10 Kid-Friendly Plant-Based Meals
When it comes to planning kid-friendly, plant-based meals, it’s about finding a happy medium that makes kids happy while giving you the satisfaction that you’re feeding them something healthy. Ideally, they should eat whatever you eat, because — let’s face it — the last thing you want to do is make two or three meals for one family.
Consider the following when taking on this task to make sure everyone is on the same page, has enough choices, and doesn’t get bored:
Show kids that fruits and vegetables — and healthy eating in general — are delicious and fun.
Share a meal with your loved ones. Making food together and taking time out of the day to eat together is a great way to bond and teach kids valuable life skills (like healthy eating)!
Build healthy dietary habits that kids can use for the rest of their lives by reducing or eliminating processed sugar, excess unnatural fats, and animal-based products like meat and dairy from your kitchen.
Feed kids foods that give them long-lasting, stable energy to keep them running all day long.
Macaroni and not-cheese
Everyone loves macaroni and cheese. Clean up your favorite comfort food with some healthy substitutions: Replace those white elbow noodles with brown-rice pasta and that artificially colored cheddar-cheese powder with some commercial nondairy, non-soy cheese or homemade vegan cashew or hempseed cheese. Macaroni and not-cheese is also a great place to hide some yummy veggies, such as wilted spinach, peas, or sautéed onions (or all three!).
Kids love quinoa because it’s a blank canvas for many recipes. It’s quite plain, so it takes on any flavor you give it. Quinoa is easy to digest and makes a fantastic meal for any time of day. Try it for breakfast as a cereal, serve it for lunch as a quick salad with chopped veggies and avocado, or make it for dinner as a side dish or entree. Quinoa can be topped with tomato sauce, Asian sauces, or anything else they desire. The best part is that it only takes 15 minutes to cook.
Who says pizza isn’t healthy? When you make your pizza from scratch, you know exactly what’s going into it. Choose a whole-grain flour, such as spelt or kamut, which is much higher in protein than wheat flours. Tired of traditional tomato sauce? Some fresh pesto or straight-up roasted garlic are mouth-watering ways to spice things up.
There’s a big difference between a “fattening” food and a food that is loaded with healthy fat. Cut out the conventional cheese and replace it with some sliced avocado, crumbled organic goat cheese, or a sprinkling of commercial nondairy cheese.
Cover your pizza with tons of yummy veggies (broccoli, bell peppers, onions . . . the sky’s the limit), bake it, and you’re good to go. You know what’s an amazing topping to add when your pizza is finished baking? Arugula. If that doesn’t fly with the kids (it’s a somewhat peppery green), try some spinach, sprouts, or other field greens.
Vegetarian nori rolls
Seaweed — what?! This stuff is an incredibly nutritious superfood; incorporate it any way you can (well, in moderation, of course). One way to do this is to make vegetarian nori rolls. They’re super fun to make with the kiddos on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a somewhat time-consuming process, but it’s so worth it for the fun of making them and the adventure of introducing your kids to an interesting and exotic food, and you can stuff them with all of your favorite veggies.
Try adding some basil and sliced mango to your homemade nori rolls for an outrageously amazing flavor.
A stir-fry is great when you just don’t know what else to cook. Pick your favorite veggies and add a healthy protein, such as marinated tempeh, roasted chickpeas, or whatever else tickles your fancy, to a wok or frying pan with a little grapeseed or coconut oil. Then serve over your favorite whole grain.
A tasty homemade sauce is your best friend when it comes to making a killer stir-fry, so make sure you whip one up. Try tamari, brown rice vinegar, sesame oil, and ginger for a winning combination.
Quesadillas are a great option when you’re in a bit of a rush and need to put something together fast. It’s especially helpful if you’ve done some prep work in advance and already have veggies sliced and ready to throw on a sprouted-grain tortilla. Next, you probably want something to hold your quesadilla together. Try some avocado (or, even better, guacamole), hummus, black-bean dip, or nondairy cheese.
Veggie burgers and sweet potato fries
Veggie burgers are something everyone should keep on hand in the freezer to fry up on a busy night. They’re particularly delightful when homemade, but if you need to pick some up from the grocery store, just make sure you’re looking at labels and staying away from the bad ones, especially the ones with sugar and preservatives.
Sandwich your burger patty between two romaine lettuce leaves or two marinated portobello mushrooms, depending on how adventurous your kids are feeling that night. And when you’re having a burger, you have to have fries to go along with it. Baked sweet potato fries are the perfect alternative to blood-sugar-spiking white potatoes.
Chunky or blended soups
You can hide anything in a nice big bowl of soup. Those picky eaters won’t stand a chance. Pick a base your kids like and then toss in what you want: onions, garlic, herbs and spices, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, beans, lentils . . . anything. Leave the soup super chunky or use an immersion blender for a pureed, creamy soup.
You can use plant-based ingredients like cauliflower and rice milk to thicken soups without any cream or milk.
What if your kids could put whatever they wanted into bowls of oats for breakfast? This turns plain oats into a new and exciting way to start the day. You can make a pot of oats in the morning or try soaking them overnight to save time. Then have a lineup of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and seeds for the kids to use as toppings. Voila, the perfect plant-based breakfast!
A perfect golden pancake doesn’t have to contain buttermilk. Pancakes can be made with plant-based whole-grain flours and still taste delicious. Using rice milk instead of dairy milk, ground flax instead of egg, spelt or brown-rice flour instead of white flour, and coconut oil in the pan instead of butter is your perfect solution to an amazing pancake. Then the kids can top them with their individual favorites, such as dark chocolate chips, maple syrup, banana slices, or other fresh fruits.