The Daily Beet

10 Apr A week of FAQ: Day 2 “What about my kids?”

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(Rip’s daughter, Sophie)

Day 2: “What about my kids, can they be plant-strong?”

A. Not only can they be plant-strong, they will definitely thrive on a plant-strong diet and get all of the nutrition they need.

Children follow many of the same principles of healthy eating, as adults. So long as  they are getting enough plant-strong calories they are going to thrive nutritionally. For healthy fats, use avocado, seeds or nuts, but there isn’t a need for them to get excess amounts of concentrated fats like oils (just like adults).

We think it is important to remember that many children in this country are not healthy, nor eating anywhere near a plant-strong diet. Because of this we see a lot of physicians who are having a hard time coming up with good dietary guidelines, because of the health crisis of children in our country.

What if your child doesn’t like greens?

Many children do not develop a taste for greens until later in life. You can focus on the more starchy vegetables like, peas, green-beans, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and then start to add on top of that. Add in greens slowly, and try not to “sneak” them in. We find that kids who are exposed to different vegetables a little over time do a lot better, than kids who have greens/veggies disguised somehow.

*Of course some kids LOVE greens, they should definitely be encouraged. We just don’t want parents to worry if their children don’t happen to love greens at the moment.

Tip from Ann Esselstyn: Try using dark green romain lettuce leaves, and putting some hummus or a little nut butter on it, and rolling it up! The dark green romain lettuce seems to taste sweeter to kids than a lot of other vegetables.

For some tips and nutrition guidelines for children (babies – teens) check out this helpful chart by PCRM.


For breastfeeding moms, you will need to slightly increase your caloric intake, and you might consider adding a little bit more of healthy fats. Aside from that you won’t have to change much of your diet. (Please talk to your doctor and lactation consultant if you have anything that you are worried about specifically).

If you have excess weight you might not have to consume any extra calories, your body should be able to use what it has.
“These additional demands correspond to the energy cost of milk production. For women who feed their infants exclusively with breastmilk during the first six months of life, the mean energy cost over the six-month period is: 807 g milk/day × 2.8 kJ/g/0.80 efficiency = 2.8 MJ/day (675 kcal/day) (Table 7.2). From the age of six months onwards, when infants are partially breastfed and milk production is on average 550 g/day (Table 7.1), the energy cost imposed by lactation is 1.925 MJ/day (460kcal/day).

“Fat stores accumulated during pregnancy may cover part of the additional energy needs in the first few months of lactation. Postpartum loss of body weight is usually highest in the first three months, and generally greater among women who practise exclusive breastfeeding, but the extent to which the energy mobilized supports lactation depends on the gestational weight gain and the nutritional status of the mother.”

Do you have plant-strong kids? What has helped them make the transition?

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Wendy (Healthy GIrl's Kitchen)
    Posted at 08:02h, 10 April

    As a mother of three, I really look forward to any conversation that results from this blog post. My experience has been that it can take years to transition some children (not all, thankfully) from the SAD to a plant based diet. This has been my experience with my middle child. But it is working! Her lunchbox today had grapes, carrots, whole wheat matzoh, strawberries and a raw coconut macaroon. Compared to the school lunches she was eating a year ago (and gaining weight at a bizarre rate), this is massive progress. But it took a lot of time and patience on my part. It’s so worth it, she is looking so much healthier these days and has a real interest in making better food choices. She even said to me yesterday, I don’t want to eat any more “butter” (which for her was really Earth Balance). I was, like, doing cartwheels in my kitchen!!!!!!!!!!!!! Progress!

    • John McGowan
      Posted at 08:27h, 10 April

      Kudos to you, Wendy!

      Getting your kids to eat kosher for Passover AND be PlantStrong is tough! I do both personally, but my wife and kids have a hard time with either, as do most people — though I am working at it with them.

      Everyone have an awesome PlantStrong day!

      Chag Sameach.


