Introducing kids to a Plant-Based lifestyle is easier than you think!

Eating habits are set in early childhood. Choosing a plant-based diet can give your child—and your whole family—the opportunity to learn to enjoy a variety of wonderful, nutritious foods.

Children raised on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes grow up to be slimmer and healthier and even live longer than their meat-eating friends.1 It is much easier to build a nutritious diet from plant foods than from animal products, which contain saturated fat, cholesterol, and other substances that growing children can do without. As for essential nutrients, plant foods are the preferred source because they provide sufficient energy and protein packaged with other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

But my children are very picky eaters!

Whether omnivore or vegetarian, children will take a stand on what they will or will not eat. There is no obvious rhyme or reason to this, and it can make providing a nutritious, balanced meal a real challenge. These tips may help.2

  • Involve your child in meal preparation. Let your child mash a banana or add some dried raisins to a recipe. Explain what you are preparing, and if you can be flexible about the ingredients, let the child choose.

  • Children learn by example. Eat the same vegetarian foods as you serve your child. They are healthy for both adults and children.

  • If a child refuses a food the first time it is offered, don't give up hope. Sometimes it takes several tries for a child to accept a new food. Offering a small amount of the new food with something familiar—and well-liked by the child—may help. Or, if a food isn't accepted in one form, try another. For example, if a child doesn't like chunks of tofu, try making it into a dip and serve with steamed vegetable strips.

  • If your child dislikes plain soy or rice milk, try various flavors. Try mixing with hot or cold cereal; use in pancakes or muffins; or blend with fruit to make a shake.

  • Keep the dishes simple and don't pile on the food. A complicated unfamiliar dish that covers the plate may seem a bit daunting to a child. Simple finger foods—steamed vegetables strips, crackers, or chunks of cooked tofu make eating easy and fun for a child.

  • Include favorite or familiar foods in a variety of recipes. Cook rice in a mixture of fruit juice and water, or thin nut butter with some soymilk to make a pasta sauce.

  • If a child refuses vegetables, hide them in the sauce! Try finely shredding dark green leafy vegetables or carrots and adding to tomato sauce or loaf mix. Mix vegetables with grains and wrap in a tortilla. Or, if your child likes mashed potatoes, add in some finely shredded vegetables, such as zucchini or squash.

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