I have two little rugrats running around and they are so cute. My son just turned 3 and my daughter just turned 1. My son was actually born two weeks after I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). Talk about a stressful month. Below is a recent picture of the two from their 1 and 3 year old photo shoot.
Over my first year of being a T1D, I learned a lot about food and its effects on your body. It sucked getting T1D, but I feel like it resulted in my children being great benefactors of a healthier diet. Kids will be kids, so getting them to eat healthy foods is always a challenge, but my wife and I (mostly my wife) try our best to have them eat a plant-based diet.
Many of the plant-based nutritional books that I read said the greatest gift you can give your child is a healthy diet, and I personally believe that. We try and fuel our kids with some of the healthiest foods on earth that will significantly aid in their development, especially in their early years.
That said, we aren’t perfect and they get their fair share of snacks in order for my wife and I to keep our sanity. For the most part though, they eat a relatively healthy diet. Below is a quick outline of what we try and feed our kids on a daily basis.
Most days start off with a big glass of almond milk. After my research over the past few years, I try and avoid dairy like the plague. It’s horrendous for your body and I personally feel like it increases the risk of children getting T1D. So with my family history, I really try and avoid cow’s milk.
Mainstream media will try and scare the living bejeezus out of any parent that tries to avoid cow’s milk by saying that their child will be lacking significant nutrients that are necessary for early childhood development. I’m not saying that cow’s milk doesn’t have some healthy stuff in it, but it sure also has a lot of unhealthy stuff in it too.
God only knows how grocery store cow’s milk is processed and, from my understanding, cow’s are artificially inseminated at the dairy farms to trick their body into thinking they are pregnant so they can produce larger quantities of milk. Freaking weird and gross…
It was tough as a parent to go against mainstream medical recommendations and avoid dairy in the early years, but there are many alternatives. Some alternatives include coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk to name a few.
Dairy Alternatives, Almond Milk Wins
Coconut milk is a nice alternative, however, it didn’t have much protein. Soy milk is an option, but a lot of research says this isn’t the best for little kids either. That left almond milk which is a great option with hardly any negatives that I know of.
One caveat is that you have to make it yourself in order to ensure that a meaningful amount of protein is in the milk. The store bought almond milk tastes good but it’s extremely watered down with lower amounts of protein and usually added sugar.
We make two batches a week with organic almonds and put dates in it to add flavor. Our kids worship the stuff. I make one batch for the kids with the date flavoring and then one batch for myself without dates. Dates are one of the highest glycemic fruits out there, so they don’t jive well with my diabetes.
In summary, almond milk is a great alternative to dairy, so hopefully you aren’t allergic to nuts. I won’t lie, its a pain making it, and nothing is worse than coming home from a long day of work and having to make a batch of almond milk, but it’s great for your children’s health.
Along with almond milk, we usually give the kids some kind of fruit. My son really likes bananas cut up with some peanut butter on them. My daughter usually will eat some bananas too or some blueberries.
Lunch / Dinner
Lunch and dinner seem to blur together for the kids. I wish I could say that they eat a flavorful diet of assorted foods, however, that’s not reality. We try out best to keep our kids on a plant-based diet, and for the most part, that is case. We try and avoid dairy, but we occasionally give them chicken and eggs. But besides that, it’s mostly fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Beginning when they were little, my wife always pureed their lunch and dinner foods. Some examples of pureed meals were 1) vegan chili; 2) peas; 3) squash; 4) spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots and avocado combined. Both of them loved an assortment of pureed foods initially, but became pickier as they got older, but to this day my son still eats pureed chili and mixed veggies and he is over 3.
In some cases it’s amazing that our kids have settled into a nice diet of healthy vegetables, however, my poor wife still has to puree our 3 year old’s lunch / dinner so he’ll eat it. It’s something about the texture of the food that he is comfortable with. He still won’t eat a normal dinner that we eat, but things could be worse.
Both kids have become fairly picky with their diet, so a majority of the time the lunch/dinners are either vegan chili, an avocado or the pureed vegetable mix of spinach, sweet potatoes and avocados.
Most mainstream people would think that our kids are missing out on tons of protein and essential nutrients found in animal products. However, the vegetables that they eat have more than enough protein, and healthier protein, relative to a child that would eat an animal based diet.
They both have vitamins too that help supplement their nutrient intake to ensure they are getting adequate nutrients in their diets. Some parents might be nervous that their kids wouldn’t develop normally with a diet like this, but I can tell you both of my kids are in the 75th to 85th percentile for height and weight. They are growing like weeds.
Finally there are snacks. In a perfect world our kids would eat non-stop vegetables with no problem. However, with two kids it seems someone is always hungry or whining or crying. In order to keep our sanity we have to give them snacks.
We try and give real fruit as snacks as much as we can, like oranges, apples, blueberries, mangoes or things of that sort. However, sometimes we are traveling or just tired so we’ll give them less healthy options like vegetable/fruit squeeze pouches or veggie straws.
I always take the position that if a majority of what they eat and drink is plant-based and healthy, then I’m fine with a few veggie straws here or there.
Well, that’s the daily diet of the two little ones. They seem to like the plant-based diet and the earlier you start them on it, the more likely they’ll stick with it in their early years. My son is 3+ years old and he still eats mostly vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit and is growing up so fast.
Don’t get bullied by your pediatrician or the mainstream dietary recommendations of a diet predominately based on cow’s milk and animal products in order for your kids to grow big and strong. There are other safer and healthier plant-based routes to go with your children’s diets that will have them developing just fine.