Can your fussy child really be vegan? We’re often sold that a healthy vegan diet needs to be packed full of veggies, beans and grains to be healthy. So when your kids are very firmly sticking to a diet of plain pasta, hot chips and jam sandwiches, it can be easy to think there’s no way they can actually be healthy. I know I’ve sat looking at the uneaten veggies and beans on my kids’ plates many times and been sure they must be missing out on some important nutrients. But contrary to what we often hear (mainly from the meat and dairy industry, and supplement companies) it’s actually easier for your kids to get the nutrition they need than you think! There are 4 essential nutrients that you do need to make sure your kids are getting enough of, but as you’ll see, with a few tweaks, it’s possible for your kids to get enough from even the fussiest of diets.
A Well Planned Vegan Diet Is Healthy For Kids of All Ages
The Dietary Guidelines from most countries around the world tell us that 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). as long as their diet is well planned.
Well planned vegan diets need to ensure that kids are getting enough iron, zinc, calcium, omega 3s, vitamin B12, and overall energy. My Essential Nutrients for Vegan Kids guide at the bottom of the page gives you a great overview of each of these nutrients.
Can Vegan Kids Get Enough Nutrients from a Limited Diet?
If you have a fussy eater, then a carefully planned diet is virtually impossible. It’s less a case of aiming for grains, beans and veggies at every meal, and more a case of cramming in whatever they’ll actually eat and hoping they don’t get bored of it too soon. ‘They’ll eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch? Let’s do it every day! Plain pasta for dinner? Does tomato sauce count as a veggie?
Let’s take a look at the nutrition content of some of these fussy-kid-favourites. Do they actually give your kids everything they need?
Nutritional Needs of a 3 Year Old
To answer our question of whether fussy kids can be vegan, I decided to use the fussiest kids on the planet – 3 year olds. Our favourite 3 year old’s are infamous for their refusal to eat anything remotely healthy that you cook for them. So can a fussy 3 year old get everything they need from a toddler favourite – the beige food diet?
Below, I’ve given you the essential nutrients a 3 year old needs to be getting each day.
The most important nutrients to get are below:
Nutrients of Typical Fussy-Eater Vegan Foods
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*
*Note that Cheerios aren’t always vegan. In the UK nonvegan vitamin D3 is added. Cheerios in Australia are vegan.
2 cups Oven Baked Chips and Tomato Sauce
Even Fussy Kids Can Be Vegan
So, as you can see, even foods from the classic beige food diet loved by fussy kids the world over, can give your kids most of the nutrients they need. 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!
Nutrients They’ll Still Need
You’ve probably noticed that while your kids can get enough of most of the nutrients from the foods above, they won’t be getting enough Calcium. The best source of calcium for fussy eaters is a fortified soy milk. If you’ve got super fussy kids, most chocolate soy milks also have plenty of calcium! Just make sure it has at least 100mg of calcium per 100ml.
And finally, Vitamin B12. You can’t get vitamin B12 from a vegan diet, so you will need to give your kids a supplement.
How to Get Your Picky Eater to Eat More
As you can see, vegan kids can still get the essential nutrients they need from a limited diet. Of course, the more variety we can get into their diet, the better! I’ve put together a guide to the essential nutrients for vegan kids, with lists of my favourite kid friendly foods that give the most bang for your buck for iron, zinc and calcium. And don’t worry, they’re not all spinach and kale! So if you’re looking for the healthiest foods to get into your fussy child’s diet, then download my guide below.