Help! My teenager is a vegan

vegan cooking, ingredients, from scratch, recipe,

Recently I had the pleasure of cooking with a teenager who had recently decided to eat a vegan diet. 

Worrying

When teenagers make such decisions it can cause us (parent’s, carers and sometimes even teachers) a bit of worry. 

We worry about their nutrition… How will they get enough or the right mix of proteins, iron, vitamin B12?
Will it cost loads more to buy substitutes?
Am I going to have to cook several different dishes.

Information


I spent some time putting together some reading materials for this young lady which I know she will dip into when she’s alone later. It covers matters such as protein complementation, plant sources of iron and how-to get B12 on a plant based diet. I will share some of the nutritional information with you below.

We chatted informally while we cooked and I managed to drop in some useful nuggets of info.


We looked through s few cookbooks, some vegan, some not and discussed how we might cook certain dishes. 

Why

Many teenagers experiment with their ethical beliefs and dietary preferences. It’s a natural way of finding out who they are. Our job is to support them as best we can.

I’m not a dietitian, but I do have an understanding of nutrition. It was not hard at all to find some reading materials that would suit her. 

Turn it around

Showing an interest in food, ethics and diet in this way is a great way to get our young people into cooking and to start them taking an active role in their own nutrition. 

My advice…

Don’t fight it…. Go with it, support them on their journey!

Romanesco gnocchi vegan dairy free recipe sundried tomato cook from scratch


Pictured is the dish we made. It’s Romamesco sauce with pasta. Adapted from Joe Wicks recipe for Romamesco Gnocchi. Romanesco sauce if often made using peppers, for my recipe I have just used sundreied tomatoes from a jar. We added yeast flakes (excellent sauce of B12) instead of parmesan.

Romanesco gnocchi tasty alternative adapted vegan dairy free recipe sheet free

You can use my adapted recipe here if you’d like to try it. My (non-vegan) children love this sauce either on Gnocchi or stirred through noodles and it freezes really well in an ice cube tray for future use.

For other recipes – vegan and non vegan, check out my recipes page here

Some nutritional information to help

What about protein?

One of the important things to remember when following a vegan diet is that plant sources of protein do not contain a complete set of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) needed by the body.

Most plant based proteins are of Low biological value (LBV) proteins – an incomplete set of the EAAs.

A vegan diet can provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health by combining a variety of sources of protein across the meals in a day. This is called protein complementation.

Protein complementation

This means that the amino acids in one LBV source of protein may work together with the amino acids in another source of LBV protein to form a complete set.

Some examples are below: Beans on toast, rice and bean salad, lentil soup with toast, nut butter sandwich, cereal with almond milk. There are many more.

Protein complementation does not have to make use of food that is eaten in the same meal, but could be spread across a day or so for example.

There are some exceptions which do contain the full set  of amino acids and are known as high biological protein sources. These are quinoa and soya. Soya comes in many forms to be used in cooking such as tofu, soya beans, soya milk, tvp (textured vegetable protein). 

B12

The other nutrient which you should be mindful of is vitamin B12. 

B12 is not found in plant food sources. For a vegan, this could be found in fortified foods such as cereals which state that they are fortified with vitamin B12. Or they could consider taking a supplement. 
There is a good product called Energevita yeast flakes which contain B12 which can be sprinkled on top of foods such as salads or pasta dishes instead of cheese.

Marmite is also a good source of B12 a spoonful of which can be used in all sorts of cooking to add flavour and nutrition. I have even been know to drink a spoonful in a cup of boiling water!

Iron and Vitamin C

Vegans and vegetarians should also ensure that they eat a variety of foods rich in iron and combine them with a good rich in vitamin c.

Vitamin c helps the body to absorb iron which is more difficult to absorb when taken in plant based sources than animal based sources. 

Try not to worry

I hope this has helped you not to worry. Try to see this as a new adventure, an education and a way of expanding yours and their culinary repertoire. Vegan cooking does not have to be expensive, or include lots of unknown fussy, hard to find ingredients.

Hiding veggies

Freebies veggies recipes
Hiding veggies in your child’s dinner is a tried and tested parental tip.

hiding veggiesBy “hiding veggies”, I mean mashing up cauliflower into mashed potato, blending veggies into a pasta sauce and sneaking disliked fruits into smoothies. There are endless ways you can do it – I confess, I’m no expert at it. 

It’s an excellent way to boost your child’s nutritional intake whilst maintaining peace and harmony at the dinner table….

or is it?

 

 

I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m going to suggest we take a step back and consider whether it is the best option for the long term and what we could be doing instead.

Here are my three BIG reasons why  I think we should NOT hide veggies in our children’s food and SIX things we could be trying instead!

  1. Trust
  2. Knowledge / education
  3. Longevity / the future

Ok, so we’ve all done it, I still do it from time to time, but here’s why I think it’s a really bad idea to rely on veggies undercover in your children’s meals.

Trust

Hiding veggies could be considered a form of trickery. In this case it’s trickery that has been implemented with the purest of intentions, but all the same it’s trickery, and your 5 year old would most probably see it this way too if they found out.

