If you’re loving your plant-based diet, you’re probably wanting to share it with your kids. Of course, you want to have them be as enthusiastic about this healthy lifestyle as you are!
When we see the benefits of eating this way, we naturally want to set our plant-based kids up for success. This means making sure that kids feel good about what they eat. We also need to give them the tools they need to navigate social situations involving food. Eating needs to be enjoyable, after all, no matter our age.
The question is: How to do that? Well, I’ve got some suggestions for you:
How to Support Plant-Based Kids
1. A Little Coaching Goes a Long Way
Unless your kids’ friends are also plant-based, it’s likely they’re going to react when they catch on to the fact that your kids are eating a different kind of diet. This can occur in all sorts of places, from the school cafeteria to dinner at a friend’s house or at a birthday party, for instance.
You’ll want to take the time to coach your kids on how to respond to their peer’s reactions, whether those reactions take the form of benign curiosity, judgment, and criticism or outright teasing and mocking.
You want your kids to feel informed and confident. Make sure that they understand the benefits of a plant-based diet and have just a few “talking points” that they can use as a kind of shorthand to explain their eating habits to other kids.
You can also encourage them to be generous and to share samples of their favorite foods with other kids as a way of creating a sense of familiarity and normality. If you’re comfortable with it, you can give your kids permission to invite friends over to your house for a meal to learn more about the plant-based lifestyle.
One thing to remember is to train your kids not to criticize how others are eating, or to imply that a plant-based diet is superior to other ways of eating. Obviously, that’s not going to go over well with your kids’ friends or their parents.
Help your kids maintain a sense of matter-of-fact neutrality when talking about plant-based eating – emphasizing that this is what our family chose and “here’s why.”
2. Kids Need Consistency
When visiting with friends and family make sure that you explain in advance why your family made the choice to go plant-based and be clear about what foods are and are not appropriate for your children to eat.
Daycare workers, teachers, babysitters, camp counselors, and others who care for your children will also need this kind of information. If you’re the writing type, you may even want to create a “cheat sheet” so they have a handy reference that describes the do’s and don’ts or your kids’ diet.
3. Get Your Kids Involved
Get your kids to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation. Just like adults, kids love to feel like they’re needed and being helpful.
Whether it’s taking an inventory of your fridge and pantry before creating a shopping list, selecting recipes from a favorite cookbook or website, going to the grocery store together or chopping vegetables, there are lots of age-appropriate ways to keep your kids active and involved.
This will give them a sense of ownership and pride in their contribution to the household as well as giving them some great life skills. This way a plant-based diet is not something that’s being imposed on them or “happening to them,” but a fun part of life in which they can participate.
4. Help Your Kids Resist Temptation
Provide them with healthy snacks for social situations such as summer picnics, barbecues, and pool parties, going camping or otherwise traveling with friends and family. Try to make these snacks so appealing that other kids might want to try them!
Kale or oil-free tortilla chips can take the place of potato chips or other fried and salty processed snack foods. Fruit leathers are portable and easy substitutes for cookies or candy, as are granola, trail mix and of course – delicious and chewy vegan chocolate brownies.
Tofu or avocado puddings can be chilled and sent as a substitute for ice cream. Frozen plant-based yogurt and homemade nut milk ice cream can also work, although that will require access to a freezer or cooler. The point is that you want to make sure your kids are prepared and not caught by surprise.
You want them to feel nourished and satisfied and to have fun, not to feel deprived or that they’re somehow missing out.
5. Vegetables Can Be Fun!
Make vegetables more kid-friendly! If you’re able to plant a garden or grow some veggies or sprouts indoors, that’s a fantastic way to get kids engaged and give them a sense of connection to their food as well as empowering them with the ability to feed themselves.
Take your kids to the local farmers market where they can meet the folks growing their food and help them learn about local produce and growing seasons and introduce them to heirloom fruits and vegetables and other “exotic” produce they might not see in the supermarket aisle.
You can also cut vegetables into interesting shapes, such as stars or triangles and use fun and tasty sauces such as vegan cashew cheese sauce, bitchin sauce, or chipotle sauce over vegetables. And all kids love “milkshakes” such as pumpkin pie, mint chocolate or cherry chocolate smoothies.
On the Road to Health
It might take a little (or a lot!) of extra effort at times, but as a care provider or parent you can feel good knowing that you’re setting your kids off on the road to optimum wellness – the ultimate foundation for a happy and fulfilling life. No matter what challenges you and your kids encounter along the way, the odds are good that someday they will thank you.
Let me know in the comments below how it’s going with your plant-based kids.
Health is true wealth!