While I’m pretty sure I’m screwing it all up 75% of the time, the decision to raise my children to be cruelty free and compassionate humans is a decision I am freakin’ proud of. That is not to say that others haven’t had their concerns. When my oldest started solids, and I told my doctor that my child would not be eating meat, she side-eyed me pretty hard and quickly set me up an appointment with a nutritionist. And as a mother, who was sure I was screwing up like, 99% of the time (this was my first baby!) I politely agreed. This appointment would land on a day that my baby had pureed kale and lentils for lunch, and the nutritionist was quite impressed, to say the least.
*Brushes off shoulder*
*Flips off doctor*
When I had my second, and informed my doctor that my baby would not be drinking cow’s milk, she again, very quickly, recommended I speak to a nutritionist. This time, I did not politely agree. In fact, if you ask my husband he would say I was a bit snappy. A lot snappy. BUT WHY would my baby be needing COW’S milk? She is drinking MY milk, as nature intended. WHY is it that so many parents, feeding their toddlers deep-fried chicken nuggets and boxed snacks with unrecognizable ingredients go without nutritional advice? BUT WAIT! This woman is feeding her children fruits and vegetables, instead of dead things, the secretions of soon-to-be-dead things, and red dye #40? HORRIFIC CHILD ABUSE! I don’t know man, it just seems a little backwards to me.
Overall, parenting is hard work. Feeding kids is a feat we all have to get accomplished at least three times a day. As vegetarians and vegans, this can be particularly challenging. Not only are we constantly defending our decision to feed our families cruelty-free diets, in my experience, veg parents tend to be harder on themselves about what we are feeding our kids. This week, I wanted to share some tips and tricks I have acquired through my 3.5 years of plant-based parenting.
Firstly, I think it’s important to know that science says, the more we try to make our children eat broccoli, the less they want to eat broccoli. And that there’s totally a happy medium between taking your child’s toys away when they don’t eat everything on his/her plate and being like “I just made this huge supper! You don’t want it? Ok honey, I’ll make you something completely different.” These two extremes can cause some serious long term damage to their relationship with food. We all just need to find the medium-est medium that works for our families.
I sleep easily knowing that my children get, at the very least, a fruit and veggie packed smoothie every single day.
Toddler staples: tortilla chips, toast, crackers, popcorn etc. It’s just a good idea to make sure these things are as healthy as possible. Whole wheat, seedy breads, flax-filled crackers. You get the drift.
Say I make a salad or a casserole for dinner. My kids will not eat those things. But they will eat all of the separate components of those things. I just divide it all up on their plates making sure there is at least an inch of space between those components to avoid a major meltdown.
This is basically where I just put things in their food that they don’t know are there. For example, they love peanut butter crackers. I scoop some peanut butter into a small bowl and I whisk in ground flax, hemp seeds, and other little bursts of nutrition that they won’t notice. Muahahaha!
Cooked Meals + Raw Fruits & Veggies:
At all meals there will be the deconstructed version of whatever my husband and I are eating plus a handful of fruit and a handful of raw vegetables. Sometimes they eat them, sometimes they don’t. I just save what they don’t eat for their smoothies.
Presentation is EVERYTHING. Yes, even to toddlers. Especially to toddlers. If your kids won’t eat something, try presenting in a different way. Get creative. Think outside the box! I have one kid who prefers some things to be grated instead of cubed. One kid who likes vegetable sticks, not vegetables slices. Why? Beats me! But if it takes relatively the same amount of time to prepare something differently, and the outcome is them eating nutritious food, who cares?
Structured Meal Time:
Kids thrive when there is routine and structure to their day. I have found that this is especially true for meal time. When kids won’t sit still and eat, most of the time it’s because they were mentally unprepared for meal time or there are distractions. We make it a habit to have relatively routine meal times. We also let our children know that supper is going to be finished soon, so they have time to finish up what they were doing and then come to the table. To avoid distracted kids at the table, shut down electronics and/or leave them in another room.
If any of you have some tricks you want to share, please do! We would love to hear from all of you vegetarian/vegan parents!