Plant-Based for Kids
With an increase in plant-based eating, more parents are looking for plant-based meal options for the whole family. That doesn’t mean just taking the cheese off the pizza!
To vegan mom Lacey Dumler and her partner, Philippe, the importance of basing a child’s diet on whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods can’t be overstated, especially in a time of skyrocketing childhood obesity and diabetes.
“The foods they eat in the first 10 years of their life set the stage for their future health. They’re in a period of growth and development, so it’s critical that what they eat provides the nutrients they need,” she says.
Vegan dad Richard Hachem and his partner, Catherine have also raised their daughter Myla on a vegan diet from the start, though they themselves only transitioned a few years before she was born.
“Going vegan was much easier than we thought,” he says. And while the short-term health benefits of a whole foods, vegan diet aren’t really obvious at Myla’s age, he admits—she’s only two!—he feels that a plant-based diet builds a solid health foundation, leading to a naturally healthy body mass index (BMI) as well as a lower risk of diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and high blood pressure later in life.
Myla’s diet also matches the 2019 Canada’s Food Guide, he adds. “Three-quarters of the 2019 Canadian plate should be plant-based, so by removing non-plant calories, it becomes easier to conform to the guidelines.” For optimal nutrition, he supplements her diet (and his own) with vitamins B12 and D.
Not all vegan diets are created equal, however, he notes; a whole foods version is quite different than one of vegan Oreos, chips, and french fries. Still, he’s not a killjoy. “We’ll let her eat anything vegan at parties. I’m sure she’d love sugary cereals and processed foods, but we don’t have these at home, and she wouldn’t ask for them.”
Instead, she’ll eat a bowl of hummus with a spoon, devour a bowl of spinach in a single breath, and even steal all of her dad’s marinated tofu from his noodle bowl if he’s not careful!
She’d also love these five plant-based, kid-friendly recipes (especially the mango popsicles) that provide fuel, optimal health, and tons of flavour.
Don’t forget to check out these tips for vegan meal-planning like a pro.
Amie Watson is a Montreal-based freelance writer, television contributor, and founder of the Fork That app. Her work has appeared in the Montreal Gazette, enRoute magazine, and The Globe and Mail.