If there’s one thing parents want more than anything, it’s happy, healthy kids. For parents who want a vegan, gluten-free diet for their kids, this can be a bit of a challenge. How do you know your kids are getting everything they need? How do you actually get them to eat the healthy foods?
Fortunately, we’ve got the answers.
Gluten Free Diet
You probably have a good reason to want to make these changes. Some people have to go gluten-free because it’s required to manage their celiac disease or the related skin condition, dermatitis herpetiformis. Some have other gluten sensitivities, and a gluten-free diet will reduce digestive symptoms.
Going gluten free can have health benefits for everyone including reduced cholesterol, increased energy levels, and can reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. A gluten-free diet tends to be richer in fruits and vegetables, which means your body is getting fewer unhealthy and processed foods, and more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Similarly, there are a lot of reasons to go vegan (which means cutting out all meat and animal-based products). Many feel that a vegan diet is the best way to help animals who can be mistreated by the meat, egg, and dairy industries.
Plus, if animals weren’t being raised for these industries, the grains used to feed those animals could go directly to feeding people. That could mean a lot fewer hungry people in the world! Meat isn’t environmentally friendly, either. The production process is wasteful and creates pollution, so some consider it to make a bigger difference for the earth to go vegan than to drive and electric car.
Being vegan can be healthy, too! Vegans get lots of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, without as much cholesterol and saturated animal fat as a traditional diet. With any diet, though, you have to make sure you’re giving your body (and your kid’s growing bodies) what they need.
Let’s start with the basics. The key to a healthy diet is getting all of the right nutrients.
- Protein: You don’t need to eat meat or eggs to get protein in your diet. You can find healthy, plant-based protein in peanut butter, tofu, lentils, and beans.
- Healthy Fats: To get healthy, plant-based fats incorporated into your diet, try yummy avocados, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil, sunflower or sesame seeds, and hummus.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Add nutritional yeast (B12), kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach and broccoli (calcium and vitamin C), beans, lentils, nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and dried fruit (iron), to keep up your essential vitamins and nutrients.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Quinoa, brown rice, and roasted sweet potatoes are some of the healthiest plant-based sources of carbohydrates.
Now that you know what to eat, how do you balance them? Fortunately, there is a vegan food pyramid that will walk you through it. This will give you the right proportions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fortified substitutes, beans, seeds, and nuts, and fats and sweets for every day. School-aged kids usually need somewhere between 1,600 and 2,200 calories per day but you can use a handy calculator like this one to get a more exact number.
Knowing what to eat and how much might be the easy part. How do you get your kids to eat it? Here are some suggestions to incorporate (just make sure you use gluten-free grains).
Check out our posts on snacks and desserts, too!
Whatever your reason for choosing to live gluten-free and vegan as a family, it can be a healthy and delicious choice. Get your kids in the kitchen with you so they can learn about this lifestyle while you have fun together. Nothing is yummier than that!