Vegan 101: Vegan Meals for Kids

by JL Fields on May 9, 2011

I live with a husband and two cats.  I am the last person to make suggestions on how to prepare vegan meals for children.

When I first started blogging a friend asked me to cover the topic (this one’s for you, Barbara!) and I just wasn’t equipped!  As the Vegan 101 series has evolved it  seemed obvious to me that this is an important topic for new vegans.  While you may have started eating vegan, you may be struggling with how to feed your children.

I knew exactly who I wanted to write on this topic–a blogger who I have admired and read for quite some time.  It was this post that sealed the deal.

A Vegan Birthday Party For A Little Dr. Seuss Lover

Seriously, go read the post and be amazed by Keri, the mastermind behind I Eat Trees, and her creative skills!  Who better to share her tips, tricks and delicious vegan meals that any child (or adult!) would love to eat?

***

As the author of I Eat Trees, a vegan food and lifestyle blog, Keri loves to chronicle the adventures of her little vegan family. She has a passion for creating delicious cruelty-free recipes, photography, writing, and healthy living. You can also find I Eat Trees on Facebook and Twitter or in your inbox via IET’s monthly newsletter.

https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=f1be1aa569&view=att&th=12fb83c409ebd53c&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=f_gn9gv1x90&zw

With getting kids to eat their veggies a universal struggle, many cannot fathom that children on a plant-based diet are eating anything at all. And while those concerned can rest assured vegan kids are getting plenty to eat, healthy eating is often still an issue for vegan children.

In an ideal world, little vegans would be raised solely on fresh vegetables and fruits, wholesome grains, legumes, and lentils, unprocessed seeds and nuts, and the like, but the truth is, demand has made every variety of processed junk food, sweets, and treats available to vegans as well. While it’s convenient to have these “replacements” available to keep our kids from being left out of birthday celebrations, pizza parties, and ice cream socials, it’s all to easy to let them become an everyday occurrence.

Instead, the flavors our kids love can be incorporated into healthy, enjoyable meals and snacks in place of out-of-the-box-or-can convenience foods. And because kids love to keep things simple, their favorite homemade vegan meals are often ready in not much more time than it would take to open that box anyway. Here are some examples of my son’s favorite dishes:

Breakfast

Little Man’s Favorite Oatmeal

INGREDIENTS
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons raisins or unsweetened dried cranberries (optional)
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter
1 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds or chia seeds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Splash of maple syrup

Boil water, add oats, and reduce to a simmer. Stir in raisins or cranberries, if using. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until oats are tender and raisins or cranberries are plumped. While the oatmeal is still in the hot pan, stir in peanut or almond butter, hemp or chia seeds, cinnamon, and sea salt. Serve lightly drizzled with maple syrup.

Lunch

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

INGREDIENTS
8 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced
Vegan butter, oil, and/or nondairy milk
Salt and pepper

Heat water in a pot with a steamer basket, and steam the sweet potato chunks until very tender, about 15 minutes. Place the steamed potato chunks in a large bowl, add a small amount of vegan butter, oil, and/or nondairy milk, as well as salt and pepper to taste, and whip potatoes until smooth with a hand-held or stand mixer.

To assemble the quesadillas, place 4 of the tortillas on a clean, flat surface and spoon 1/4 of the whipped sweet potatoes onto each tortilla, leaving at least an inch around the edge without filling so it doesn’t squish out while pressing or grilling. Spoon 1/4 of the rice onto each tortilla, over the whipped sweet potatoes. Follow with dividing the spinach leaves and sun-dried tomatoes among the 4 quesadillas, and top each with one of the remaining tortillas.

Heat your panini press or grill pan, and grill quesadillas until the tortillas are browned and crisp around the edges, about 10 minutes, or 5 minutes per side if using a grill pan.

Dinner

Gardein Chick’n Scallopini and Wagon Wheels

INGREDIENTS
1 pound wagon wheel vegetable pasta
1 tablespoon flax, hemp, or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package Gardein Chick’n Scallopinis, rinsed with water and dredged with flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup non-alcoholic red wine
2 tablespoons capers

Cook pasta per instructions. Drain thoroughly and toss with the tablespoon of oil, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan. Saute dredged scallopinis until browned on both sides and remove them from the pan. Add non-alcoholic red wine and capers and simmer until reduced by half. To serve, plate your pasta and top each plate with a scallopini drizzled with red wine reduction. For children’s plates, cut the scallopini into bite-sized pieces and toss among pasta.

