Nutritionist-Approved Vegan Lunches For Children
Supplying a well-balanced meal for children's school or camp lunches is crucial in helping them grow and have energy for the day's activities.
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Jill Patterson works with many Newtown clients and has created a variety of fun, easy vegan options for children.
Ms Patterson describes a vegan diet as "not eating meat, poultry, fish, or anything that comes from an animal, like eggs, milk, or dairy products."
People choose a vegan lifestyle for a number of reasons ranging from wanting to reduce their environmental impact to wanting to prevent the exploitation of animals. Many, however, look to veganism for its health benefits like increased energy and decreased risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
When switching over to a vegan diet and removing certain food groups, it is important to continue to receive adequate nutrients everyday, Ms Patterson notes, adding, "Growing children will need the same nutrients, whether they are vegan or non-vegans."
Common concerns when transitioning to a plant-based diet are how to find enough protein, iron, and calcium to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Ms Patterson advised, "When substituting for milk and making sure they have the calcium needs met, soy milk is a good alternative." She also recommended calcium-fortified juice and almond milk for helping reach daily calcium needs.
When replacing eggs and meat products, protein and iron can be found in many accessible substitutes.
"For protein there's tofu, nuts, beans, also the meatless products like soy crumbles and meatless meatballs," Ms Patterson said. "For iron, you'd be looking at iron-fortified cereals, black beans, spinach, and also raisins."
These foods can be easily found in grocery stores, some stocked in the health food section, which is commonly found on the perimeter of supermarkets.
The Fun Lunch
When looking to create vegan school or camp lunches for children, Ms Patterson suggests making the meal interactive and fun.
"Kids like to dip things," Ms Patterson said.
She suggests making crudités - fresh cut veggies like celery sticks, carrot sticks, pepper strips - and pairing it with hummus, peanut butter, and/or SunButter (sunflower seed butter) for a protein source.
For the sides, raisins make for an excellent source of iron and a whole-grain roll, bread, or muffin can be included for a grain component.
When transporting the lunch, Ms Patterson recommend, "You'll want to put a little cold pack in there to keep the vegetables cold."
Pinwheels, Meatless Meat, Snacks
Sometimes making meals that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious can be the best way to encourage children to eat healthy vegan foods.
In a meal that Ms Patterson calls the "Pinwheels," she suggests getting a whole grain tortilla and spreading peanut butter or SunButter all over one side.
"Then take a banana and roll the wrap around it and slice it, so it's bite-sized pinwheels," Ms Patterson said.
This meal can also be paired with whole grain and fruit components, as mentioned above.
Utilizing leftovers is always a convenient and economically smart way of creating lunches for children. Ms Patterson advises using any extra pasta at home, like whole grain noodles, and pairing it with a meat substitute like meatless meatballs and sauce. This option is typically preferred when there is a way to reheat the food beforehand.
Packing snacks foods with children's school or camp lunches are important to help them get additional nutrients throughout the day. Ms Patterson suggests making a trail mix version customized for vegans.
She explained it can include "nuts for the protein, dry fruits like raisins for the iron, and if they want to mix in some cereal for grains plus additional iron."
To learn more information about Jill Patterson's employee, school/childcare centers, fitness, and wellness programs, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms Patterson is also an AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified aerobics instructor.