As a parent, there are many times in your life where you approach a crossroads of something you want to do and wondering how the heck to make it happen. Many people I have talked to have expressed the desire to get their kids to eat plant-based but genuinely feel confused as to what to do. I’m excited to be sharing this post with you because I have compiled my favorite tips that will answer the very common question, “how do I get my kids to eat plant-based?”
What is a plant-based diet?
If you are new to the concept of plant-based living, here is a quick overview. A plant-based diet can be defined as a variety of things. Some people consider it eating mostly plants but still animal products, some say it’s only eating plants. On my website, when we use the term plant-based we only promote a non-animal based diet.
I talk more about what a plant-based diet is and how you can get started in this post here. Here I break down more of what foods to start with and four of my top general tips for getting started. If you have other questions, leave a comment!
Why might you want your kids to eat plant-based?
There are so many benefits to eating plant-based but I want to start out simple. Plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, etc.) should be a key part of any person’s diet, especially kids. During their early years, kids are going through some incredibly important developmental milestones and we know that vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients are what best fuels our bodies.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional and I encourage you to please reach out to your physician if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development. It’s also important that I share that plant foods are NOT the only foods that promote healthy development in children. It’s entirely up to you how you choose to raise your children and I genuinely believe that a plant-based diet won’t work for everyone. 🙂 Alright, let’s keep going!
“The first 1,000 days of life are crucial for brain development – and foods play an important role.” (source: Harvard Health Publishing)
Brain development is one of the most important stages during childhood. There are a large number of foods that directly impact their brain health. Foods that are hydrating are key to brain development as are foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
There are many reasons you may want your kids to eat plant-based. For us, we eat plant-based for many reasons. One of the greatest benefits I see in raising my kids plant-based is they are open to a huge variety of foods, flavors, and textures, AND they see vegetables as a delicious food option. I can’t complain about that!
RELATED: 3 Reasons to Raise Plant-Based Kids
Now it’s time we answer your question of how do i get my kids to eat plant-based… you ready?!
How do I get my kids to eat plant-based?
It’s important to remember that every child is different. All families are different, and the options you have available to you will be different than what I have. When you are trying to get your kids to eat plant-based there are a few things you can implement that will make it easier.
This won’t be an overnight switch. It is likely that your kids will challenge these choices some days and love them on other days. Just like adults, there are some days where we just don’t want a salad, ya know? And some days where all you want are salty french fries. (yummy!)
RELATED: 10 Tasty Vegan Air Fryer Recipes
Offer a Variety of Foods at Each Meal
Offering a variety of food at each meal may seem like a big task. If you are up for the task, I encourage you to keep it simple. Putting together a plant-based meal can be as minimal as a bunch of cut-up fruits and veggies, plus some cooked options. Or all raw. Or all cooked.
Try offering foods they love plus foods they’ve never tried or ones you would like them to start eating. They may hate them, they may love them. Just keep offering these options.
I’ve learned that if you make a big deal about them eating a specific food, they may be more inclined to turn up their nose. If you show them that you are also willing to try or eat the foods then they may be more interested in trying it too!
PS: Even if they take 1 or 2 bites of new food and that’s it — it’s worth celebrating. At your next meal, you can offer it again and watch as their taste buds progress to enjoy these plant-based foods.
Model What You Want To See
Sorry parents but if we want our kids to eat more plant foods, we need to do the same. Our kids watch everything we do and anytime we make a face, say “gross”, or choose not to try something, they see it as permission to do the same.
Now obviously you don’t have to eat foods you don’t like. But I would encourage you to approach it in a way that is positive. This does not mean that you have to like every single food, but I believe it’s important to let your kids know that you also have foods you don’t like. Be brave and try something new or something you haven’t had in a while. You may be surprised and really like it!
In our family the only food I do make an “ick” face towards is olives. However, I have learned how to approach the topic with my boys while encouraging them to give olives a try.
“You know, mama doesn’t actually like olives, but I know a lot of people really love them! Why don’t you give them a try? If you don’t like them like, you don’t have to eat them.” (Real life conversation I’ve had with my kids. Olives = gross to mama!)
Have you ever had similar conversations with your kids?
Deliver Food In A Fun Way
Many kids are intrigued by things that are visually pleasing. I know mine are! That’s why when we serve our kids food, we do try to take an extra minute or so to make it look fun.
No, we don’t do cookie cutters and food accessories like many people do (But if that’s you, go for it! 100%!) But we do like to use colored plates, fun dishes, and lay the food in an arrangement. You’d be surprised how much more fun fries look when they are all in a row vs thrown in a big pile.
One thing we recently found that help with food presentation are these Chop Chop cubes from YumBox.
These Chop Chop cubes from Yumbox are great because they are designed to be a meal prep system which means they are spacious, high quality, and well thought out. The Chop Chop box cubes are 12oz (mine are glass but they have silicone ones also) which fits a ton of food! You can store them in your fridge in these trays and the ways to use them are endless.
I didn’t anticipate using these for meal prep originally. I did find, however, that I would store leftovers in them and you know what, my kids were WAY more likely to eat the leftovers this way! Mid-morning I will pull out the tray and set it on the counter. Whatever was inside the cubes was free game for snacking! The kids truly love it.
If you want to grab a set for yourself, they have a huge variety of color combinations and options. We have the crisp cubes, juicy cubes, and vibrant cubes, plus the square serving tray, and love them all!
Share The Facts With Your Kids
Not all kids will react to this tip the same way but my 4-year-old LOVES knowing the “superpowers” his favorite foods give him. Just the other night we were talking about why we eat carrots so I shared how carrots support eye health. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Did you know that carrots help your eyes to see?
4yo: They do?! I love eating my carrots. I bet I have really good eyes.
Me: Let’s see! *walks across the room and holds up 4 fingers* How many fingers do you see?
Me: *backs up more and holds up 2 fingers*
4yo: Two! I can see REALLY good!
Me: Woah! You really can. I’m so glad you like carrots, you have SUPER eyes.
He smiled big and said “yeah…. I’m pretty super.”
Small conversations and actions help them to both feel excited but to also understand how plant foods help our bodies. We try not to talk about foods being “bad” but rather highlight and encourage the foods that are great for their health and are tasty!
It’s my hope that this will encourage my kids to have a healthy understanding of nutrition and why we eat certain foods without associating vegetables to a negative experience. We won’t be perfect with this journey but if I can help my kids to want cucumbers or fruit snacks some days, it will feel like a win to me. (But don’t get me wrong… we like fruit snacks too! It’s all about balance.)
Here are a few facts you can use with your kids!
Learning how to get your kids to eat plant based is a huge trial and error process. What works one day may not work the next. Kids like to keep us on our toes so if there are days where they fight you, take a breath, do your best, and try again the next day.
I would also highly encourage you to get your kids involved in the shopping process, be it with making the list or picking out the fruit while in the store. If they are included when choosing the fruits or vegetables you purchase, they may be more likely to eat them. It’s worth a try!
If you are ready to get started on getting your kids to eat plant-based, what do you think you will try first? Do you think you will use any of these tips to get your kids to eat more fruits, veggies, and grains?
MORE FROM REALISTIC PLANT-BASED MAMA