Vegan kids are most likely healthier than their omnivorous counterparts, but they still need to make sure they get adequate amounts of specific nutrients to fuel their growing bodies. Depending on the child’s age, nutrients are needed in greater or lower quantities. Children aged four to eight need at least 1200 calories, three ounces of protein, one cup of fruit, one and a half cups of vegetables, four ounces of grains, and two and a half cups of dairy according to the Mayo Clinic.
Now, dairy is not necessary for a balanced diet, even for children. Dairy can be substituted and out-ranked by extra vegetables and fruits or with some milk alternative like hemp milk. Vegan kids obviously stay away from dairy, but what do the really healthy vegan kids eat? Below are eating habits and meal ideas that all kids, even reminiscing grown-ups and kids at heart, should try out.
1. Veggies at Every Meal
To satisfy that one and a half cup requirement of vegetables, healthy vegan kids should have some form of vegetables at every meal. Grind up some high in folate spinach into oatmeal or smoothies for healthy growth and cellular development. For lunch, add some vitamin A-rich carrots and hummus to the mix for eye health. And, for lunch, steam some broccoli — it’s a good source of calcium which is necessary for healthy teeth and bones.
2. Fruits for Snacks
Whole fruit is a tasty way for kids to get their vitamins and help ward off cravings for crack-like white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. If your kid is a bit peckish, hand him/her an apple, banana, fist-full of grapes, or a cup of blueberries.
Writing for the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Michael K Georgieff states, “The rapidly developing brain is more vulnerable to nutrient insufficiency yet also demonstrates its greatest degree of plasticity. Certain nutrients have greater effects on brain development than do others. These include protein, energy, certain fats, iron, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, vitamin A, choline, and folate.”
The good news is that fruit and vegetables contain many of these nutrients. One cup of mashed papaya, for example, contains 1.4 micrograms or 3 percent of your recommended daily value of selenium, plus vitamin A, B-5, C, and folate. Also, the heart-shaped strawberry supplies folate while prunes and dried apricots supply copper. Don’t underestimate the brain-friendly vitamins in fruit. Because fruit digests quickly, your kid will be satisfied, glucosed-up, brain-fed, and able to continue on with whatever they are doing.
3. Complex Carbohydrates Paired with a Protein
Rice and beans is the quintessential amalgamation of complex carbohydrates and protein. Feeding your kid foods high in these two nutrients is the way to go: the combo fills up their little tummies and delivers important nutrients to her bloodstream. Try putting a homemade pizza with nut cheese in their lunchbox. What about hummus and pita? Chickpea “egg” salad sandwiches? Peanut butter on gluten-free bread? Get creative with your complex carbs and proteins, and your kid will develop a sophisticated palate and a healthy outlook on food.
Don’t freak out about feeding your vegan kid. Nutrients can be found everywhere, in every scrap of food, and you can be sure that your kid is getting all that they require to grow healthy and strong.
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