Happy Herbivore Blog

January 5, 2012

Guest Post: Julieanna Hever, Plant Based Nutrition for Kids

Hi Herbies, welcome back Julieanna, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking for another guest post. This time on raising plant based kids.

As difficult as it is for some people to personally commit to a plant-based diet, it may be actually terrifying to switch your kids to this way of eating.  As a Mom of two little ones I know just how scary this can be. Most days typically feel like being freshwater fish swimming in a huge salty ocean...herbivores in a sea of omnivores, coexisting in a place where television, internet, books, magazines, and even restaurants relentlessly blare out nutrition mis-truths and painfully confusing factoids. 

In my book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, I have a chapter on raising plant-based kids called Phyto-Rich Kids. In it, I explain some key tips on keeping your kids healthy. Here are the key points:

Aim for a variety of foods to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Role modeling may be the most important job you have. Be sure you are eating in the way you want your kids to follow because they watch carefully and pick up your habits.

Persistence is key. Remember it takes multiple exposures for a kid to accept any new food.

Engage their assistance. If they participate in the shopping and preparation of meals, they are more likely to have enthusiasm about eating them. 

Implement a "one-bite" rule where they are rewarded for trying new foods…one bite minimum…so they introduce their palate to new flavors and textures.

Remember that if they are hungry, they will eat. Be sure to stock the house with lots of healthy options for them to grab when hunger strikes. They can't drive themselves to the store to buy junk or fast food yet, so you have full control inside of the home.

Outside the home, always pack appropriate snacks and plan where and what your next meal will consist of. Preparation is hugely important for success.

Have their physician monitor their nutrients on a regular basis (just as all kids should have done) with regular checkups and common lab tests.

Monitor energy levels. Healthy kids are abundant in energy (most are typically bouncing off walls) and are neither lethargic nor scattered.

Remember that a well-balanced diet is the key to optimal health and because kids are developing at such a rapid pace, their nutrition now sets them up for life! Although that is a ton of pressure, rest assured that providing your kids the foundation of a whole food, plant-based diet is a huge advantage. Be confident in your decision and remember that a healthy diet takes practice for all of us…just stay the course and keep offering good choices while eating them yourself. Your kids will ultimately benefit in boundless ways!

Thank you Julieanna!

Julieanna received her Bachelors degree from UCLA and Masters of Science in nutrition at California State University, Northridge, where she also completed her Dietetic Internship. She has taught as part of Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program.  For more information, visit her at www.PlantBasedDietitian.com and check out her film To Your Health

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