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10 Tips To Transition Kids To A Vegan Diet (From The Standard American Diet)
In this article you will learn 10 super useful tips to help your child transition to a healthy vegan (or plant based) diet from a diet that promotes disease!
Let’s get our kids eating healthy and eating more plants without the stress!
If you haven’t been raising your kids vegan, or plant based, since they were born and you’re trying to transition them now; I’m sure you know how difficult it can be.
Even if the child you’re transitioning is only 4 years old, they can remember what the standard American diet, fast food and junk included (no judgement here), tasted like.
This makes our jobs a bit harder as parents when we finally understand how important it is to make sure our kids aren’t just eating what we give them, but eating healthy and nutritious food that will help them grow and thrive!
I know this can be a challenge, and the older the child the more challenging it can get.
But, there are some things you can do to make the transition a bit easier.
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1. Talk to them about transitioning
Obviously you’ll have to tell them, at some point, that you would like them to eat a mostly plant based diet.
And tell them why you would like that for them. Whether it’s for their health, the animals, or the planet (or all three).
You might be able to go a few weeks of trying to transition them without them realizing it, but If they’re old enough to care what they eat then I’m sure there’ll come a point where you’ll have to talk to them about it.
The reasoning you use to talk to your child about the diet change will most likely depend on your child.
If they love animals, explain to them about the animal cruelty in animal agriculture.
Or, if they’re still little, tell them how eating cheese is stealing baby calves milk, that they need; just like babies need breast milk (or formula, but let them know there is no formula for baby cows).
If they don’t really care that much about animals, or feel like what they want is more important, then talking to them about health and the benefits of a plant based diet. For example, a vegan/ plant based diet will;
- Help them be at a healthy weight
- Help them not break out as much during puberty
- Decrease their chance of chronic health conditions later in life
- And so much more!
You can read more about how specific foods are good for kids and how to get them to want to eat them here.
2. Get them books and Let them watch documentaries
Sometimes it’s hard to talk to our kids, whether they don’t want to listen to us or we don’t know how to word what we want to say to them.
That’s when it’s a good time to bring up books and health documentaries.
Simply watching a health documentary with them in the room can help them learn more about the benefits of eating a plant based diet. Enough possibly, to encourage them to ask you to make healthier foods!
You can find a list of 20 health documentaries HERE. For younger kids, you may want to watch them first, as some do show animal cruelty in them.
As for books, the ones you’ll want to have in your home for your kids to learn from will depend on their age.
For older kids, it may be a bit more difficult, as they may feel too grown up for kid books, but the adult books might be a bit too scientific.
You can always have health books in your home, available for your older kids to read if they’d like, but depending on the child, they may or may not take interest in them.
3. Buy them vitamins they’ll need
Vitamins can be a bit pricey, as in around $10-$20 for a single vitamin. But, if you’re serious about transitioning your kids to a vegan diet, then you’ll want to invest in these.
There are three vitamins I’d recommend you get for your kids (and you, if you’re vegan).
The first is Vitamin B12.
This vitamin is a non-negotiable when it comes to supplementing.
Sure, there are vegan foods fortified with it. But then you would have to rely on your kids getting foods fortified with B12 three times a day, everyday!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t even guarantee that for myself!
So, we supplement B12. This is what I get for my kids.
The second is Vitamin D, at least in the winter time.
Whether you need to supplement for vitamin D will depend on where you live and how much outdoor time your kids have, because it comes from the sun.
To be honest, I don’t give my two older girls a supplement for vitamin D in the summertime; they basically live outside in the summer.
However, these are what I’ll be giving them when they start spending less and less time outdoors.
The last supplement I’d recommend is an Omega-3 EPA/DHA.
This is one that I’ve just recently started supplementing for, for both my daughters and myself.
However, it is easier to get this from the diet through;
- Chia seeds
- Green leafy veggies
- Green leafy sea veggies
Everythings all good when I make my cranberry energy balls(contains walnuts) and make sure we have smoothies everyday (which has chia/flax/hemp seeds), but I can’t guarantee we have those every single day.
4. Allow them to have transition junk food
If your child is transitioning to a healthy plant based/vegan diet from a western/standard american diet; don’t make them go ‘cold turkey’ from that diet to 100% whole food plant based with no processed/convenience foods.
Just don’t do it! Unless, of course, if their doctor/dietician says you need to; then absolutely do it, just know it may not be easy.
They may be upset with the change (to put it gently).
You may also be upset (because they won’t want to eat what you made).
