5 benefits of raising kids on a plant-based diet
Believe it or not, raising your kids on a plant-based diet it’s one of the best choices you can make for them. Take a look at the top benefits.
As parents, we have to make a lot of difficult decisions for our children. It can be a bit daunting to make these choices because it could affect them for the rest of their lives. No pressure, right?
Perhaps the most difficult task is deciding what to feed your kids to ensure optimal health. They start with a clean slate. Everything we choose to feed them from the day they are born is essential to their growth. For me, choosing a plant-based diet for them was a little intimidating because the typical questions arose — do they need animal products to thrive? Should we wait until they’re older to transition them to plant-based? But, after reading the books, listening to endless podcasts, and hearing the results of multiple studies, we decided to become a plant-based family. Here’s why:
1. It lowers risk of obesity
Childhood obesity is quickly rising. Luckily we have control as parents to steer our little ones in the right direction. The nutrient to calorie ratio for most fruits, vegetables, and legumes is a huge benefit of a plant-based lifestyle. Just knowing that our girls can easily fill up on fruits and veggies without consuming too many calories is enough to put my mind at ease. I don’t have to monitor my child every time she runs to the refrigerator because, let’s be honest, she can eat as many carrot sticks as she wants. That being said, if she has a black bean and salsa burrito, she likely won’t be in the fridge an hour later looking for a snack. A plant-based diet is a great way to satisfy your kids’ hunger in the most nutritious way possible.
Tip: If you find your kids are always hungry, don’t feed them more, feed them better! Start by making sure they’re getting enough essential nutrients. Swap processed foods for nutritional meals and snacks, and consider giving them a multivitamin for an extra nutrient boost.
Limiting salt intake and removing refined sugar has been a huge help as well. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave it, and that’s often why kids (and adults) overeat. It still amazes me that my oldest daughter satisfies her sweet tooth with a plain bowl of banana “nice” cream. At the end of the day it’s about quality of food, not quantity.
2. It saves money
As a family of four with two growing weeds for children, things can get costly. It seems that every time I turn around I need to restock the refrigerator and update my daughters’ wardrobes. Despite popular belief, eating a plant-based diet is a lot easier on the wallet. Meat is more expensive than ever, so cutting that off our bill has made a huge difference. Instead, we reach for alternative protein sources such as beans and whole grains – some of the cheapest food items your money can buy.
To cut costs even further, we clean, cut, and store our vegetables at half the cost of buying them prepackaged. We purchase fruits and vegetables on sale and freeze anything going bad for quick future smoothies. Buying beans and nuts in bulk has also been cost effective because they have an amazing shelf life. At the end of the day, the key is to buy food, not convenience.
Tip: While shopping organic is certainly important, it’s not always financially feasible. As a general rule of thumb, I buy organic when it’s on sale, or when I have a bit of extra money to spend.
3. It helps kids get all the required nutrients… naturally
Processed foods and flashy advertisements have been promising more fiber, higher calcium, and lower fat for as long as I can remember. There are so many scare tactics that claim plants aren’t enough for your children, and that kids can’t obtain their recommended daily dose of nutrients on a plant-based diet. Calcium, for example, is always brought into question when people find out we don’t consume dairy. But children only need 500–700 milligrams of calcium per day, and that number can easily be met through calcium-rich foods like kale, spinach, and almonds.
Tip: As with all diets, it can be difficult to get kids to eat their greens at first. Try adding your green vegetables of choice to a smoothie with fruit and unsweetened almond milk.
Protein is another big one. My daughter only needs about 15 grams of protein a day. That’s where beans and legumes come in! She loves to dip vegetables in hummus, and one of our favorite go-to suppers is taco bean soup. It’s hearty, flavorful and packed full of protein. To boost your kids’ protein intake at snack time, reach for chips made of beans or lentils instead of potatoes, and swap store-bought dips for homemade hummus! Eating plant-based gives your kids everything they need if you plan it out correctly and eat balanced. As an added bonus, you don’t have to worry about added hormones or hidden allergies when you eat whole foods!
4. It teaches compassion
For centuries, food has brought families together. When you sit down together and eat as a family, it makes for a happier home. But there’s something about eating animal products and by-products that takes away from this loving environment. Explaining to your kids that they’re eating a chicken or cow presents a moral dilemma that can both confuse and upset them – or, worse, desensitize them. Eating a plant-based diet instills a sense of compassion toward other living things, and that’s something that books can’t teach.
5. It’s easier than you think
It’s easy to make excuses when it comes to transitioning to eating plant-based. One excuse I hear a lot is that “it’s not convenient”. This seems like a misconception to me. I understand why it might seem daunting at first, but it’s just as simple to grab an apple out of the fridge as it is to reach for a sugary granola bar.
Meal prep in our house is a family affair that we like to have fun with. I have my daughter gather the vegetables, and help her learn their names and colors in the process. My husband chops all the produce and I organize the daily meals for the week. Prepping ahead of time makes life a lot easier, and allows you to spend quality time in the kitchen together with your family.
Raising your kids on a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be scary. It’s cheap, easy, nutritious and kind — what could be better than that?
Lindsay and her husband Tom are converted plant-powered parents. They have two daughters — Piper who is two and Quinn who is eight months. Their journey started in June of 2017 when Lindsay was pregnant with their second daughter. They quit meat and all animal products cold turkey. After eating the same boring salad for every meal, she and Tom quickly realized they needed to liven it up and make food fun again. Today, Lindsay is passionate about the healing power of plants, and loves sharing recipes to encourage other families to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Visit her on Instagram!