Teaching our children to become conscious eaters can be a challenge, but the results are definitely rewarding. Presented with a healthy, plant-based diet at a young age, children grow up aware of the choices available to them, and raising a child who will not have to “unlearn” the standard American diet is a precious gift.
Of course we all know that kids can be picky eaters, and keeping a pantry full of delicious foods that are tempting enough to keep them satisfied can be tricky. When school starts up again, it’s time to think about what temptingly delicious, yet healthful foods you can include in their lunch boxes. What foods can compete with the processed treats they see in some of their classmates’ lunches?
1. Tell Your Children About the Benefits
A good beginning is to talk with your children and give them some reasons to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. If they are animal lovers, appeal to their love of animals and be truthful about how animals are treated when they’re raised for food. Many children don’t realize that that the burger they’re eating came from the pretty cow with the big brown eyes.
If your child wants to grow up to be an athlete, tell them about great raw vegan athletes like Olympic tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams or Olympic canoeist Pam Boteler.
2. Grow a Garden
Another great gift you can give your children is to grow an organic garden as a family. Children appreciate the foods they grow themselves and get excited about going into the garden and picking produce for their dinners.
3. Teach Them to Cook
Teach children to prepare some of their favorite snacks, and have them participate in the week’s meals from menu planning to plating. Every day can be both delicious and harmonious when we work with children to make their diet both fun and healthy.
Do whatever it takes to get them excited and involved about eating more raw plant foods and be consistent—don’t give up on the first or second try. You may have to prepare a certain foods several different ways before finding their favorites.
Here are some kid-tested ideas from the kitchens of Living Light:
- A good way to start the day is with a green smoothie. Most kids love them and they are so easy to make. Even a child can do it!
- Another comforting and familiar breakfast for kids is oatmeal with nut milk.
- For lunches at home, a great way to incorporate leafy greens while getting your kids involved is to set up a home salad bar. Be sure to include lots of fresh, seasonal options and provide a kid friendly dressing or two.
- For school lunches, pâtés and nut butters are a delicious, filling, portable option. You can make a sandwich on sprouted bread or, for a completely raw variation, make a wrap with a collard or other green or provide lettuce leaves. Kids can make their own “boats” with special toppings like raisins, bananas or sprouts!
- Zucchini pasta is a fun and affordable raw dinner that kids can help you make. Have red or white sauce, or both, available. This dish can be served with raw pâté, “meatless” balls or delicious additions like mushrooms and olives for chunkiness. Simple “parmesan” cheese made of ground nuts and nutritional yeast top this family favorite.
4. Encourage Healthy Snacks
Healthy snacks are important for kids so they don’t get hungry and grab empty calorie snacks. Of course, seasonal fruit is always popular, and another easy treat is nut butters on apple slices or celery sticks. If you have a dehydrator, you can make wonderful snacks like kale chips, cauliflower “popcorn” and seasoned sweet or savory nuts.
5. Give Them a Taste for Healthy Sweets
Kids love sweets and dessert is a nice end way to end the day, but it doesn’t need to be complicated or full of fat. You and your kids can make a simple sorbet just by blending or homogenizing frozen fruit. Or, treat your family to some raw chocolate or carob mousse made with creamy smooth avocado.
As many of you know, even today, a raw vegan diet for children is often questioned by the omnivorous community. Kids’ health is the final frontier in raw nutrition. Based on RDAs and questionable scientific studies, many people are still convinced that children need dairy products, animal protein and all sorts of things they really do not require to maintain health.
We in the raw community know better, and are raising amazing, healthy children on a vibrant, living, planet friendly diet.
Do you want to spend more time with your kids? Then let them join you in the kitchen, creating fun, nutritious and delicious foods that they will love. Sign-up for Living Light’s monthly newsletter and receive our free e-book featuring yummy kid-friendly recipes.