If you are one of the lucky ones whose little ones blissfully devour everything you put in front of them you might want to keep scrolling. If, on the other hand, dinnertime feels like a constant battle — with you trying and failing to get your family to eat more healthy plant-based foods — you've come to the right place. These mom hacks are tried-and-true to help your health food–hating family eat more (and actually enjoy) plant-based foods.
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I know how frustrating it is to spend time in the kitchen to prepare a healthy, flavorful plant-based meal, just to have it naysayed by the picky eaters in your family. It's disheartening to say the least and I hear you if you even feel like giving up on a plant-based lifestyle altogether. So please know know you're not alone! Many kids are picky eaters, even if they're been eating healthy plant-based foods their whole life (sometimes, it's just a developmental phase — hang in there!). That said, there are some practical steps you can take to bring a bit more health to your table.
1. Lead by Example
Children often mimic their parents’ behaviors and habits. This means that cultivating a healthy relationship with plant-based foods is partly up to you and your family environment. Start with snacks if mealtimes seem too daunting — sit down together and enjoy a platter of fresh fruit as a family.
2. Make Healthy Swaps
Rome wasn't built in a day and transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle will take some time, too! That's OK. Take baby steps with healthy vegan swaps. Like what, you ask?
- Instead of ice cream, freeze bananas and blend them with a handful of berries for nice cream, AKA a healthier alternative to your kids’ favorite dessert.
- Or swap out chocolate bars and instead fill naturally sweet dates with nut butter.
- Swap out mayonnaise on your kiddos' favorite sandwich with a healthy oil-free and vegan alternative, like MamaSezz Mama's Mac Sauce.
3. Make it Fun!
Depending on your children’s ages, you can make healthy plant-based foods more appealing to the eye by cutting them into different shapes, using their colors to paint a picture, or mixing them together to make stories with your little ones. There are so many options, and the only thing you need is a set of cookie cutters and a quick look on the internet.
4. Hide the Goodness
Sometimes the quickest way to ensure our kids don't eat their meal is to tell them it's healthy! The good news is, healthy plant-based foods really very good at playing hide and seek, which increases the chances your whole family will be meeting their nutritional requirements, without griping! Hide greens in their favorite breakfast smoothie, mix lentils in the pasta sauce, or sneak a variety of finely chopped up vegetables in the soup.
5. Include Kids in the Cooking
Children love being included in your daily life, primarily because they enjoy spending time with you! But also because it fosters independence. When you let your kids help prepare dinner, you'll most likely see their attitude towards food change. Show them how to steam the broccoli, and remark on how the green color changes with heat! Let them decide the shape and quantity of vegetables in the stew. You can even let them mix the oatmeal pancake batter and then carefully pour it in the pan. (Just make sure to keep them safe with age-appropriate tasks and always avoid leaving sharp utensils within their reach.)
6. Offer Choices
Chances are if you ask a picky eater if they want to eat the broccoli they'll say no. And you'll probably wind up giving them the old standby - white bread or pasta. After all, you can’t have them going hungry! I've been there and I totally get it. But there is another way! Provide choices!
Do you want broccoli or carrots with your pasta?
Do you want an apple or a banana as a snack?
Pro tip: when introducing a new healthy choice to your kiddo, do not make a big deal out of it — just offer the new food along with their favorite (at first).
- Encourage healthy eating habits by leading by example, making healthy vegan swaps, making it fun, hiding fruits and veggies if necessary, including kids in the cooking, and offering choices!
- Make going plant-based super duper easy on your family by getting ready-made and fresh vegan meals delivered — just heat and eat!
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.