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Are you interesting in vegan family meals? According to the British Dietetic Association, a plant-based diet is suitable for every age and every life-stage.
However, there is still so much misinformation and fear-mongering around vegan diets for infants and children, particularly in the media.
At this time, it’s never been more important for families to get the right advice and support. This is due to how nutrition plays a massive role in children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families is essential reading for anyone who wants to give their family the best start in life.
A labor of love by Registered Dietitian Brenda Davis and Board-Certified Paediatrician, Dr. Reshma Shah, this book is evidence-based yet practical and compassionate in its approach.
Pre-order it now here for release on December 10, 2020 in the U.K.
Why is plant-based a good choice for families? We know that a plant-based diet can help to promote health.
This is because it decreases the risk of developing many chronic diseases. These include heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, GI disorders, autoimmune conditions, and even some forms of dementia.
In addition, it protects our planet due to decreased greenhouse gas emissions and preservation of rain forests. Other benefits include decreased land and water use to name a few).
There is also the undeniable mitigation of animal suffering. And so it becomes clear why so many families are looking to make the transition to a more plant-centered diet.
So the choice may be intellectually (and emotionally) clear. But parents sometimes run into obstacles when it comes making the transition and bringing plant-based meals to their dinner tables.
Nourish is packed with information covering every aspect of nutrition for families. Not only from pregnancy to weaning but also adolescence. There are tips on meal planning, the role of ‘processed foods’ and how to eat plant-based on a budget.
The authors share their own experiences working with families and open up the conversation around food choices and ethics including eat-ing for planetary health.
Tips from the experts
Worried about specific nutrients? Nourish covers all this and more with commonly asked questions, details on supplements and practical ways to boost nutrient intake.
And a beautifully written chapter addresses common concerns around weight talk, diet culture and eating disorders.
Here are some tips from the authors to help parents move forward with ease and confidence.
What’s your why?
Begin with identifying your ‘why’. When time, patience, energy, or resources are
running low, knowing and revisiting your reason for wanting to go plant-based can
provide a burst of motivation and enthusiasm.
Start with things that are already working in your home and do more of them. Many
families already eat a variety of plant-based snacks and meals – from simple oatmeal or lentil soup to baked goods and veggie burgers. Try increasing the frequency with which
you serve and enjoy these foods.
Look for plant-based options to sub in for animal foods your family likes. Whether it’s
tofu in a stir-fry instead of chicken, beans in a burrito instead of beef, or plant-based
milks, cheeses, and meats.
In recent years, the market has exploded with a variety of delicious options to make plant-based eating more accessible.
Working with the family
If you are just beginning the process and especially if you’ve got older children in the household that may not be used to eating this way, a little bit of flexibility can go a long
Sometimes starting with being plant-based at home and not worrying too much
about meals eaten outside the home can be a less stressful and more manageable
A slower start
Other variations include starting with initiatives like Meatless Monday or
Vegan Before Six and expanding at a pace that is reasonable for your family.
Studies show that the more children are involved with the preparation of food (from planting and growing to shopping, prepping, and cooking) the more likely they are to try and enjoy the foods they have had a hand in selecting and making.
Firstly, arm yourself with information. From time to time, well-intentioned friends, family, and even healthcare providers can cast doubt. Furthermore, they may even pressure you to provide cow’s milk for growing bones and meat to ensure adequate protein.
Knowing that you can safely and reasonably meet nutrient requirements for growing children with an appropriately planned plant-based diet can help to put everyone at ease.
We know that there are abundant sources of calcium (fortified plant-based milks, tofu, greens, tahini, beans, blackstrap molasses) and protein (tofu, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains) in plant foods.
Other nutrient needs can easily be met with a diet that is adequate in calories and
variety and includes foods fortified with vitamin B12 and vitamin D, or a suitable
Find community. Whether it’s in person or virtual, finding a sense of community can
make the journey more exciting and gratifying.
Eating a diet that is predominantly or exclusively plant-based can open up a world of culinary adventure. Be bold in your explorations and take your children on the journey with you.
Variety and color
Remember that variety and color are key to maximizing the advantages of plant-based diets. Above all, we, as parents, are doing the very best we can for ourselves and our families. If you feel overwhelmed, consider revisiting your ‘why’ and adjusting your pace.
Look for support, involve your family, and focus on progress over any illusion of perfection. Move forward with love, compassion, and a generous dose of patience.
About the authors
Reshma Shah, MD, MPH is an affiliate clinical instructor at Stanford University School of
Medicine and has been a practicing pediatrician for nearly 20 years.
She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children. Most Sundays, you can find her at the California Avenue Farmers Market in Palo Alto where she finds inspiration for weekly family meals.
Brenda Davis RD is a registered dietitian and widely regarded as a rock star of plant-based
nutrition. She has been a featured speaker at medical and nutrition conferences in over 20
countries on five continents and is the author of 11 books on vegetarian and vegan nutrition.
In 2007, she was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame. She lives in Calgary with her husband, Paul. She has two grown children and two beautiful grandchildren.
They’re the co-authors of Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families. Pre-order it now here (released on December 10, 2020 in the U.K).