So, What Do Your Kids Eat?


Photo: Cheryl Spaulding

I get this question a lot from other mothers who would love to transition their kids to a plant-based diet but just don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming if you are new at this because most of us grew up having some form of dairy or meat with every meal.

Do you ever worry that your kids will be missing out on some vital nutrients if you do not feed your kids animal products?

I can relate. I had been a vegetarian for almost 20 years and had eaten a primarily vegan diet for several years before I had children. But once I had children, I got nervous. Sure, I could thrive on a plant-based diet, but what about growing children? Would they be missing out on vital nutrients if they didn’t eat animal flesh or drink the milk of another species? I wanted to make sure that they could thrive on a plant-based diet, so I really had to do my homework. I had to do my homework not because it is difficult to thrive on a plant-based diet, that is the easy part, but because I had been taught by my family, school, and the media that eating animal products was natural, normal, and necessary. I had a lot of unlearning to do.

Completing a certification course in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Institute and eCornell really boosted my confidence that my family was easily getting all the nutrition we needed through a whole foods, plant-based diet.

So, here is a look at the six dinners that I routinely serve the family. I hope by the end of this post, you will be able to see how easy it is to feed yourself and your children well-rounded, nutritious, and satisfying meals.

The base of our diet is made up of simple whole foods that are easy to prepare in bulk. We eat a lot of sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, avocados, mushrooms, oatmeal, rice, broccoli, nuts, corn tortillas, quinoa, seasonal greens, and fruit in different combinations.

Since I have very active, growing little boys, I try to center meals around calorie dense starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, corn, whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Then, I add in more calorie dense beans or lentils, which also have a lot of starch as well as more protein. Then I try to get in a vegetable or two mixed in a way that the kids will like it (not always easy).

At least once a week, I bake a bunch of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Eli loves sweet potatoes while Ari prefers regular potatoes. I also make a big batch of lentils or garbanzo beans and rice. This way I can get the bulk of a couple of dinners and one or two lunches for me out of the way. All I need to do is make a salad or cook whatever vegetable we are having and then warm up the lentils and potatoes. If I add in some corn tortillas, the kids can make tacos and then everyone is happy.

Another great dish that will last a few meals is savory oatmeal. Again, I make a big batch of it so it will last for several meals. It is a hearty meal with mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes and greens. It can be seasoned with chipotle spices or curry or nutritional yeast and lemon juice.

And then there is the fall back, never any complaints option: pasta. Lately we have been using a quinoa brown rice pasta that both boys like. This is an easy one pot meal where I throw in either broccoli or spinach at the end of the cooking time for the pasta. I then put a can of beans in the pasta pot while the pasta and veggies are draining and add some nutritional yeast and lemon juice. It is super fast, and there are minimal dishes to wash!

As you can see, there is hardly any need to post recipes for many of the foods we eat because most of it is whole food (potatoes, rice, oatmeal, beans, vegetables, and fruit). The earlier you can start your kids on this kind of diet, the better. I have found that since the kids were raised eating this way, they are not even tempted by many of the foods that the average American kid eats.

Eating a plant-based diet is second nature now; it really is easy. I can’t imagine eating any other way, and my children don’t know any other way to eat. I also have no doubt that I am getting all the nutrients I need, and my children are getting everything they need to grow into happy, healthy adults.

This article originally appeared on Angela’s blog.

Posted in Family Life

Angela has a graduate degree in Social Work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California. She worked in the mental health field for more than ten years. Trained as a social worker to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, in the last few years Angela has focused on advocating for cows—a gentle species who endures horrific cruelty—and writing about raising her vegan children through her blog For the Love of Cows. She also teaches plant-based cooking classes through the Santa Rosa Junior College Community Education Department.