I have embraced a (mostly) plant-based diet for over 8 years now. Not completely – but you’ll see I’m honest about that! While John and I can find plenty of options that allow us to maintain a healthy balance of the nutrients we need as adult humans, it can be a challenge sometimes with the little ones. One of the big differences between a plant-based diet for adults and a plant-based diet for kids is a need for fat. While the recommended daily intake of fat for adults is 20-35% a day, toddlers need between 35-40% of calories from fat. We don’t fully eliminate meat and dairy, but I do try to get creative with how we get the kids their daily fat intake!
Importance of Fat
Many people see the word “fat” and assume that it is a negative attribute of a food. Like, remember when we were kids in the 90s and everything was “low fat”? While of course too much, and the wrong types of fat are not part of a recommended healthy diet, it is not all bad. Healthy fats are super important for brain development, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, energy, and growth, among other critical physiological functions. And hormones!!! You NEED fat in order for your hormones to function properly.
When kids are in their prime developmental years, it is crucial they receive the proper nutrition via fat. Plants are naturally low in fat. This being said, parents must prioritize fat rich foods on their babe’s plates to make sure they’re meeting the fat intake needs.
There are tons of kid-friendly options for how you can include more fat into your kids’ diet, without compromising flavor, or fun. I’ll also just be honest that this gets harder as the kids get older. Some of the items below, only Graham will eat (like tofu).
Obvious. So delicious and can be dressed up so many ways. Put it on toast, add it to rice with beans, make guacamole – the possibilities are truly endless. It can’t be bland, I find, for the toddlers – definitely have to add some spices or at least some salsa to jazz it up.
Nuts & Seeds
This one is pretty obvious, but nuts are a staple in our household, and not just because of the impressive amount of fat they include but because of their diversity. Some fun ways that I can incorporate nuts include:
Nut-crusted tofu nuggets
Walnut french toast
Chia seeds in EVERYTHING
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a trail mix
Add them into pancakes or waffles
Nut and Seed Butters
If you haven’t jumped on the nut butter trend, what are you waiting for?! Of course, we all know peanut butter is a great source of protein and fats. However, almond butter and cashew butter and tahini can be a great way to include new flavors into your kids’ favorite foods. My favorite ways to use nut butter for the little babes are:
Add to smoothies for flavor
Spread on toast or apples (top with granola!)
NB & J (nut butter and jelly, get it?)
Mix in with oatmeal
Include in baked goods recipes
Top pancakes and waffles
Add to stirfry or noodles with soy sauce and veggies
When all else fails – top a banana and add a chocolate chip 🙂
Did you know that most oils we buy at the store include a good amount of healthy fats! I was definitely surprised to learn this. There are also some not-so-great oils, and we typically stay away from canola/safflower/peanut/and the blends like these. I like to use EVOO or hemp oil on foods that aren’t cooked at super high heat, and I like to use avocado oil or argan oil or coconut oil on things that need to bake or cook at higher heat. While most people already have olive oil in their homes, coconut oil is another great source of healthy fats, and is so easy to incorporate into your child’s diet.
Whole wheat pasta tossed after cooking in EVOO
Avocado oil with baked tofu
Coconut oil in smoothies
Melted coconut oil over popcorn for a sweet and salty combo
Milks and Creams
If you’ve been living that plant-based lifestyle for some time, I am sure you’ve found your favorite dairy-free milk. The more popular choices are nut milks (almond, cashew, etc.) but I have found that other milks have much higher healthy fat contents.
Full-fat soy milk (for cereal)
Coconut milk (love using this in soups for a creamer consistency)
Cashew cream (IT IS SO EASY! And honestly – more delicious than normal cream)
Coconut cream (mix with some fresh fruit and freeze for homemade popsicles.
If you’re new to the plant-based world, it can be a tough journey to navigate, especially if you plan on having your children follow along as well. It definitely isn’t the easiest way to eat, and like I said – we are not 100% by any means – but I hope some of these ideas can give you the confidence to include your littles on your plant-based journey as well! If you’d like more tips on how to do this – sign up for my email list and get my INSERT MORE PLANTS ebook!