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Tips on raising conscious kids in the kitchen

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

When mealtime comes, kids can be tougher than any fancy food critic. Making food that is convenient to prepare, tastes good and is nutritious, is no easy task. As a family with kids ourselves, we understand the need to not only make mealtime entertaining, but also the importance of raising awareness around where our food comes from. Cooking is an excellent way for children to learn responsibility, understand healthy food choices and to make the connections about what is on their plate.  It also creates quality family time and treasured memories.

With this in mind, we have put together our top eight tips for making healthy, wholesome meals fun, simple, educational and inspiring for the whole family!

  1. Get everyone involved while learning new skills! From measuring the wet and dry ingredients, to stirring and whisking, there is a task for everyone! And don’t forget about the rinsing, scrubbing, chopping, dicing and even julienning! Get the really little ones to help clean the veggies while the slightly older kids can assist with measuring and handling the sharper equipment.
  2. Art class is now in session! There is so much more to cooking than just the final meal. Setting the table and plating the food in artful ways are some fun methods to get creative and expressive with food.
  3. Get a roster going. Get the whole family to take turns to make snacks and school lunches in the week or cook dinner on the weekends. From date balls to sandwiches, and from easy pizzas to burgers, there is a meal for everyone to take responsibility for. It’s a great way for everyone to learn about balanced eating and nutrition.
  4. Be the star of the show! Choose a colour like red or purple, or a veggie that you love, and create a meal around that! Start a conversation around that veggie: Why it is healthy to eat this plant? What are the different ways to prepare it? How does it grow and where did it come from (eg.: homegrown or from a farm nearby)? It’s a fun way to learn about the cycle of an ingredient’s life from seed to table as well as encouraging out-the-box thinking (try to think of all the creative ways to cook the veggie…the crazier and more hilarious, the better!).
  5. Talk about the gratitudes in your life. Be grateful for every meal you eat with your family and say it out loud. Showing appreciation for the nourishment the food is giving to your body, to the farmers who grew the various ingredients, for the transport that helped bring the food all the way to your plate, and for the people sitting around the table with you, develops a deeper connection and respect.
  6. Talk about where food comes from, animals included. Educating yourself and your family about the health benefits of fruits, veggies, starches, grains, plant proteins and fats are important. Talking about where animal products come from too may seem daunting, but it could help the rest of the family understand your point of view. Try to keep the emotions out of these discussions – be honest, logical and be prepared to answer many questions.
  7. Be ready for social gatherings. Be prepared for events like school outings, parties, camps and sleepovers; they often always include animal products. Pack some options like meat alternatives for your child the night before so that they don’t have to go hungry or feel left out, but also be flexible. In these environments, children will often explore and try new things that they wouldn’t normally do at home. As parents, all we can do is offer guidance and provide knowledge. Parenting can be tough; let your children make their own choices outside of the home.
  8. Honour the fact that everyone is on their own journey. We cannot enforce our own feelings on our children, other parents or their children! Listen to their point of view openly, be kind, and give your own thoughts in a non-confrontational way. Plant seeds. Do not judge.

Starting in the kitchen may seem a bit far-fetched when talking about consciousness but it is the one place in the home where many important topics all come together, such as socio-economic issues, health and nutrition, environmental challenges, the wonderful miracles and beauty of nature, and more in practical ways.

Of course, we all want the very best for our children. We instill morals and values in them, hoping they will turn out to be good, upstanding members of society. We want to feel proud of them, knowing we have done our job. However, our children are their own selves, acting out their life’s purpose and fulfilling their own destiny. Indeed, raising conscious children is an ongoing job; and it requires presence and remaining connected with them.

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Raising a vegetarian child

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“Mom, what’s for supper?”

Following a well-balanced plant-based diet is not only healthy but evidence suggests that it may help prevent or even reverse some diseases.  Furthermore, both the Australian and American Governments have publicly recognised the benefits of plant-based diets.

If your children refuse to eat meat because they struggle with texture or you are raising your kids vegetarian,  it is possible for them to receive all their nutrients with a well-balanced diet.   Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chairman of the American Academy of Paediatrics’ committee on nutrition, has stated that “Vegetarianism can be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but you have to balance out what you omit”.

Tips to raise your child vegetarian:
Protein

The main concern with a vegetarian diet is that your child will not receive enough protein.  Meat is a complete protein as it contains all 8 essential proteins, plant-based proteins such as soya are able to provide the same quality of protein in your child’s diet.  Examples of soya-based protein include tofu and Fry’s.  For more information about the health benefits of soya, click here.

Iron

Leafy green vegetables are especially good sources of iron, and according to the Vegetarian Resources Group may even be better on a per calorie basis when compared to meat. If your child is vegetarian, your paediatrician may want to test for any iron deficiency but a diet filled with these non-animal iron sources will ensure this does not happen.

Omega-3

Fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids but there are plenty of other ways to get this essential nutrient in your child’s diet without the meat.  Sources include flaxseeds (put it in anything you cook or bake), beans, leafy greens, hummus and winter squash.  For information on vegetarian sources of omega-3 click here.

Calcium

If your child is eating a vegan diet, it is important to ensure that they are getting enough calcium in their diet.  Include foods fortified with calcium: 100% fruit juice, soya milk, tofu, and breakfast cereals.

Have any other questions?  Tammy Fry has raised both her children to happy and healthy on a vegetarian diet, ask her now!  For the top 10 vegetarian lunchbox ideas for your child click here.