Hi there, Kind Life fam! We are Marisa Miller Wolfson, creator of the documentary, Vegucated, and mama of two, and Laura Delhauer, plant-based culinary artist and environmental theatre-maker, and our new book, The Vegucated Family Table is the first ever cookbook written specifically for those wanting to raise vegan babies, toddlers and kiddos. We know it can sometimes be a struggle to get kids to eat healthy vegan foods, so we wrote a whole book of options to help. Included is expert nutritional advice from Dr. Reed Mangels to help answer any questions you may have about the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle for your little ones. Here’s a sneak peek into the book as we talk about nine healthy vegan things that you can get even your pickiest of eaters to enjoy!
All by themselves, these delightful little fruits taste like caramel candies, but imagine being able to give your child a yummy caramel candy that is naturally filled with potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, vitamin B6, plenty of fiber and even some protein? We use these delicious, nutritious powerhouse fruits in several recipes in our cookbook, such as our Simple Date Bites, Fudgy Nut-Free Energy Bites and even as the main sweetener in our Baby’s First Smash Cake, which is loved by babies, kids and adults alike, and is actually great for any occasion. Dress ‘em up or dress ‘em down, dates are an extremely healthy, naturally sweet vegan treat.
2. Chia, Flax and Hemp Seeds in Puddings, Jams, Sprinkles and More
Chia and flax are both great sources of fiber, omega 3 and protein. Hemp seeds are also a great source of protein and fiber, omega-3 and omega-6, along with vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and more! And we’ve found that sneaking these nutrition-packed seeds into your kid’s food is not only easy, but it’s actually pretty fun. Children love sprinkles, but most sprinkles are nutritionally devoid and often made of nothing but sugar, artificial colorings and palm oil (no thanks!). So, instead, we decided to create a handful of “sprinkle” recipes in the book that would be made from healthy seeds, natural colorings and other nutritious foods like shredded coconut and goji berries, as well as ground cashews and nutritional yeast in our savory Vegan Parm Sprinkle. There’s something to sprinkle on just about any food for any occasion, and each of them adds a fun and healthy dose of seeds to your child’s meal, snack or treat. Additionally, chia, flax and/or hemp seeds make it into many other recipes, from smoothies to our Chocolate Cherry Chia Muffins, puddings, berry jam and nearly every dessert in the book!
3. Nuts, Nut Butters and Seed Butters
Nuts and seeds provide healthy sources of fat, fiber and protein, which make for very satisfying kid foods. And while PBJs have long been a staple in the American child’s diet, there are so many ways beyond that age-old sammie to use nuts and seeds to make plant-powered meals and treats complete. We’ve got you covered with a host of options, including an almond butter-based Caramel Sauce, plus Cashew Chive Spread, Nacho Cashew Cheese Sauce, Peanutty Dipping Sauce (great for dipping our Sesame Tofu Sticks), Orangutan-Approved Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (free from palm oil and all the yucky ingredients in the store-bought brands, and with a fraction of the sugar), Peanutty Sweet Potato Stew and so much more. The book also contains many nut-free recipes, including several utilizing tahini or sunbutter instead. We also offer the option to use these seed butters as substitutes if you need to make nutty recipes allergy-friendly. (We even have an option to make delicious nut-free peanut butter cups!) That said, make no mistake, we are big PBJ fans over here, and we do have a recipe for a modern twist on the classic sandwich, as well as a PBJ smoothie bowl!
4. Lentils and Beans in Dishes Both Savory and Sweet
Lentils and beans are excellent sources of plant-based proteins and an array of other nutrients, and they are wonderfully accessible and inexpensive! They appear in several recipes in the book, including Laura’s Lovely Lentils and guest contributor Sayward Rebhal’s Magic Beans, both taste-approved by kiddos and packed with protein, iron and zinc. But even if you’re thinking your child is not about to sit down and eat a bowl of beans, there are so many other ways to present your littles with these nutritious legumes. We’ve got you covered between our Muscley Marinara (secretly packed with red lentils), a dal recipe by Leinana Two Moons, khichdi by Christina and Pulin Modi and more. But you can even throw beans into a dessert! On the sweeter side of things we have a recipe for Chickpea Blondies (gluten-free, grain-free and full of B vitamins!) and our White Bean Wonder Waffles, which Marisa adapted from a beloved recipe in The Kind Mama.
5. All Kinds of Veggies in Perfectly Balanced Juices and Smoothies
For many parents, the idea of getting their children to consume cups of leafy greens or raw veggies feels like a laughable fantasy. Well, we are here to tell you, this dream can become a reality more easily than you think. By pairing these veggies with delicious sweet fruits like apples, pineapples, mangoes and bananas in a smoothie or juice (or a smoothie or juice pop!), kids will not only enjoy eating (or drinking) their veggies, but they will request them. In the book we have a whole chapter of “Sips and Slurps,”’ including a Perfect First Green Juice and a green smoothie, both which can fulfil all of your little’s vitamin C requirements for the day! All of our juices and smoothies can also be frozen into pops, which can be an even more appealing veggie treat.