  • Dreena Burton
    Posted at 12:38h, 10 April

    We have 3 girls, been raised on a vegan diet. They are full of steady energy, are strong, and very active. They embrace our foods, and love whole-foods like beans and grains. I talk about my experiences as a mom of three vegan kids in books and on my site.

    As I say to other parents “children come to enjoy the foods they know”. So, even if they haven’t been raised on a whole-foods vegan diet, over time they will come to enjoy the new foods. Sometimes takes a little extra creativity from the parents, but it’s worth it!

  • SJS
    Posted at 13:06h, 10 April

    Just out of curiosity….for parents raising their kids on a plant based diet, where are your kids falling on the peds growth charts?

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 13:13h, 10 April

      Remember that plant-strong kids might be smaller than their peers, but that is not a bad thing – we are living in a society in which kids are growing at alarming rates, hitting puberty way too young and getting diseases that used to be just for adults.

      However, we also hear from parents and their children are much stronger and fit than any of their friends.

      • rip esselstyn
        Posted at 20:41h, 10 April

        Thanks for the question.
        FYI, Kole at his last check-up was in the 95th percentile for height and 75th for weight. Sophie was at the 50th for height and 75th for weight. Kole is almost five and Sophie is almost three.

        • Nina
          Posted at 12:57h, 12 April

          Both of our kids are plant strong. My 6th grade son is one of the taller boys in his class, very lean and is excelling in track and basketball.
          Our 4th grade daughter is 97th percentile for height and 75th for weight and is a very strong gymnast and volleyball player.
          I work in a middle school and I have to say my kids still look like “kids” unlike so many of the others here who seem to have physically matured and developed very early.

          I can’t say enought about eating plant strong–our whole family has benefitted. My husband is a firefighter and runs ultras and has seen the most significant improvements in his health, weight and performance. I am doing my first ultra this summer and have been amazed at my recovery time improvements and significant increase in energy!
          We try to keep our kids educated about WHY we are eating the way we eat and they have watched FOK and the Engine 2 documentary. They think it’s fun!

        • Angela
          Posted at 15:19h, 13 April

          Do you give your children B12 supliments? My two boys (ages2&3) have been vegan from birth. They eat lots of brocoli, kale, sweet potatoes, fruits, steel cut oats etc… They are healthy and strong and I think they were in the 25% for height and weight last time we checked. The 2 year old is still nursing and the 3 year old drinks B12 fortified soy milk. We also use nutritional yeast with B vitamins regularly. I’m not a fan of supliments but sometimes get nervous about the B12 issue. I’m wondering if there are any other parents of plant strong kids who do not use supliments?

    • Debbie
      Posted at 13:51h, 10 April

      Keep in mind that the CDC growth charts used by most pediatricians in the US are based off averages of what the kids ARE, not what they SHOULD BE. As a breastfeeding mom, I often double-check my kids’ growth on the WHO growth charts rather than the CDC ones. It is well-known that breastfeeding is the ideal, yet breastfed babies do average out to be smaller than formula fed kids, especially between 6-18 months when a lot of breastfed babies drop significantly on the CDC charts. Knowing that, I can easily understand Engine 2’s response – the “average” child in America is overweight these days.

  • Kate
    Posted at 13:16h, 10 April

    Most of this advise is great! I don’t agree that most kids don’t develop a taste for greens later in life. We started our babies out with greens as their first foods. My children are all adults and have eaten vegetables with pleasure all their lives. Feed children the things that are healthy for adults. They adjust if there is no junk in the house. Many years while our children were growing up were vegetarian years. They had no problems with growth.

  • Erin
    Posted at 13:34h, 10 April

    As a mom of four, I know it can be tricky with all the different taste buds but it can be done. We recently switched and we talk opening about why eating plant strong is so important. My 15 y/o is not all the way there yet but she does understand and is willing to try everything, but my younger kids are all for it and excited especially my 5 y/o – he loves being plant strong!!

  • Tammy
    Posted at 13:36h, 10 April

    I don’t even know where to start!

