By Cathy Monaghan MSc, H.Dip, RD.

Plant based eating is good for you, good for your kids, good for your gut microbes and good for the planet.

BUT – You don’t have to be veggie or vegan to be plant based!

– Read on to learn about Plant Power meal planning.

We can all benefit from plant based food or plant based nutrition. But not only plants or not necessarily a vegan diet. The research tells us that a diet based primarily on plants with other foods included is where the greatest health benefits are to be found.

 

A healthy relationship with food is as important as the food we eat. As we teach our kids about the wonderful world of food and create kid friendly meals, aim to get a balance between eating well and enjoying food. You are responsible for what, when and where the food is on offer – but they are responsible if and how much is eaten.

This is the basis of intuitive eating and you can learn more here.

 

Cooking nutritious meals when life is going to plan is easy to do. Meal planning will ensure you are meeting your child’s nutritional needs on a plant based diet.

Do make sure to include some meals in your plan that are packed full of plant power and can be made in minutes.

Here are my top 10 considerations for meal planning for plants based kids (or for adding plant power where ever you can)!

Focus on variety:

  • Carbs are good and carbs are essential in helping our children grow and reach their height potential. Offer 5 portions of starchy foods per day. This will provide B vitamins, fibre, energy and often make a meal more satisfying. Not all carbohydrates need to be wholegrains and you can learn more about that here. A portion of Carbohydrate is generally the size of your child’s fist. If they want more, go with it.

  • Protein – 3 offerings per day, a portion being your child’s palm. Offer plant based protein sources at every meal – legumes/ beans/ lentils/ tofu/ quinoa / eggs/ dairy. Again, if they would like more, go with it! If you’re a meat eater could you add plant protein to the meals you cook?

  • Fruits and veggies – offer your child the rainbow of fresh/ tinned/ frozen fruits and veggies over the week. Aim for at least 2 portions of vegetables. This will ensure they are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals. A portion of Fruit and veg is generally your child’s handful. We’re aiming to offer between 5-7.

Dairy

  • Vegetarian – Full fat cow’s milk provides protein, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K and minerals such as Calcium and Iodine. 300 – 500mls is recommended for kids 1 +. Closer to 300mls if including cheese and yoghurts and closer to 500mls on milk alone.

  • Vegan – fortified milk alternatives can be beneficial. For an alternative milk to be fortified it will not be labelled as organic. Fortified milks must be shaken before use as up to 70% of the fortification has been shown to sink to the bottom of the carton. Soya Milk has the highest protein content. A 1:1 Consultation would help understand your child’s needs.

  • Fat – Healthy fats are good for growing kids and provide fat soluble vitamins and energy/calories. Oils avocado/ nuts and seeds/ plant based butters are all a good option. Butter is ok too, in moderation!

 

Iron rich foods:

A child deficient in iron ( ‘Iron deficiency anaemia’) can be difficult to feed as low iron can contribute to reduced appetite. You can help prevent Iron deficiency anaemia by including iron rich foods at every meal. Starting this early in the weaning process is a good idea too.

  • Beans, pulses, lentils

  • If your child eats meat – you could bulk up meat balls with beans and pulses (if you are just reducing meat intake – you can eat meat and still be plant based).

  • Tofu finger foods

  • Fortified cereals – check the label for extra vitamins and minerals added.

  • Fortified oats – ready brek.

  • Dried fruits like Figs, apricots – soak in water to help get in a suitable texture for your child. (Be sure to keep an eye on their teeth as dried fruits can get stuck between teeth!)

  • Vegetables – curly kale/ watercress , green leafy vegetables.

  • Eggs – the yolk of the egg is where the Iron is found!

 

Enhancing Iron Absorption:

Vitamin C – plant based Iron sources benefit from vitamin C to aid absorption.

  • Include Vitamin C sources at meals.

  • Citrus fruits/ bell peppers.

  • Supplementation may be necessary.

 

Energy dense meals:

Children have high energy requirements, often higher than a parent.

  • Include an energy source in each bite

  • Carbohydrates are essential

  • Fat – oils – olive/rapeseed oil/ avocado/ spreads/ suitable butter – include in baking

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Melt nut butter into things

  • Ground nuts/ nut butters in yoghurt for example

  • Avocado / veggie – eggs

  • Serve fruit with nut butters/ yoghurts etc

 

Protein Rich Meals:

Often Easier to achieve than believed!

  • Beans/ lentils/ legumes/ protein rich sources – peanut butter

  • Consider protein content of milk choice – look at ingredients. Some plant based milks are 98% water so the protein content will not be adequate for a growing child.

  • Soya based yoghurt, spreads.

  • Legume based pasta – chickpea/ lentil etc.

  • Sprinkle on higher energy foods – ground nuts and seeds.

  • Try Egg White Porridge, recipe to come soon!

 

Know which nutrients are harder to get enough of & will depend on inclusion or exclusion of animal products.

  • Calcium – vegan may need to be supplemented

  • Iodine – brain growth/ thyroid function (white fish/ dairy) – vegan – fortified milk alternative.

  • B12 – cereals, grains etc – Nutritional yeast – cheese alternative, sprinkle on food. Fortified flours/ cereals/ milk

 

Keeping the balance:

Keep an eye on the amount of processed meat alternatives i.e vegan sausages as these are often higher in salt and low in protein. The food shopping card is useful here.

 

Focus on family meals:

Research shows that children that sit and eat with peers/ parents eat better. So make sitting and eating together part of your meal plan whenever you can.

Give your child something to copy, try to sit and eat together whenever you can. Make meals about the social interaction. My Raising Intuitive Eaters webinar helps explain the importance of language around food and meals, and why we should refrain from labelling foods as good or bad.

 

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation Considerations:

Supplementation would need to be advised on an individual basis based on the overall variety of the diet. Supplements we would consider would be

  •  B12

  • Vit D.

  • Omega 3 – DHA

  • ALA

  • Iodine fortified milks/ supplement

The last word:

Try and not talk about food too much! It can sometimes feel like pressure to kids.

This blog post is not intended to replace the support of a 1:1 Consultation.

 

I am an affiliate for these products which means that I receive a small commission which goes towards the running of this blog. A consultation would assist in planning appropriate supplementation.