Surrey and has worked as a registered dietitian over 20 years.
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