In Part 2 of this discussion, we will look at 2 more simple but effective nutrition boosting tips to grow healthy and thriving plant-based children. (Want to review the first 3 tips? Click here.) Keeping these tips discussed in mind and applying them in your household will help ensure your child is filling up on nutrient dense foods, and also getting the calories he or she needs for optimal growth!
Sprinkle On Frequently
This is such a simple concept, yet it’s so useful! I cannot emphasize this point enough – whenever you have a chance, liberally sprinkle on nutritious additions such as ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds or vitamin B-12 fortified nutritional yeast. Note that not all nutritional yeast products come fortified with vitamin B-12, so choose the product you want to buy carefully (e.g., Red Star and Trader Joe’s nutritional yeast product brands are vitamin B-12 fortified). If you keep these jars handy in your kitchen cupboard or on your kitchen counter (except the ground flaxseed which should be kept in an opaque lidded container in the fridge), then it becomes a good visual reminder and is easily accessible for you to add these items into your child’s foods.
A few ideas to get you going:
- Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of vitamin B-12 fortified nutritional yeast into your child’s bowl of pasta, bagel or baked potato.
- Add ground flaxseed into oatmeal, or onto waffles, bagels, noodles, toast or salads (recommended daily goal is a total of 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed).
- Sprinkle chia seeds into oatmeal, toast, waffles, cold cereals, smoothie drinks or use them to make puddings.
- Add sesame seeds to noodles, bagels, waffles, toast, oatmeal and salads.
Limit Processed Low-Nutrient Foods
It can be easy for children on vegan or plant-based diets to be filled up on an abundance of ‘vegan’ foods with low nutritional value such as fruit juice, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, biscuits, white bread and white pasta. It also doesn’t help that often they go to preschool or school environments where birthday parties and class functions are frequent and so they partake and eat many of these items too. I’m not saying a child should never have any of these things, but it is important to be mindful that young children tend to have small stomach capacities and therefore it is easy for them to be filled up with less nutrient dense foods. Remember the long-term goal is aiming for more whole-food, plant-based foods for optimal health. Hence, if a child is filling up on other foods, they will naturally have a smaller appetite for the foods that truly matter nutritionally. Thus, limiting some of the less nutrient dense foods from their intake will leave room and appetite for more healthful nutrient dense foods.
A Final Note
For toddlers and young children, mind how you prepare and present certain foods to your child to minimize choking risks. Some examples of these would be nuts, nut butters and vegetarian hot dogs. Depending on the child’s age, you may want to avoid these foods for toddlers or have close supervision when they are eaten and teach young children to bite small pieces of the nut at a time to eat. Instead of giving whole nuts, it may be best to grind them up finely, and spread a thin layer of a nut or seed butter onto bread or crackers instead of giving it by the spoonful. For vegetarian hot dogs, slice these first lengthwise, then crosswise (instead of chopping directly into ‘coin’ shapes) for young children.
What your child can or can’t handle really depends a lot on their stage of oral-motor development (i.e., whether they have developed good chewing and swallowing skills, the number of teeth they possess, and their willingness to take time to chew food carefully or take smaller bites of a food instead of putting the whole piece directly into their mouths).
Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005). (Link to summary macronutrient tables). Accessed March 14, 2019.
Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1970-1980. Link to article. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Health Canada. Canada’s Food Guide. 2011. Accessed March 14, 2019. Link to publication.
Mangels R. RD Resources for Professionals: Vegetarian Nutrition for Toddlers and Preschoolers. 2010. Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.)