By Fredrica Syren:
My three children are being raised on plant-based foods, which means they eat nothing coming from an animal. Instead, they eat lots of whole foods with a rich variety of vegetables and fruits, beans and lentils, and minimally processed foods.
Many people ask us if it’s hard to raise children on this kind of food and how we are sure they get enough nutrition. My kids are 4, 7 and 11 years old and, as I suspect with all kids (meat eaters, vegetarians or vegan), you can never be 100% sure they get everything they need nutritionally. However, since birth they — much as any other kids — have been monitored by a pediatrician. They are developing and growing ahead of the curve, and I can see they are filled with energy and light. So, right or wrong, I just assume they are doing well and that I feed them well. However, the majority of today’s medical professionals, dieticians, the United Nations and the World Health Organization agree that vegan food is good for children and that they can thrive on it.
The fundamental difference between my children and meat-eating children is that, since a plant-based diet in general is lower in calories, my kids tend to eat more food in order to fill up.
Another question I am asked a lot is how my children get calcium since they do not drink cow’s milk. First, the fact is when you consume enough calories from whole plant-based foods, they provide all the calcium needed. It’s been an age-old myth that you cannot get the proper amount of calcium from plant-based foods. However, to make sure they get enough calcium for their growing bodies, they drink fortified almond milk that provides more calcium than cow’s milk. And, by the way, the same goes for protein. I have never heard of anyone in a western country having protein deficiency, but my children get plenty of protein from all the fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and lentils they consume.
Here is a sample menu plan of what my children eat in a day:
Breakfast—Oatmeal made with old fashioned oats, flax seeds, coconut oil, wild blueberries or grated apples, cinnamon and cardamom served with almond milk and any toppings they wish (almond butter, dried coconut, seeds or berries)
Lunch—(school lunch) Dahl or lentil broccoli soup, vegan cheese sandwich, fruit
Snack—Celery sticks with almond butter or unsweetened cashew yogurt with fruit, or fruit and nuts
Dinner—Beans, kale and potato tacos served with raw tomatoes, avocado and lettuce. Or pasta with tomato sauce, chickpeas and broccoli or stir-fry served with rice or mashed potatoes, mixed salad and bean patties.
Here are just a few of my children’s favorite foods:
- Smoothie bowls served with granola
- Chia pudding served with fruit on top
- Overnight oats
- Buckwheat pancakes served with lots of fruit
- Tofu scramble
- Granola, almond milk and fruit
Lunch or Dinner Ideas
- Crockpot Mexican rice and beans
- Homemade sourdough pizza
- Bean and vegetable stews
- Broccoli, carrot or cauliflower soup
- Stir-fry served with quinoa or rice
- Pasta with either tomato sauce or creamy spinach sauce served with beans and broccoli
- Chickpea “tuna” salad sandwich
- Noodles and vegetables in peanut sauce
- Hummus and raw vegetables
- Nuts and fruit
- Almond butter apple sandwich
- Sugar-free yogurt served with fruit and hemp seeds
- Chia pudding