Written by Janette Mason, CNP
As more households choose to adopt plant-based eating, parents are looking for simple and sustainable ways to ensure the whole family is getting all their required nutrition. If plant-based eating is a new avenue for your family, then this blog is for you. We understand the excess of information swirling online, so we are going to try and simplify some need-to-know information.
Let us start with what plant-based really means. Contrary to some ideologies, plant-based simply refers to a diet that encompasses a good number of plants as the primary source of food but does allow for some flexibility around including animal products. Wherever you find yourself within this spectrum, the most important task is to ensure that you and your family are feeling vibrant and healthy.
Data tells us that close to 40% of Americans are making the switch to plant-based eating1 and up to 94% are open to eating more plant-based foods.2 With growing evidence that plant-based eating can assist with maintaining a healthy body weight,supporting energy levels,3,4 and heart health,5 it is no surprise that this way of eating is so appealing!
So now the question comes to: how can you make a plant-based diet work for the whole family?
As a nutritionist my objective is to ensure all members of the family are meeting their daily nutrient requirements. By consuming a whole-foods, plant-based diet, most families can meet their nutritional requirements quite easily. This means for-going the freezer-section of prepared meals and opting for home-made meals instead. As with any other diet, making food yourself allows for you to change the flavour profile based on what your family likes and at the same time avoid nasty additives.
It is important to ensure that the bulk of the diet is made of natural plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. Also, it is important that parents be mindful that their kids get enough calcium, protein, zinc, iodine and iron from food sources as well as supplement their diet with a Vitamin B12 supplement, when necessary. 6 Since each family is unique in how they are approaching a plant-based diet, we suggest that you speak to a dietician or nutritionist to confidently move forward with this eating plan, knowing that yourself and your children have all the nutrients necessary.
To make the transition as seamless as possible, I like to suggest families to begin with choosing one meal per day that is plant-based and that the entire family will enjoy. A simple one to begin with is a family smoothie! This is a super fun and easy way to load up the kids (and yourself) with nutrient-dense foods in a delicious shake.
Makes 4 servings:
- 2 cups leafy greens (spinach or kale)
- 2 cups berries (frozen are great)
- 2 tbsp organic PB (or sub for pumpkin seed butter/ almond butter)
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 2 tbsp hemp hearts
- 4 scoops vegan, vanilla protein powder (I like Iron Vegan or Progressive)
- 2 cups coconut water
- 4 cups water (less if you like it super thick – adjust based on preference)
The take-away here is to work with your families needs and preferences to enjoy a plant-forward diet that works! There is space for everyone to be enjoying more plants and whole lot of nutritional benefit too!
1) NielsenIQ. Analysis: Plant-based food options are sprouting growth for retailers. Accessed: February 15, 2021 at: https://nielseniq.com/global/en/insights/analysis/2018/plant-based-food-options-are-sprouting-growth-for-retailers/.
2) Leiserowitz, A., Ballew, M., Rosenthal S., & Semaan, J. (2020). Climate change and the American diet. Yale University and Earth Day Network. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
3) Kim MH, Bae YJ. (2015). Comparative study of serum leptin and insulin resistance levels between Korean postmenopausal vegetarian and non-vegetarian women. Clin Nutr Res, 4(3): 175–81.
4) Derbyshire EJ. (2017). Flexitarian diets and health: a review of the evidence-based literature. Front Nutr, 3(55).
5) McEvoy CT, Temple N, Woodside JV. (2012). Vegetarian diets, low-meat diets and health: a review. Public Health Nutr, 15(12): 2287-2294.
6) Health Link BC. Healthy eating guidelines for your vegetarian toddler: 1-3 years. Accessed: February 15, 2021 at: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating/vegetarian-toddler-1-3-years.