May 23, 2013

What do vegan kids eat?

Miss E with a burger-potato-slice sandwich.

The long-ago summer when my oldest son was 11 months old, we stopped to visit friends in Upstate New York on our way to visit family in Pennsylvania. As lunch was being prepared, I was worried about how he would react to the menu — garlicky hummus and pita with a side of raw veggies. It's hard to believe, I know, that as a vegetarian I hadn't yet given him any hummus, but it just didn't seem like baby food to me. My friend's daughter was 14 months old, and hummus was OK with her. We put the little guy into a high chair and handed him a plate with hummus and pita and he immediately dipped the bread into the spread and chowed down. After that, he just got whatever we had, and he was fine with that. The second son was pretty easy to feed, too, as he liked everything we gave him. Both boys had healthy appetites and it used to irk me a little that at restaurants our friends could give their kids tidbits from their own plates while we had to buy our kids complete meals. The two of them would eat anything we gave them, no matter how weird. It kind of spoiled me into thinking feeding kids was easy. Just start them young on whatever you eat and that's that.

I remember once when we were traveling around England and the boys had gotten overtired and over-hungry to the point they wouldn't stop squabbling, and we felt we couldn't take them to a restaurant. My husband went to the nearest Indian restaurant and brought home takeout. I was horrified when I tasted it because although it was delicious, it was super spicy. I gave it to the boys anyway and they devoured it. I looked at my husband and asked, "is this child abuse?" He shrugged and answered, "maybe."

My third son wouldn't eat anything until he was 12 months old. He was nursing, and that was enough for him. When he was seven months old we were living in Australia, and I was dutifully making applesauce and mashing bananas like the other moms I met, but he refused everything. One day I gave him a taste of miso soup and broccoli, and he ate it. That was all he would eat for the next few months, and I wish you could see the looks I got when others saw me feeding my toddler. Eventually he joined his brothers as a connoisseur of world cuisine. The three boys are grown now and all are excellent cooks.


My granddaughter is kind of a picky eater. She's very particular about what she will eat unless it's something sweet — she has a mega sweet tooth. I'm always trying to figure out what to feed her when she comes to visit. We have a standard meal of chickpeas, broccoli and quinoa that she likes, but I don't want to always make the same thing. With her in mind, I purchased a copy of Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered 15 e-book, hoping to find some child-friendly ideas from a vegan cook known for her delicious, child-friendly recipes.


My first try was sneaky chickpea burgers. I served it with roasted potato slices and asparagus — all carefully separated on the plate the way she likes. I was thrilled that Miss E tasted the burger and didn't outright reject it on sight, but she wasn't exactly enthusiastic. I encouraged her to make a sandwich with the potato slices and, although I hated myself for doing it and won't do it again (I hope), bribed her with dessert. (Bah.) She ate it but refused the leftovers the next day. I'll keep offering her foods I know she likes as well as new foods that she may eventually like. With variety and gentleness, she may come to be more open-minded about her food choices.


Miss E's little brother hasn't started solid food yet so it will be interesting to see what his preferences will be.


I hope he is a little more adventurous than his big sister, but who knows? I still believe that offering children healthy, real, whole foods, and avoiding sugary foods, is the best approach to inspiring a lifetime of healthy eating. And I think feeding them foods free from animal ingredients is the best. (Just for the record, our granddaughter isn't vegan or even vegetarian. Her mother is an omnivore and Miss E occasionally eats fish.)

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Today I'm on my way to Portland for Vida Vegan Con. If you're going too, don't forget to say "hi!"

23 comments:

  1. What lucky kids you have in your family! A good friend of mine, who is not vegan, has a considerable vegetable and herb garden that she uses for most of her family's meals. Her daughter, 5, recently attended a party at a fast food restaurant. When nuggets were placed before her she asked what they were. When told, she refused to eat them because they were still visually unidentifiable. Her mom silently cheered.

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    1. Thanks. I hope they think they're lucky. :)

      Good for your friend and her daughter. She's not even old enough to read labels but she knows real food when she sees it!

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  2. It sounds like you raised your boys the same way we raised my stepsons. We encouraged them to try everything we gave them and they always did. My youngest loves spicy food, which surprised us, too. He was quite young when he grew fond of it!

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    1. Offering kids healthy food and encouraging them to at least try it seems like a good approach to me. I think it also helps not to constantly feed them snacks all day long so they're not really hungry at mealtimes. All three of our sons are fans of spicy foods.

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  3. Boy, you are lucky that your boys were such good eaters. My oldest, SR, will eat anything with potatoes, but after that, eh. GR is my best eater and will at least try something. She's someone I can count on to give my recipes a good try. JK is my most pickiest, sigh. I think he and Miss E would give us a run for our money if we tried to feed them together at the same meal! But, with that said, I have to say that I'm happy how my kids eat. They may be picky, but they are healthy and trim, and they aren't harming animals.

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    1. Your kids sound great to me — they are well-nourished and compassionate. You did a good job — so far. :)

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  4. I love this post! G's brother and sister in law are vegan and just had their baby; I never asked if they were planning on raising the baby vegan, or if she had stayed vegan through the pregnancy. Kudos to you for doing it when there weren't as many options.
    So are all yr sons still vegan as well, or do you just feed the grandchildren vegan food at your house? Indian food is never child abuse! (Indian children are raised on it, after all...though maybe less spicy.)

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    1. I'll tell you, my parents were pretty horrified when they realized we were going to raise our kids as vegetarians, then later as vegans, but when they saw how healthy and wonderful the boys were, they got over it. :)

      The boys describe themselves as 95% or more vegan, with occasional cheese and eggs. Two are partnered with omnivore women and one is partnered with a vegetarian. Miss E is not vegetarian because she occasionally gets fish. The babe is only four months old, but I assume it will be the same for him unless we can convert his mom. (Just kidding. I never try to convert her except with recipes and food. She likes vegan food and cooks it often for her family.)