    After my children (9 and 7) saw Rip speak about 6 weeks ago, they were ALL IN! They say it was hearing him say that eating a plant-strong diet can prevent them from having most cancers and heart disease, but I truly think it was everything about Rip – from the t-shirt and jeans, to the video of him climing the pole with only his arms, to him dancing to Katy Perry – my kids were SOLD! (Mind you, I have been preaching the same things at home for years, but it truly wasn’t until that night, that I saw them make that turn.) I first turned vegan while I was nursing my youngest and can tell all those nursing moms that the only thing I noticed (when I did pump) was that the consistency of the milk was a little thinner. My son was consistently off the charts in weight and height and I continued to nurse him for 2 years after first turning vegan. He is healthy, smart, happy and athletic. My daughter has been much more happy since upgrading her diet and choosing plants over animal products. She has even devolped a [somewhat forced] taste for steamed kale (I allow her to sprinkle just a touch of sea salt on the surface of it… it helps A LOT!).

    One of the (excuse the Oprah term) ‘Aha’ moments came this week: My son was given a writing assignment at school to write a twist on a fairy tale. He has chosen to write about the 3 Vegans (and the Rancher). His ‘chant’ is AWESOME… rather than, ‘not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,’ he said he is going to use, [when asked my the rancher about protein] “How can I be wrong? I’m plant strong!” If that doesn’t tell you how much of an impact Rip and Engine 2 have been, I’m not sure what will! (He’s also decided to dedicate it to Rip… I’ll have to get you a copy when I finally see it!)

    Thank you again for helping our family and so many others out there. My kids just wish you could do an assembly at their school!!!!!!! xoxoxo

    • Tammy
      Posted at 13:38h, 10 April


  • Brittany
    Posted at 13:48h, 10 April

    My daughter was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease right after she turned one year old. I was already eating a vegan diet and decided at that time to change her diet as well. it didnt make sense that I didnt want to eat meat or dairy but was giving it to my daughter. There is no cure or treatment for PKD so I wanted to give her the best chance I could. Over the past year I have become an unhealthy vegan making cupcakes and eating pizza and chips etc…but she has remained a healthy plant strong kid now 2 years old and is actually in the 95th% for height, 50% for weight and 75% for head size. her dr’s say she is doing great and has full kidney function. When people ask me if it’s a good idea for her to eat this way, I normally respond with ‘her diet is much better than that of sugary cereals, chicken nuggets and french fries-where’s the nutrition in that?’ For lunch today she ate a whole grain pita filled with mushrooms, cucumber, tomatoes, spinach and roasted red pepper hummus! I LOVE it!

  • Katherine
    Posted at 14:13h, 10 April

    I have 3 children, 15, 12 and a 3 yr old. They all accept our diet and rarely object to what is being placed in front of them. The 3 yr old has his days but for the most part he will eat. I also do not give a back up meal, either they eat whats for dinner or they get nothing else for the rest of the night. They have the option of putting their dinner plate in fridge for later. I try to teach them we eat for nutrients, not pleasure, so if the meal taste yum consider it a bonus! It helps to stick to basic meals that I know they enjoy. As far as growth, my toddler is with in normal limits. (Weight is 35% and height is 60%)(30 lbs and 38 in) I never worry about growth charts because I know his diet is superior to his peers. You know, the kids eating happy meals, sugar filled cereals, lunchables, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, mac n cheese. Yes that is all crap and most kids eat it. My son is eating spelt/ww flour banana pancakes for breakfast or oatmeal or plain organic oat o’s. For lunch he will eat pb n j (of course organic natural pb or almond butter, jam made with fruit juice on organic whole wheat bread) or mock tuno salad or lentil kale soup. For dinner its usually a mix of veggies, beans and grains. He also will snack on a variety of fruits throughout the day. He only drinks water or almond milk. Once or twice a week I will give him a liquid multi vitamin as insurance. I have found the biggest difference between children’s taste and adults is that children will love something one day and hate it the next. My 3 yr old, a month ago hated pb & j, now he is totally obsessed with it. He will also eat plenty of kale if it is cooked with something like soup or stir fry. I just go with the flow and try not to stress over it. So to the women who is worrying over growth charts….I think they hold as much stock as the usda food plate. Feeding your child a plant based diet is truly giving your children the gift of life, a long healthy life!