Sometimes it’s just easier to go slow.
Let them choose a couple of convenience meals that are vegan, but are more like what they are used to eating.
Same with special treats. There’s even a whole dairy free ice cream section in the Walmart near where I live!
Some great brands that have vegan, or mostly vegan convenience foods/treats are;
- MorningStar Foods
I’m sure there are a ton more that I’m missing.
Just take a look around wherever you usually shop (at a store or online). To be sure it’s vegan, look at the label, it should have the green v label on it for vegan.
It keeps getting easier to be a lazy vegan.
Doesn’t mean this is where the transition to a healthier diet stops; this is where it begins.
It’ll hopefully end at a whole food plant based diet, but that can take time, unless you’re already familiar with that diet.
5. Eat what you want them to eat
This ones a big one; eat what you want your kids to be eating.
Remember when your kids were little, if they aren’t still little, when all they wanted to eat was what you were eating.
Like literally, they could have the same exact food in front of them, but somehow your food was better because it was yours and on your plate.
Do kids really ever grow out of that?
This tip may not work 100% of the time, but it works enough to make sure you do it. Worst case scenario is that you start eating better!
But you can’t be sitting there eating fast food and then expect your child to eat a quinoa salad.
It just doesn’t work that way.
They see what you eat, and if they don’t have the same thing as you and they deem yours better, they’re going to want what you’re having.
6. Include them in meal planning
Another great way to help kids transition to a vegan diet is to invite them to help you meal plan.
Not only will they see that meal planning takes some time and effort, but then they’ll also get some input on what the family (what they) will be eating for the next week.
I originally started having my 7 year old help me with meal planning because she’s such a picky eater and it helps to ask her what she would like to eat for the week; that way she’s more likely to eat it and not complain when it comes time for meals.
A child doesn’t have to be a certain age to help with meal planning either.
This could be as easy as asking your kids what they’d like to eat next week. And then asking for help to see what ingredients you have so you know what to write on the grocery list.
Or, you could have them check out vegan Instagram feeds or do a general search on Pinterest for vegan food; so they can get some ideas on what they’d like to try.
These are all things I’ve done to help my oldest daughter transition to a vegan diet and to help her overcome her picky eating. She’s much more likely to try the food when she had some say in the matter!
7. Teach them to make delicious food from whole plant foods
Have you ever made cookies with chickpeas?
Do your kids like helping in the kitchen?
If you haven’t, or they haven’t, there’s no better time than now!
Teaching kids to cook with whole plant foods, or simply teaching them to cook, is one of the best things you can do to set them up for a healthy future!
It also helps them feel included and sometime even excited to try the foods they make.
So start them helping, learning, cooking, and creating in the kitchen now!
I don’t care if they’re toddlers; if they’re old enough to stir something, let them! (Unless it’s on the stove.)
Your kids will thank you, or at least at some point in their life appreciate, that you taught them how to cook healthy food.
8. Try new foods as a family every week
Transitioning from a ‘regular’ diet to a vegan/plant based diet takes a lot of trying new foods.
These new foods should be tried by the whole family and at least once a week, that way your kids can get used to trying new foods, but aren’t overwhelmed by constantly trying something new.
Be sure to let them know that everyone is trying it.
If you have a picky eater, sometimes it may be best if you try to let them choose the new food your family tries for the week, within reason.
9. Teach them the benefits of a plant based vegan diet
Teaching them the benefits of a plant base vegan diet is a bit similar to talking to them about being vegan.
However, be sure to let them know the benefits of a vegan diet for;
- Their body
- Their brain
- Their skin
- Their health (and avoiding chronic disease)
- The animals
- The planet
They should start to understand the importance of eating healthier and plant based when you actuallly start teaching it to them!
You may also want to read:
10. Learn to make homemade food look appealing
Sometimes plant based meals don’t look that pretty; they’re not instagram or Pinterest worthy.
And on a regular basis, that’s fine.
But when trying to get kids to try new foods, try to make a bit prettier, or turn the food into a picture, like these holiday pancakes.
The presentation of the food can sometimes be more of a factor to whether or not your kids eat something than how the food actually tastes.
So sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little extra time displaying it nicely on their plate or in their bowl for them. It doesn’t usually take that much extra work, either!
I hope these tips help you in transitioning your child to eating a plant based, or vegan, diet and that their transition goes smoothly!
If you need more help or want more info, I invite you to start reading The Ultimate Guide for Raising Vegan Kids!