Feeding your child on the vegan diet can be trying at times. With limited vegan options at the grocery store, finding an array of healthy foods to keep your child growing and strong is a difficult, daily task. And, this is an important time in your child’s life – they are growing quickly, and need all the nutrition their bodies require to grow properly. Studies have repeatedly shown that children can develop just as healthy – if not more so – as their omnivorous counterparts, so it just becomes a matter of getting the right vegan foods for your child, and making sure they eat it. You’re probably busy and stressed from the rigors of child rearing, which doesn’t help either.
With a few simple tips, though, putting together quick and easy vegan meals and snacks for your child will become a breeze.
Listen To Your Child
If your child is currently going through a pasta and margarine phase and will eat little else, work with them on this. Try serving this to them with some green peas and carrots on the side, and see if they don’t give the vegetables a try. Children are more likely to expand their circle of food if given a food that they already know they will enjoy. If your child refuses to eat dark greens, don’t try to force it on them. Instead, try making a simple salad drenched in olive oil and a nutritional sauce, and they might more readily be accepting of this.
Keep It Simple with Lots of Variety
Fortunately, kids tend to enjoy simply foods prepared simply. This means you don’t have to bend over backwards trying to create gourmet dishes for them in the hopes that they’ll eat it. Try, instead, to prepare a variety of simple foods. A whole grain, such as quinoa, barley grain, or brown rice, surrounded by a colorful array of fruits and vegetables will almost always result in at least something being eaten. They may not eat every single food offered to them, but they will eat what their body needs.
When it comes to fruits and veggies, I’ve often found that my child is much more accepting of them when they are raw, rather than cooked. A platter of avocado, carrots, celery, shredded lettuce, and broccoli always results in him devouring at least two or three of the foods offered.
When you’re cooking dinner, make sure to set aside some simple food items while you’re cooking. For instance, if you’re making stir fry, try setting aside some rice before you add it to the vegetables and pour on the sauce. Serve your child the plain rice with veggies on the side, and keep some rice for the following day. This way, you’ll have a meal all ready to go if you find yourself in a time crunch the following day. Makes a suitable snack or lunch.
Serve Naturally Sweet Foods
It’s natural to desire sweet foods after a meal. The best way to satiate this sweet tooth with vegan children is to serve naturally sweet foods, such as bananas, oranges, apples, or dried fruit, as these have lots of nutrition and non-refined sugar. The sooner you get your child into the habit of expecting fresh fruit for dessert, the more likely they are to embrace this idea. It can be difficult to wean children off ultra-sweet foods, like cookies and ice cream, as their allure can be strong and tantrum-inducing. If this is the case with your child, try switching over to fresh fruits covered in plain yogurt (whole or low fat), with some vanilla extract and splash of maple syrup or honey. This will satiate the richness that your child expects, but is much better for their bodies.
Let Your Child In The Kitchen
There are few things that make a child feel more accomplished than to assist with their food preparation. They understand how important food is, and know that providing food is fundamental in creating bonds between people. By letting them help prepare foods in the kitchen with you, you will be strengthening your bond with your child, teaching them basic skills, and, most importantly, getting them to eat their food!
A great exercise for children is to let them build their own burrito. Lay out a small tortilla, or half a bigger one, on a plate, surrounded by rice, beans, shredded lettuce and the like. Let them go to town putting it together themselves. The first time I tried this with my child he said, “This is the best burrito… I’ve ever had!” Testament to how sub-par my burritos were in the past!
In the end, making meals an overall positive experience for your vegan child will go a long way in letting them enjoy their meal time, and get the food they need to develop properly. Really, in the end, presented with a diversity of foods, children will eat exactly what they need to maximize their health. They key is variety and simplicity. They’ll love it!