Go Plant-Strong!
The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

Plant-strong kids.

Making the change to a plant-strong diet can be tough for adults, but imagine making the change as a kid! It can be a difficult transition for some, but we have seen so many kids make the change and end up loving the plant-strong life! Here are some tips (and fun games) to helping your kids become plant strong:

1. Patience! Chances are that you had trouble making the change, your kids might as well. Try to keep your calm and not be angry with them for not liking certain foods (or when you don’t buy the junk food anymore).

2. Make sure healthy food is easily available. Have healthy food ready to go for them in the kitchen. Washed grapes, cut up fruit, vegetables that they enjoy, nuts or seeds.

3. It’s okay if they only like a few things. As adults some of us like a HUGE variety of food, but often for children they might only like a few different foods, and that is okay. If your child only likes potatoes, corn, brocoli, chickpeas, avocado, whole grain pasta and fruit, that is perfectly okay. Many children have a hard time with the bitter taste of some vegetables, so it is understandable why they might not enjoy them. Find the things they DO like and stick to them, and occasionally introduce a new food or two so they can try something new. Chances are your child likes a lot more food than you think!

4. Involve them in the process. Have them help with a grocery list. Let them pick out a few things at the store with you from the produce section. If they are old enough, let them help you cook! As young as 4 or 5 your child can help with certain things in the kitchen. Get them involved in their diet!

5. Make it fun! Why not play a couple of games? Make a big rainbow (make sure that each of the colors of the rainbow are pretty wide) and then draw lines down the rainbow so that you make 7 slots on the rainbow. Every day it is the goal of your family to eat something from each color. If they check off each box, maybe a little reward (non food).

Or – get a muffin tin, fill each of the muffin slots with different foods – potato wedges, beans, whole grain pasta, fruit, cut up vegetables, seeds and a couple of dipping sauces (like hummus, a healthy ketchup, or other plant-strong dressing). Let your kids decide what they want to have from the little portions in front of them. To make it fun – put a some stickers on the bottom of some of the muffin slots – when they are finished with dinner, if they ate something from one of the marked slots they get a little prize. This will encourage them to try every thing in their muffin tray!

6. Alternatives: Try ALL of the non-dairy milks. We also suggest not giving them to the kids plain (like in a glass of non-dairy milk) but instead on their cereals, this way there are a bunch of different tastes.

7. Give them water! There is no need to give kids juice or other liquid calories, get your kids drinking water!

8. “Ice-Cream” making plant-strong ice-cream is easy! Take some bananas when they have a few brown spots, peel them, chop them up, put them in a freezer safe container and throw them in the freezer. The next day – toss them in a blender with a little non dairy milk – and you have an AMAZING ice-cream! You can try all different kinds of frozen fruit as well, just pick up some bags of frozen fruit the next time you are at the store.

9. Healthy buys:

Get some fun plates! We love these plates to make meal time a little more fun.
These vegetable toys are great for little ones or these.
This is a great, plant-strong kids book!
These are really fun ‘cupcake’ molds – you could make some healthy mighty-muffins in them!
Or how about some fun cookie cutter shapes to make fun bread shapes, french toast shapes and more!

10. Resources! PCRM has a great site all about kids and nutrition you can find it here.
Here are some kid-friend recipes.

This is a great lecture by Dr. McDougal on dairy, he talks a lot about children in this lecture.

Dr. Neal Barnard talks about why things like: meat, dairy and sugar are addictive (it might help you to understand why your kids might have some trouble at first)

Most importantly, remember that this is one big plant-strong adventure in health! You are making changes that will have a long lasting impact for your children! It is important to get them eating healthy and active at this age so they don’t have problems later on. It all starts with you (and your partner), set a healthy example of what plant-strong living is all about. Get active as a family and enjoy food together as a family as well!

Become a plant-strong family!

Do you have some advice or tips on how to become a plant-strong family? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

About the author

NatalaE2
Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.
  • Beth

    This is great! Thank you so much! My kids are having trouble with the switch, I’m glad to know they don’t need a ton of variety, that helps a lot. I loved the video on dairy! Thanks guys!

  • Lynn

    FANTASTIC post! Love the fun games! I’m going to do the muffin tray one tonight!

  • Mark

    My kids LOVE whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and peas, they eat it twice a day on most days, we have found sticking to a few things they like is definitely the way to go, we figure there is time for them to eat all of the leafy greens, they are eating way better than all of their friends already.

