As a nutritionist, one of the biggest misconceptions I often see, is people being hesitant about bringing their children up on plant-based diets. In reality a plant-based diet can be a great option for children as long as they are receiving all the nutrients needed, just like any diet. So let's take a closer look at this.
Plant-based diets are recognised as perfectly healthy for children by the Dieticians Association of Australia and the American Dietary Association. When planned, the diet is considered completely adequate at providing all the nutrients required by the body. It is also considered suitable for all stages of childhood and adulthood including; pregnancy, infancy, young children and teenagers.
A few years ago, I made the decision to stay vegan during my second pregnancy with my youngest daughter, Annabelle. To this day both myself and Annabelle have thrived off a completely vegan/plant-based diet throughout my pregnancy, her birth and her first two years of life.
Although my first birth was not plant-based, I am now transitioning my eldest twins to a predominantly plant-based diet as well.
Raising them to become healthy young adults has inspired me to create delicious, nutritious and easy plant-based recipes for the whole family via my Instagram and has recently resulted in the launch of my first cookbook, Healthy Little Tummies.
Children raised or transitioned to a plant-based diet have access to a wide range of incredible health benefits. Some of the key proven benefits include a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions in later life, as well as a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma in childhood.
But most importantly, creating vegan meals for your family doesn’t have to be complicated! As long as you are making an effort to include the following essential nutrients; vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, omega-3, iron and calcium.
My biggest tip is to make it yummy and fun! I made sure all the recipes in my cookbook were approved by my three children first. Some of their favourites include: chickpea satay, quinoa fried rice, baked potato chips, avocado pasta and cauliflower potato bake!
Secondly, don’t worry too much about their daily nutrient intake but instead make sure they are eating from a wide range of plant foods over the course of a week.
Lastly, I recommend making sure children are eating a wide range of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole-grains and seeds and nuts. Their diet should include whole-grains at every meal, a source of plant based protein and some healthy fats like hemp seeds which add omega-3, iron and other important nutrients. We use hemp seeds in smoothies, baking, salads, vegan parmesan - they are nearly in every meal of the day!
You can rest assured that a plant-based diet at any age will offer all the nutrients needed for the body to thrive, grow and develop. I have not only seen this through my work as a Nutritionist but in my own family. I feel completely confident knowing I am setting them up for a long healthy life by filling their plates with delicious plant-based foods.
Below is one of my family's favourite recipes from my first cookbook, Healthy Little Tummies.
Almond Tahini & Hemp Chocolate Cups
Raw energy desserts like these almond tahini coconut cups are a great nutritious snack for vegan kids. High in calcium from the tahini, almonds and in iron and omega-3 with the hemp seeds. They are also gluten-free and refined sugar-free.
- In a food processor combine the almonds, hemp seeds and coconut and process until fine.
- Add in the dates, maple syrup, tahini and process until it forms a sticky dough.
- Add water and blend further if not sticky enough.
- Press the sticky dough in silicon muffin moulds or a tray as a slice.
- Pour melted dark chocolate and top with crushed almonds before placing it in the fridge to set for a few hours.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
Written by Claire Power
Claire Power is a qualified nutritionist, mum of 3 and the food blogger/stylist and photographer behind HealthyFrenchWife. Claire creates and shares colourful, healthy plant-based recipes through her blog and social media, and she has been making healthy vegan recipes for over 6 years. She also offers worldwide nutrition consultations and specialises in plant-based nutrition.