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  5. Cooper started out eating everything, but now he is more picky. I have to reassure myself that he is getting lots of fruit, veg, pulses, seeds, nuts and protein. I keep introducing things to him & they are quite often refused, but the odd new food will make it through and that seems like a victory.

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    1. I wouldn't worry too much. Cooper seems destined to be a gourmet! Lots of kids go through picky phases. They also go through phases according to growth spurts. They slow down and then they start eating voraciously again. You'll see.

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  6. Awesome that your kids eat such an eclectic mix of healthy foods! My three vegan boys constantly surprise me by what they eat and like too. Although I'm pretty sure yours are more adventurous! ;) Keep up the great work!
    Veggie-Kids.com (healthy vegan recipes for families!)

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    1. Sometimes it's really hard to predict what kids will or won't eat. They may start eating a new food just because they helped cook it. My boys are all grown and are very adventurous eaters!

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  7. I love this post, Andrea! First of all, you have lived all over the world! I didn't know you lived in Australia. How cool is that?! And traveling around England with your kids? You are a well traveled family for sure. What wonderful experiences for your sons growing up!

    Second of all, my nephew is going through an extremely picky phase right now and it is interesting to hear about what Miss E will and won't eat. I am glad that the chickpea burgers were not a complete failure and hopefully they will grow on her! My niece just turned 1 and will still eat pretty much anything, but my sister is worried that my nephew's pickiness will influence her. Miss E is lucky to have grandparents who love and care for her so much to cook such delicious vegan food for her!

    Courtney

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    1. We only lived in Australia for half a year, but it was pretty amazing. The two older boys were in school there. We have traveled a lot and now the boys are adventurous travelers and go places I never would have imagined.

      Kids go through all kinds of phases and I think the important thing is to just go with the flow and not make too big a deal of it.

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  8. OH, how cute are they? I agree, sometimes it is tricky feeding vegans. Check out my blog for some recipe ideas ---> www.WhatVeganKidsEat.com

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    1. Just returned from Vida Vegan Con and haven't read any blogs for days. I will definitely check out your blog soon. Got to go fetch my dog from the boarding kennel!

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  9. What an interesting and enjoyable post! I can't stop grinning at the image of you feeding your toddler miso and broccoli and imaging those looks you were getting from less imaginative parents. :-)

    It is funny about our tastes - how we seem to be born with many and develop others, and how they can change over time. You'd think from an evolutionary standpoint that fussy eaters would be at a disadvantage. I was never fussy - one of my favorite foods as a little kid was cooked spinach - couldn't get enough of the stuff! But even though I'd eat the foods I wasn't wild about with nary a peep and there were only a few foods I truly couldn't stand (soft-boiled eggs, Brussels sprouts, flank steak, and the pepper portion of my mother's stuffed green peppers), my mother was of the "make your kid clean their plate" school and would make me sit there till 9pm if necessary till I'd eaten every bite. I never thought that was very just or that she appreciated my lack of fussiness nearly enough, so thank you for providing a platform to vent about it. :-) I must say, I was and still often am just like Miss E when it comes to my foods touching each other!! LOL! I especially hated it when my applesauce would come into contact with any savory item on my plate, and it was well into adulthood before I developed any appreciation for "sweet and sour" food!

    Your kids were so lucky to get to do so much world traveling! I envy them both that, and the fact they were raised by vegans. How I wish I had been!

    I was excited to see that you bought Dreena's new ebook! I came really close to buying it the other day, and was hoping to see some blogger reviews. What did YOU think of the chickpea burgers?

    How fun that you went to Vida Vida Con! Can't wait to see your photos and hear the stories, and wonder who all you got to meet, see again, and hang out with! Did you run into Cadry?

    And last but certainly not least, Miss E and Lil' Bro are just adorable!

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    1. Cooked spinach? When I was a child, just the smell of cooked spinach could make me gag. Except for salad, tomatoes and corn on the cob, our vegetables came from cans and freezer bags — probably not the best intro to veggies. My mother didn't force us to finish our meals, but generally she didn't have to. My brothers and I were all good eaters, maybe because our mother didn't make us eat things we didn't like. No wet eggs for me, thanks. Or sweet potatoes.

      I liked the chickpea burgers a lot except that I thought they had way too much nutritional yeast. They were kind of like the burgers I make all the time, but without the spicy ingredients. Haven't had a chance to try any other recipes yet.

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    2. Yep, cooked spinach. :-)

      It was the same at my house, though I don't remember canned veggies so much, mostly frozen. Not till junior high when we had our own little garden, and then high school when we had our own 1/2 acre garden, did we really eat fresh veggies. But it didn't ruin me for anything but Brussels sprouts, which were naaaasty the way my mom boiled them!

      She didn't cook sweet potatoes, but I bet I wouldn't have liked them, either.

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    3. Your Brussels sprouts remind me of the first time I had asparagus. I won't say who cooked them but they were cooked into something that only looked like it was holding its shape — pure slime and I couldn't swallow them but didn't want to be rude and scream and spit them out. :) I didn't eat them again for years until a friend convinced me they were good the way she cooked them. She was right!

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  10. Oh man, ruining asparagus should be considered a fineable crime! Especially given how that caused you to lose years' worth of asparagus enjoyment.

    I seem to recall that you were one of the people who most urged me to give Brussels sprouts another chance by cooking them properly, and for that I'm grateful. :-)

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  11. I love it when you tell stories like this on your blog so much!

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    1. Thanks! I used to do it a lot more than I do now.

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