  • Shannon

    Rip! Your blog has been so helpful lately! Thank you for this post! I went vegan after watching Forks Over Knives, my kids have had a hard time, this is going to help a lot. Really like the cool kitchen stuff.

  • Abbie

    I agree with Shannon, I don’t comment a lot, but this blog has been really great lately. Really appreciate all of the advice and tips. I have nieces and nephews who visit for the holidays, I’m going to try some of these tips, and I now know what they are getting for christmas!

  • http://www.omnivorerunner.com Rachel

    Our kids say they don’t want to eat vegan – and I continue to tell them that they already eat a lot of vegan foods :)
    There are a number of things we’ve cooked since going Plant-Strong that our kids just do not like. I’ve tried to take it in stride (easier said than done sometimes) – and just continue to try new things that hopefully they will like.
    There are a lot of plant-strong foods that they do enjoy! But they do still have yogurt, sour cream, and some meats. And they do eat lunch at school (definitely not vegan). But my philosophy is to give them as many opportunities at home as possible, and show them through my actions and my husband’s actions that being plant-strong can be a great thing!
    Some of these ideas sound great for little kids – for a teenager, many of them just won’t apply. But we’ll keep at it! :)
    Plant-Strong!

  • Jan

    Rachel – have you tried vegan versions of the dairy products? The sour cream, yogurt is going to taste the same.

  • Melissa

    This is great guys! I have a 5 year old and a 7 year old and I keep trying to push lots of vegetables on them, I think I’ll just stick to what they like for now, and not worry so much!

  • http://www.eatwell-staywell.com Sharon McRae

    These are all fabulous tips! I transitioned my kids (12 year old twin girls and 9 year old boy) to a completely plant-based diet a year ago; prior to that they were vegetarian, but heavy on the cheese. We used the Daiya substitute for a while but they are over that now. I make them a pizza flavored hummus that they adore and we use a lot of nutritional yeast when they want something with the cheese flavor. They all love my “Cheezy kale chips,” which I make with cannellini beans and cashews, as well as red pepper, lemon, garlic, and nutritional yeast. My daughter blogged about how she feels to be a vegan kid here: http://www.veganmainstream.com/all-in-the-vegan-family-kids-can-help-save-the-world-too

  • Andy

    As a single Dad, trying to get my son to eat healthy, this was a great read today! I just bought all the things you recommended and made a rainbow chart! Thanks for the post today. My son also likes a few things, he loves potatoes and sweet potatoes he also likes mashed cauliflower, he loves fruit and he likes whole grain cheerios, I’m going to try different non dairy milks on them. I think I was putting too much pressure on him! I had a hard time, I guess he is too!

  • https://www.facebook.com/patrickweixmd Patrick

    I’m a physician who went vegan two years ago after a patient challenged me to read The China Study. About a year later, my sons went vegan (now 12 and 14). One thing to note is that the longer they are exposed to this type of cooking, the more their taste buds will adapt. Some kids are also much more sensitive to bitter taste than adults, and may have problems with some greens. Using a sour taste like a sprinkle of lemon juice or balsamic can help with that. Many vegan parents also make smoothies, and toss in a handful of baby spinach–turns it green but almost no taste change.
    Two blogs with a lot of good ideas are http://vegandad.blogspot.com/
    and http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/
    Note: these are not strict low fat vegan blogs, but have good kid friendly ideas or fun stuff for the holidays. I make “Vegan Dad” sausages all the time in the summer. Keep experimenting, you’ll find your family’s favorites.

  • http://twitter.com Marcia

    I don’t allow any of the bad stuff in the house at all – I feel like it sends the wrong message. They did just fine about 2 weeks into the transition and now they won’t eat junk, even when they are out. On Halloween my yougest had some candy and he told me he’d rather have some dried apples, because the candy was too sweet and made his stomach hurt! But if the food is not around, they won’t eat it, and they will eat something! :) I liked your ideas a lot, love the muffin tin idea! My kids will really like that, since they will try anything pretty much. I realized when we changed our diets that our kids were just as addicted to food as we were, SCARY STUFF! When they were crying for pizza and hamburgers I felt really bad, because I realized I DID THAT TO THEM! But it only took a few weeks before things were okay in the house and before they stopped asking for junk food, I think they know now what it feels like to be healthy, and my youngest has not needed his inahler in a few weeks now, he had really bad asthma problems, I didn’t know it was caused by dairy!

  • veganchick

    Thanks for this! Keep the posts coming! They are really fantastic – great job!

  • Mollie

    I have a 6 month grand baby. Mom’s milk is drying up. What kind of formula do you recommend and foods when she is ready to eat?