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.

Teach your child how to chop an onion

teach teacher chop an onion how to dice claw bridge safety knife hold grip children cook cookery

How to chop an onion for beginners

Chopping an onion is one of those things that everyone has their own way of doing it.

If you have your own established way of chopping an onion, please carry on. My method below is not the only way to chop an onion, however it is an easy way to teach a child to do so.

Before you begin – please do read my previous blog on teaching your child to use a knife safely and effectively. You can find the link here

When doing this with very young children or those with stiffness of joints or difficulty gripping I recommend the use of a vegetable holder. It looks like an extended comb with a handle. 

Bridge hold

bridge hold claw grip onion teach teacher cookery hold safely safety knife lesson cookery kids

For others I start by teaching them two safe grips for the vegetable: Bridge hold – useful for cutting a larger/round vegetable and keeping it stable. Lay the veg flat side down (if possible) and make an arch over the food with your thumb on one side, fingers on the other. The knife goes under the bridge.

Claw grip

chop claw grip onion teach teacher dice safety vegetable knife chopping board fingers hand children cook cookery lesson

Claw grip – useful for fine dicing and slicing and often useful for long thin items such as carrots/celery.

Make your hand into a claw and grip the item like this using your finger nails as buffers for any possible slipping with the knife. 

To start off with…

Talk your child through the anatomy of the onion. Let them hold it and describe the textures, and shape. Identify the root (the hairy bit) and the shoot (the pointy bit). This is a good chance to teach children where their food comes from. Onions do no grow on trees, they are not made in factories, they grow in the ground.

You could also talk about the papery skin and it’s colour. This could lead into a discussion about different types of onion – how many members of the onion family can your child name?

This is a perfect lead into a bit of gardening – if you so wish. Or maybe a tip to the garden centre to identify other members of the onion family.

A note on how to hold the knife…

One more tip … Children often hold a knife or spoon by the very end of the handle. This gives them weaker/more wobbly control. R

emind them to hold the knife firmly, with the hand along most of the knife handle and as close to the blade as possible.

My safety knife and vegetable holder

* I totally recommend my safety knife, but can’t sell them to you as they are out of production.

Anyone know of someone who can help me with this?

I’d love to get them made, they are so useful…. I pretty much use mine all the time at home!

My cookery teacher job – a peek behind the scenes

private cookery lessons with Kate, Make with Kate cookery teacher kate ferrer behind the scenes job teach teacher

My cookery teacher job – a day in the life

Sometimes the young people I teach, their parents/grandparents/carers comment on how they’d love to do a job like mine. 

It is the best job in the world for many reasons, not least  because it’s creative, I’m my own boss, I’m helping others to be able to do what I love doing and ultimately I’m making a difference. 

This is all the tip of the iceberg; the fun and games you see above the surface. 

If you peer behind the curtain however, there is much more going on in the background that makes all of this possible. 

My Day – It’s not all cupcakes and pasta making you know!

Take today for example. My ‘day off’ as some would call it. 

8.00 am

I dropped the kids at school, loaded up my car with every piece of electric equipment in my store room, unloaded the car and assisted Dave/Bumpa who does our PAT testing to make sure that all of my electrical equipment is safe and fit for purpose. 

10.30 am. Following this; car loaded up and unloaded again, I finalised arrangements for my primary school job on Friday. This involved printing off and sharing risk assessments, planning documents, recipe cards and designing a worksheet. 

12.00  I then took a break to walk the dog and help unload our fish tank into our new home. 

2.00 pm Next I went to the primary school for a pre-event site check, sorted out my DBS check documentation, checked for electrical points discussed timings, allergies, staff and set up. 

3.30 pm Then I collected the kids from school, made and ate dinner.

6.30 pm I’m off out again to take the eldest to Boys brigade then sat in the car and did two hours of marking for school tomorrow. A usual Monday night for us until she’s finished. Sometimes – weather permitting, I squeeze in an evening walk/jog for half an hour around Westgate whilst I wait.  

Do I begrudge any of this?

Would I change a thing? 

A BIG NO.

I love every little bit!

The sad truth is … that despite Food preparation and nutrition being a compulsory part of the KS1, 2 and 3 curriculum in the UK, children and young people still get very little access to hands on cookery and food education.

This is due to heavy pressure on time spent on other ‘more important’ parts of the core curriculum, a lack of funding – it’s not a cheap subject to teach – large class sizes and lack of equipment or facilities.

There is also a shortage of qualified food teachers for secondary schools. This is often a subject taught by non subject specialists as a timetable filler. I don’t have a problem with this if the teacher is on board, keen and enthusiastic about it. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way in getting children started on the road to food discovery and enjoyment.

I hope my ‘day off’ has not put off any budding food teachers out there. I can’t think of a more important job to do than to teach our future generations how to feed themselves and others – properly.

If you have any questions about a job as a cookery teacher in a school or how to set up as a self employed teacher etc, I am very happy to help.  

You can find out more about training to become a teacher here. Training is essential if you want to work in a school and helpful, but not essential if you are setting up as self employed.

I’ll write up some future blog posts based on answers to your questions.

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What did you do today?