  • Ninufar
    Posted at 19:13h, 10 April

    This is encouraging… I have just barely begun considering adopting kids. One of the three social workers I’ve talked to made a crack that my being Jewish was no problem, but she wasn’t so sure on the vegetarian front. (She was at least partly joking.)

    It’ll be at least a year or so before I will be ready for that kind of decision, and if I take in some older children, I figure I’ll need to work with their preferences, too (e.g. meat for lunch if they want it), but it’s great to have more info.

    By the way I love the picture of Sophie. One of the biggest concerns I had when I first heard about Engine 2 was whether it would be okay for women trying to get pregnant… apparently it can be just fine!

  • Andrea Fitzgerald
    Posted at 09:44h, 11 April

    My kids are good about eating a variety of plant strong recipes, but of course some days don’t have a beautiful variety that other days provide. I know we can approach meeting our vitamin, protein, iron, calcium etc needs on a weekly basis vs each day.

    I am really interested to know what those guidelines are for how much protein, iron, calcium, etc are needed each day and/or week and which food items provide what nutrients and how much, etc.

    Can you direct me to some charts? For example, I want to figure out our dinner of veggie soup, quinoa, and whole grain bread and approximately how much protein, iron folic acid, etc the meal generated.

    I love nutrition and would love to know approx. how much of each nutrient we are getting in our meals. 🙂

    • Hillary
      Posted at 14:09h, 11 April

      Andrea, I use fitday.com to track my nutrition but I’m sure there are other and maybe better or more user-friendly sites out there. I’d love to hear of others that anyone has experience using.

    • Ninufar
      Posted at 17:30h, 11 April

      I would also like to find a good source for this… some of the free calculators I have tried are clearly prone to errors (1 C cooked brown rice is not 600+ kCal, for instance).

      If you don’t mind a little calculator work on your own, the charts at the back of _The New Laurel’s Kitchen_ are pretty complete, incl quinoa and the like.

  • Cat
    Posted at 07:25h, 17 April

    My family is starting this life change for healthier living, I have four children a 6yr. and triplets who are 4 my struggle has been snacks for school how have you dealt with that and also what are some great snack ideas that you have used.

    • Cat
      Posted at 07:43h, 17 April

      I should probably mention our family has always done organic but I am moving towards strictly vegetarian and my husband and I have moved towards a vegan diet is it hard to move kids to a vegan diet. my kids already love vegetables the trouble is more when they have friends over or they go over to a friends house.

    • Roxane Bélanger-Lowe
      Posted at 14:00h, 27 October

      In our school the snack protocol is “fresh fruits and vegetables plus cheese”. Because the cheese bothered us and we were not allowed nuts because of allergies in school, I simply replaced the cheese with dried roasted cheakpeas or green peas.

  • Heather
    Posted at 07:06h, 19 April

    Tips: My kids love GREENS! I just started by putting like one fork’s worth on their plate and asked them just to eat that much. They did and they eat them all the time. The other thing I do is I juice greens and put the juice in stuff like tomato sauce or in smoothies. Just a little bit and they never even know it is there!
    My kids are about 90% vegan. I say 90% because I don’t force them. If they are out at a party, then they eat what is there; although, they do always eat vegetarian! But my mom is a cheese pusher, and how can they tell their grandmother no? But I have found the longer we are on a plant strong diet, the more and more they only choose plant strong foods! They really are resetting their palate.
    You can read about how my kids reset their taste buds on my blog http://wellmangroup.blogspot.com/2012/04/cupcake-adventure-happy-birthday-medea.html

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