Can your super picky eater go vegan?
When all your child eats is plain pasta and nuggets, the idea of restricting them even more on a vegan diet can feel impossible. They need protein, and calcium, and iron and…. Everything else. And you just couldn’t get all of that from a vegan diet. Right?
Well, not exactly.
Children of all ages can definitely go vegan (check out my post here where I look at what the 4 major dietary guidelines say about kids on a vegan diet). And it’s true that a vegan diet needs careful planning to be healthy, but to be honest, so does any other diet.
But, if you have a fussy eater, then a carefully planned diet is impossible. So, can they still be healthy on a vegan diet?
Well, I decided to look at the nutritional content of some common fussy kid foods to look at whether they would actually have enough nutrients to keep them healthy.
Let’s take a 3 year old. 3 year old’s are pretty well known for their refusal to eat anything healthy that you cook for them. So can a fussy 3 year old get everything they need on a vegan diet?
Nutrients of Typical Fussy-Eater Vegan Foods
The most important nutrients to get are below:
And now, let’s look at some common vegan foods that a fussy 3 year old will actually eat.
Peanut Butter Sandwich (using something like Wonder White Bread)
A cup of Plain Pasta
1/2 cup Cheerios
2 cups Oven Baked Chips and Tomato Sauce
Important Nutrients for A Fussy Vegan Eater
So, as you can see, even foods that you would never class as super healthy vegan foods can give your kids quite a lot of their nutrients. If your picky eater 3 year old only ate the food above, they would still get most of what they need in a day on a vegan diet. And not a veggie or a bean to be seen. Not even a piece of fruit!
Even though your picky eating child can get most of their nutrients on a pretty restricted diet, there are a few things you need to watch out for.
Firstly, Protein. Everyone panics about protein. But it really isn’t as big a thing as everyone makes out. As long as your child is actually eating enough food, they should be getting enough protein. So if you feel like your child doesn’t actually eat very much, then you should probably speak to a dietitian about their protein.
Calcium is a really contentious issue for a lot of vegans. Your kids do need calcium. Yes, you can get enough calcium without needing a plant milk, but only if you’re eating lots of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. The types of foods I put up above don’t give kids anywhere near enough calcium. So fortified plant milks are really good for calcium. Just make sure they have around 300mg of calcium per cup. You can check this by looking at the nutrition panel. It should say 300mg/250ml (or about 8oz if you’re American).
And finally, Vitamin B12. You can’t get vitamin B12 from a vegan diet, so you do need to supplement.
How to Get Your Picky Eater to Eat More
Obviously, while a child can get their essential nutrients from a restricted diet, it still isn’t the healthiest for them. If you have a fussy eater, I have lots of posts to give you some ideas to get them to eat a better variety of foods.
- How to Get Kids to Eat Beans
- How to Get Kids to Eat Veggies
- 10 Tips to Get Fussy Kids to Eat
- Healthy Recipes for Fussy Eaters
So, please don’t panic if your kids don’t eat a great diet. To be honest, most omnivore kids don’t eat that well either. Check out the links above for my tips for how to get your kids to eat a more varied diet, talk to your GP or dietitian about testing to see if they need supplements, and don’t panic!