6. Sneaky Veggie-Laden Savory Dishes
Maybe your kid only really enjoys one cooked vegetable? We can capitalize on that one veggie! You can throw it into our Favorite Veggie Risotto or use it on our Fam Favorite Pizza (with super easy and delicious pizza crust recipe by guest contributor Akua Joy). Celebrating the veggies our kids do love is important and both of those recipes are a great way to do so. But seriously, we understand that you need to get your child to eat more than one vegetable, and we promise it’s possible. Pureeing some veggies into sauces and soups is always a great trick. We’ve snuck veggies into our grilled cheeze, hidden sweet potato in biscuits, made rice out of cauliflower, and mixed pumpkin puree into our Mac-O’-Lantern and Cheeze! We’ve even got three different ways to get your little babes to eat a dish of kale! Between our crispy Kale Chips, Cashew Creamed Kale and Marinated Kale, you just might get your child to start requesting this most infamous of nutrient- packed leafy green. Obviously you know your child best, and that’s why we have an array of options for getting those veggies in. You can decide which ones will be most enticing for your babes, but we promise there are veggie dishes in this book that your kid will not only tolerate but that they will love.
7. Add Baby Cereal to Boost Iron
If your kiddos don’t gobble down greens, lentils, tofu or other iron-rich foods, we’ve got a special trick: you can use iron-fortified baby cereal in place of oats/oat flour in many recipes. Whether it’s an oatmeal recipe, a pudding, pancake (like our Top o’ the Morning Green Power Pancakes) or a popsicle (like our Purple Porridge Breakfast Pop–recipe below), adding baby cereal is a sneaky and effective way to up your little one’s iron.
8. Whole-Food Based Healthy Treats
Homemade treats are the best treats. They taste the best and they’re usually healthier not only for us but the planet as well. Homemade and using whole foods takes it to the next level. We loved using whole and nutritious ingredients like nuts, spelt, fruit and oats while developing the snacks and desserts in The Vegucated Family Table. Our Four Seasons Fruit Crumble, Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, dippable Broccoli Hearts, Sunset Pops and Iron Sink Cookies (with 15% of your child’s daily iron requirement in one cookie!) are among the many healthy, whole-foods based treats in The Vegucated Family Table. The book mainly sticks to healthy low-glycemic sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup and medjool dates to sweeten treats; however, we do recognize that these sweeteners can be less accessible and on the more expensive side, so the book has some recipes such as Marisa’s Classic Nut-Free Cupcakes, using all highly accessible ingredients, and there’s always the option to substitute certain ingredients listed with those that you already have in your kitchen. The whole point is for you to feel good about giving your child the best start, and homemade treats free from animal products, using whole ingredients when you can, is doing just that.
9. Balanced Mains Masquerading as Dessert (What!?!)
Not only have we had the White Bean Wonder Waffles for dinner on several occasions, but we have a few other breakfast (or meal of your choice) recipes that are disguised as dessert but are so nutritious you’ll be happy to have your kiddos eating cookies and popsicles for breakfast. Our Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies are filled with protein, iron and zinc, and we shall leave you with one of our proudest recipes: the Purple Porridge Breakfast Pops. Packed with iron, zinc, protein, calcium and B12. Inspired by Marisa’s daughter, Emmie, who went through a phase of wanting nothing but “pops” for breakfast. And even though “pops” in the Wolfson house normally consisted of frozen green juice or smoothie popsicles, it was important to get a few more nutrients (and calories) into this little plant-based princess. So these massively nutritious breakfast pops were born–one of many recipes in the book specifically designed to make eating healthy vegan food something kids get excited about.
Excerpt from The Vegucated Family Table:
Purple Porridge Breakfast Pops
Marisa’s daughter goes through phases where she only wants ice pops for breakfast. Rather than make a fuss about it, Marisa just rolled with it and made her an ice pop that included the elements of the oaty breakfast Marisa wanted her to have, proving further that sometimes kids will accept an ice pop from what they will not eat any other way. Okay then!
One ice pop made with calcium- and vitamin B12-fortified nondairy milk delivers more than 30 percent of a toddler’s recommended daily intake for iron, more than 20 percent of zinc, more than 15 percent of protein, more than 10 percent of calcium, and at least half the vitamin B12.
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 cup vanilla nondairy milk (or regular nondairy milk mixed with 1⁄8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/3 cup fortified baby oat cereal (or rolled oats, if you don’t have cereal, but oats contain less iron)
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 teaspoon flax meal
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into six ice pop molds and freeze for at least 4 hours before unmolding and serving.
Main photo by Anthony Two Moons
Popsicle image courtesy of The Vegucated Family Table