Just imagine; when your child discovers that you’ve been squirreling away (the hated) carrots in their favourite bolognese sauce for goodness knows how long –  in their eyes, they’ll wonder what else you have been up to that they don’t know about? It’s like finding out that your husband has been sneaking extra pints in on the way home from work when he says he’s been working late to earn money for your new extension, you might start to question what else he’s been doing that you don’t know about.

I believe we need to be transparent and honest with our children, they trust us 100%, they rely on us 100% and we are their world.

Over the next decade (and more) you are going to need to convince your children to do so much more than eat veggies and without that trust and an open and communicative relationship you may struggle with some biggies down the line. Keep it straight now and  perhaps you’ll have your child where you want them when they are a teenager wanting to go out with friends until all hours. If they are able to trust you, you’ll be able to trust them. It works both ways and you need set the bar on this one.

Knowledge and education

By sneaking the extra veggies into our children’s mashed potatoes, we are allowing them to grow up in blissful ignorance. They are ignorant of the fact that their diet is providing them with vital nutrition. They may grow up believing that even though they (think) they eat only one type of vegetable they are still perfectly healthy.

I know this is an extreme example, but children learn by example, by seeing and by doing. It’s all very well telling them that an “apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but will they actually believe this and value the part that fresh food plays in our diet if they don’t actually see or experience it?

Longevity

If you are an avid “sneaker- inner”, have a think about this;

What exactly is your plan for the future? When do you plan to stop sneaking those veggies in? What happens when your son leaves home and has to manage his own diet? Will he be blissfully ignorant and believe that his healthy body and brilliant immune system is down to his diet of mashed potato and sausages. No veg needed here, thank you very much? When are you planning to stop the veggies in disguise? How are you planning to make the transition?

It’s a great short term solution, but we do need to be realistic here that hiding veggies is just a short term helper.

We need to start laying foundations for the future and we need to start with honesty and integrity.

I’ve included six simple ways you can start  to move away from hiding veggies below:

  1. Educate
  2. Empower 
  3. Sneak the veggies in (in an obvious way) before dinner (and then enjoy a veggie free dinner?)
  4. Work as a team
  5. Talk about it
  6. Have fun Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.
Educate

Knowledge is power and education is the route to knowledge.

Educate your child about their diet. Explain at meal times how different foods help our bodies, and if you don’t know something, look it up together – you’ll be modelling good research skills at the same time.

Here are some good books I use on a regular basis as a reference point:

Healing foods nutrition book reference recipes hiding veggies  family nutrition reference book recipes hiding veggies

You can use my short video here which explains the New Eatwell Guide. You could even show this to  older children, or you can drip feed information to them about why different foods are good for us… there’s truth in the old saying that you might have been told as a youngster the carrots help you to see in the dark… , the beta carotene in carrots does indeed help with night vision.

Show your child the new Eatwell guide eatwell_guide_colour and show how large the vegetables and fruit section is. Explain that fruit and veg of different colours bring different nutrients to our bodies and we need to eat as wide a range as possible to be as healthy as possible.

Empower them to solve the problem

Once they understand why they need to eat vegetables and fruit, or milk and cheese (or whatever it is they are fussy about) you can make this your child’s problem. Knowledge is power – so give them the power to work out a solution… give them a blank Eatwell guide and a list of foods and ask them to organise a day’s worth of food into the correct sections. Can they see if it is balanced?

Or, get them to count their vegetable intake on a chart and reward them when they meet a target set by you.

Sneak the veggies in but in a transparent way.

One of my favourite things to do whilst cooking is to chop up a selection of veggies and nutritous goodies. I  put them in a couple of small bowls and set them down beside my daughters whilst they are watching TV, doing their homework, reading etc. More often than not, the bowls are empty by the time I serve up dinner and Bob’s your uncle, they’ve eaten a couple of portions of veg!  The pressure is then off at dinner time. You won’t be worrying about whether they’ve eaten enough veg and they won’t need to dig their heels in.

Work as a team

Make your children part of your team. Consult with them on which vegetables they think would best compliment your planned meal , ask for their help in the kitchen, make it all part of your daily routine, get them to prepare the vegetables, the more contact they have and the more input, the more invested they will feel in the outcome. They will be more likely to try the food even if they don’t like it. This is not 100% foolproof, but it is a small stepping stone towards harmony at the dinner table.

Talk about it

Start having conversations about food, whilst eating it, whilst preparing it and whilst planning it. Encourage your child to use sensory language to describe foods and discourage “I don’t like” “yuk” and “yummy”.

Encourage informative language such as bitter, salty, bland, chewy so that you can all start to better understand your child’s tastes.

Make it fun

We want our children to grow up with healthy attitudes towards food and with that in mind, meal times need to be relaxed and associations with food should be fun and relaxed.

The best advice I know is that we need to take away the battle, relax and have fun.

Choose your battles wisely and concentrate on the fun stuff. I’ve put together a list fun ideas that you can try.

Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.  hiding veggies fun food games and activities

I hope I’ve spoken some sense here, of course I realise there may well be people that disagree with me. I’d love to know your viewpoint on hiding veggies. Do you do it? Have you tried some of my suggested fun foodie games and activities? Are there some that you do already at home? Do you have a new suggestion you’d like to share? Please do comment below.

I’d love to hear from you!

Kate x

 

 

hiding veggies fun food games and activities