Limiting your use of faux meats is a good idea, but if they aren’t your thing at all, this alfredo pasta from Our Veggie Kitchen with a sauce made from garbanzo beans is always a huge hit, and we love vegan brown rice and black bean enchiladas, with or without melted Daiya vegan cheese, made with my own vegan enchilada sauce recipe.

Desserts

Fruit crumbles and “soft serve ice cream” made from blended frozen banana slices, nondairy milk, and a splash of vanilla extract make fantastic sweet treats for kids, but I also love to make date balls or these raw “magic” truffles from Living in the Raw. My son loves them and I feel really good about giving him these apricot-based “truffles” rather than refined sugar-filled cookies and cakes. But when the there-is-no-vegan-ice-cream-truck-blues hit in the summer, we turn to recipes from Lick It for homemade vegan ice cream.

Snacks

When it comes to snacks, it’s best to keep it simple. I love to serve carrot sticks and cucumbers with hummus or apple slices and other fresh fruits. Popcorn is another favorite; my son loves to hear it popping on the stove! Green juice is a staple morning snack around our house, made with kale, romaine, cucumbers, celery, carrots, and apples. The mild flavors of the romaine, cucumber, celery, and carrots balance out the kale, and the apples add the palatable sweetness kids love. My son can’t resist watching the juicer turn whole foods into juice and pulp!

Even though it’s just as easy for vegan kids to overindulge on sweets and processed foods, I think most parents of vegan children are interested in their children’s nutrition and finding a balance between diet perfection and “just being a kid”. We all know children can be picky eaters, and most of us have had the green vegetable resistance in one form or another, but it’s all about trying different foods and recipes to figure out individual tastes and preferences.

***

Thank you, Keri, for such great recipes and ideas!  Readers with kids — no excuses now!

What vegan foods do you prepare for the children in your life?

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  • http://gingeristhenewpink.blogspot.com/ Lauren519

    Great ideas! Can’t wait to feed my little girl delicious vegan food!

    • http://IEatTrees.com Keri – I Eat Trees

      Aww, I can’t wait to read about A’s favorite meals in the future! :)

  • http://twitter.com/TheBlissfulChef Christy Morgan

    Love Keri and all her wonderful ideas!! She’s an inspiration to all women, mommy or not :)

    • http://IEatTrees.com Keri – I Eat Trees

      Wow, thank you so much, Christy. YOU are an inspiration!

  • http://bittsblog.blogspot.com bitt

    Love Keri’s blog and all these tips will hopefully help out lots of kids. I think starting them young is important.

    • http://IEatTrees.com Keri – I Eat Trees

      Thank you, Bitt! I hope so too!

  • http://twitter.com/WahidH Wahid Hussaini

    Not only do these sound good, but they also help people lower their carbon footprints. While we change our habits to lower our emissions by switching to hybrids, or buying energy star products, we forget that one way we can drastically lower our impact on the environment is to simply change the way we eat.

    I always hear of people trying to convince others to be vegan, but giving recipes away are always best. Thank you.

    • http://www.jlgoesvegan.com JL goes Vegan

      Wahid, this is such a great point. As much as I want to convince people to go vegan for ethical reasons, sometimes the best conversation is a delicious meal and modeling how easy it can be. Me? I didn’t start out for ethical or environment reasons. It was about the food. And now I can’t imagine not being vegan….because of the animals.

    • http://IEatTrees.com Keri – I Eat Trees

      Great point. We say “go vegan” so often, but forget how important following up with guidance, mentoring, or even just a few beginner recipes can be.

  • http://comowater.com Tiffany

    Awesome! I’m going to send this to my sister… she has three vegan little ones!

  • http://comowater.com Tiffany

    Awesome! I’m going to send this to my sister… she has three vegan little ones!

  • http://www.energyxpressions.com Erin

    Awesome! We are a vegan/sugar free//wheat-free family (we eat spelt and kamut, and are otherwise gluten-free). My son has “porridge” for breakfast (similar to the above) with any one of: millet/steel cut oats/brown rice/amaranth/quinoa. We eat lots of quinoa, lentils and beans.

  • Bonnie

    So grateful for this column and for the ideas.  We’re having two of our grandchildren (age 2 and 4) visit us (without parents) for a week, and I need ideas! 

    • http://www.jlgoesvegan.com JL goes Vegan

      Bonnie, please stop back in and let us know what you make for your grandchildren!

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  • Ladelav

    Thank you! I don’t have kids, but I’m trying to feed my “little”housemate.

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  • Shayna Somers

    Thanks for the suggestions!

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