The Big 9 Nutrients for Veggie-Loving Kids

1. Protein

Children learn the alphabet with building blocks of ABCs: so protein’s amino acids are the building blocks of our cells. Unfortunately, the human body only makes 11 of the 20 amino acids of a complete protein itself; the rest are absorbed from our diet. Symptoms of protein-deficiency include fatigue and poor concentration, as well as delayed growth and joint pain.

Plant-Based Protein Sources: pulses and legumes,
nuts and seeds, tofu and tempeh, wholewheat pasta and quinoa, broccoli and asparagus.

2. Carbohydrates

Essential for energy, it is healthy carbohydrates that are important. Refined white flour and pasta and cakes and the like should be avoided as much as possible. Wholegrain products and vegetables are the true carbohydrates for fuelling brains and bodies ever-developing. That doesn’t mean kids can’t indulge in treats occasionally, but it does mean making sure they eat wholesomely the majority of the time.

Healthy Carbohydrates for Hungry Kiddos: brown rice, potatoes, fruit, peas, pumpkin, corn, wholewheat bread.

3. Fats

Vital for children spending days upon days absorbing knowledge and physically figuring out the world. Necessary for building nerve tissue and hormones, as well as energy, fats are crucial for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and help tummies feel full. Like carbohydrates, there are healthy fats and bad fats, though. The best fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, found in olive oil and avocado oil (but shun the vegetable oil!).

Tasty Fatty Goodness for Growing Girls and Boys: nuts and seeds, coconut products, olives and avocados.

4. Calcium

Most of us know that calcium is critical for strong bones, but it also helps maintain nerve and muscle function and protects the heart. And the amount of calcium we have as children and teenagers impacts our health in later life.

Champion Calcium Sources for Kids: dark green leafy veg, tofu, fortified cereals and alternative milks, nuts and seeds, legumes, millet and amaranth, oranges and dried figs.

5. Iron

The number one query when the words “plant-based” pass anyone’s lips, iron helps form haemoglobin in red blood cells, which transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. Non-haem iron (found in plants) is more difficult to absorb than haem iron (in animal products), but vitamin C aids absorption and spinach (yes, Popeye was onto something) should be cooked rather than eaten raw, to overcome the antinutrient oxalate preventing benefit from its iron-rich nature. But iron is present in more than dark green vegetables…

Iron-Pumping Foods for Animal-Friendly Appetites: hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews, oats and cacao, raisins and prunes.

6. Folate

Just as important as when a baby is in utero, folate assists DNA formation and by extension cellular development in the entire body. Every 5 days, the cells in a child’s small intestine are entirely replaced, so a constant source of folate in the diet is essential.

Folate-Rich, Kid-Friendly Foods: carrots and peas, broccoli and cauliflower, squash and tomatoes (without skins for younger ones).

7. Fibre

The modern day is all about digestive health, but adult gut microbiomes aside, keeping a child’s digestive system in happy harmony is utterly important for their overall well-being. There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble – and just likes adults, children need both in order to feel full, yes, but also to prevent heart disease and diabetes and other nasty, avoidable things. Happily, the plant-based diet is replete in both types of fibre.

Fruit Fibre for Happy Tums: strawberries and pears, raspberries and bananas, sweet potatoes and kidney beans, chickpeas and quinoa, chia seeds and dark chocolate.

8. Vitamin A

Vital for both vision and bone growth,
fat-soluble vitamin A (aka beta-carotene) promotes healthy, skin, hair, and nails, as well as assisting organ health in general.

Vibrant Vitamin-Rich Foods for Cool Kids: pumpkin and carrot, cantaloupe melon and goji berries, squash and bell peppers.

9. Vitamin C

Long has it been known that water-soluble vitamin C staves off scurvy and bolsters the immune system, but it also acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from free- radicals. Further, it aids wound healing, prevents gum disease, and promotes collagen production.

Cool Kids Go Crazy for Bright- Coloured Fruit: oranges and lemons, kiwi fruit and limes, cranberries and blackberries.

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