May 15, 2018 1 Comment
Transitioning your kids to a plant-based diet can be a daunting task, but the evidence is getting clearer and clearer; moving from foods that hurt to foods that heal is critical for even the youngest members of our family.
According to Dr. Michael Gregor, MD FACLM, “by age 10, nearly all kids have fatty streaks in their arteries. This is the first sign of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the United States. So, the question for most of us is not whether we should eat healthy to prevent heart disease, but whether we want to reverse the heart disease we may already have.”
The good news? You can get yours kids eating AND loving plant-based foods. Here are our family’s 10 tips for getting the kids onboard:
1. Do Your Research
Dr. Gregor’s site, NutritionFacts, is a great resource for understanding why a plant-based diet will give our kids all of the nutrients they need for their growing bodies and brains. Figure out how you will supplement for Vitamin D and B12, how much protein they really need, and more.
2. Eat Dessert First
Find some kid-friendly plant-based desserts to make your family’s introduction to plant-based eating much more fun. My family loves our YoNana ice cream maker. We toss in frozen fruits like bananas, strawberries, mangoes, or blueberries to make delicious no-dairy “ice cream,” like this Peanut Butter Cookie Dough. Or try making these No Bake Chocolate Fudge cookies as a family.
3. Do It Together (and Make it Fun)
Have everyone participate in choosing plant-based recipes, grocery shopping, and preparing meals as a family. Laugh a lot, cut vegetables into funny shapes, make up a song about all the vegetable characters, dance (how does a carrot dance without two legs?). Go to the farmer’s market and talk to farmers, visit the farm, look at pictures about how broccoli looks while it is growing.
4. Mix it Up
Adults may find success “going all in” with a plant-based challenge, but our pickier eaters often need to ease into it. In our family, we added plant milk to dairy milk and eventually got to all plant milk. We reduced the ground meat in spaghetti and sloppy joe’s and replaced with half beans.
5. Add More Plants to the Plate (or the Smoothie)
A little more dates and sliced cucumber, a little less meat and dairy. Add spinach and carrots to fruit smoothies. Each day, a few more plants. Before we knew it, we were eating mostly plants and the transition to all plants wasn’t a big step.
6. Use the Same Flavor Profiles
Recreate favorite dishes, spiced the way you like, but replace the meat and dairy with a plant-based sub. Our family’s chili recipe tasted great with garbanzo beans instead of beef. (Note: If it’s a cheese-based dish, while tasty, plant-based “cheese” often needs a little distance from their dairy originals.)
7. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Have plenty of snacks everywhere – apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, veggies, nuts, peanut butter and crackers, oil-free popcorn, plant-based yogurt. Have the family meals ready to go – either prepped and in the fridge or a solid prep plan. Make it easy for everyone to make healthy choices!
8. Connect with Other Plant-Based Families
Changing your diet can be overwhelming. Connect with folks in the same boat. There are lots of online support groups for plant-based beginners. Check for plant-based potlucks and gatherings at your local health food store, community center, or gym. Or start a gathering of your own!
9. Tips for Eating Out
Dining out on a plant-based diet can be challenging, at first. Make it a fun game. Look up the menu online and let everyone do a treasure hunt. Whoever finds the most plant-based options gets a prize. Then when you get to the restaurant you’ll have a plan!
10. Don’t Sweat It
The best advice we got? Don’t sweat it. Your child will go to a birthday party and eat cake. Or enjoy an old fast food favorite when they go out with grandma. Usually the consequence is a belly-ache. We gently make the connection to the food they just ate, then we laugh and start over. Hey, let’s make a snowman on our plate with banana slices, raisin eyes, an apple slice hat, and a baby carrot nose.
By Lisa Lorimer
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