Introducing Children to a Plant-based Diet: A Guide

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For years vegetarian and vegan diets were dismissed as something only committed animal lovers would follow, but times are changing. We are now aware of how much of a negative impact our reliance on meat has had on the environment, as well as the impact a diet that is high in meat can have on our health. The future of food is likely to be more plant-based, so it makes sense to help our children to embrace it now. While you do not necessarily need to remove meat from their diet altogether, adjusting the ratio in favor of plant-based foods could have a positive impact on their health and the environment. This guide outlines some tips that might help you to introduce more plant-based foods to your child’s diet.

Research and understand their dietary needs

Growing children must receive all the nutrients and minerals they need for their body and mind to reach their full potential. Before making a significant change to your child’s diet, make sure you understand their dietary needs, including recommended protein intake and which plant-based foods will ensure they get what they need.

Start with plant-based treats and desserts

It can often be easier to get children to try new foods if they are presented as desserts or sweet treats, so consider starting with a dairy-free, fruit-based ‘ice cream’, or plant-based cookies or cakes.

Involve them in the planning

Kids love to feel involved in adult decisions and planning, so why not ask them to help you research recipes, shop for groceries, and prepare the meals at home. You can use the preparation time to talk about the different vegetables. You could even enjoy cutting them into funny shapes and making them dance.

Keep a stock of plant-based snacks and easy meals

It is easily done in a busy family household, but sometimes we can run out of time to prepare an evening meal or out of plant-based snacks. This could lead us to make quick and easy decisions that involve meat or animal-derived products. To avoid this, try to keep a good stock of plant-based snacks and frozen Native Foods vegan foods that are easy to stick in the oven at the last minute.

Gradually phase out meat for vegetables

Some children might easily adjust to a plant-based diet, while others may take more time to come around. In those cases, it might be more effective to gradually reduce how much meat you put on their plate and gradually increase fruit and vegetables. Keep making their favorite dishes with the same flavorings and spices but use a cheese substitute, reduce the meat and add in some more beans or vegetables.

Don’t force them

It is important not to force children to eat food that they genuinely do not like, as this is the quickest way to turn them off from plant-based food in general. They will like some foods and not others, and sometimes they may want to enjoy non-vegan foods with their friends or other family members. Make plant-based foods a positive part of their life and keep reiterating the importance of minimizing meat consumption where possible.

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