How to introduce your kids to a plant-based diet

How to introduce your kids to a plant-based diet

By Kristelle Bechayda

With our busy schedules and the fast-paced lifestyle we currently live in, we tend to serve our kids with whatever is available in the kitchen. Sometimes, we are even guilty of grabbing fast food meals at drive-through when time no longer permits for cooking. While it might be easier and convenient to just resort to easy-to-cook meals or prepare what our kids want just so they would eat it quickly, we might be putting their health at risk.

Recently, Moms and Babies got to interview Juana Yupangco, who is behind the nonprofit organization Mesa ni Misis. A firm believer of the benefits of a plant-based diet, the mom-of-two shared how she introduced that kind of lifestyle to her kids and some tips for parents to follow.

Tweak the foods that they like

Juana started introducing vegetables to her kids, Jaime and Rosanna, when they began eating solid food. When they were little, she would mash it up and mix it in their food so they wouldn’t see it. But as they got older, she decided to stop doing it. “I don’t believe in having to hide stuff anymore for them, so I try to make it into something like finger food when they were smaller or dumplings.” she explained.

One tip she shared is to convert the children’s favorite dish into a vegetable dish. She also dishes out these three recipes she has tried before:

1). Kare-kare monggo.

One of my more successful recipes is the kare-kare monggo because everyone likes kare-kare, right? So in the kare-kare monggo, you get all the flavors in one dish. Plus, the monggo is very high in protein.

2). Adobo sitaw

Another is adobo anything because adobo is such a familiar taste. In our adobo sitaw, we add mani for higher protein. Sitaw has very high protein but the not-so good fats.

3). Langka mechado

I also have langka mechado. So instead of the actual beef mechado, it’s langka. Langka has a very meaty texture, right?

“I’d say start with a familiar taste and convert that into a veggie dish. You’ll have more success doing that rather than just making chopsuey or okra because they can clearly see it’s vegetable and they’re not gonna touch it.” Juana explains.

Have it on schedule

Of course, doing that might be easier said than done. Like most kids, there were also times that Juana’s children didn’t like eating vegetables. In fact, it took the whole family a year to fully remove meat from their diet. “We started by cutting out the red meat, then the chicken and the fish. And finally, the dairy and the eggs were the last things to go.”

Juana Yupangco with her husband Rick and their children Jaime and Rosanna. (Image from @juanayupangco)

The family no longer buys meat and it has become a rule that they have a plant-based diet on weekdays. It is only during the weekends when the kids get to eat meat when meeting with their extended families. “When they go out on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s like they can eat whatever they want. So we’re not super deprived. If they have it (meat), they probably eat them with their lolo and lola when I’m not there.” Juana said.

By Sunday night, it’s back to the plant-based routine for the family. “At home, I’d say 90 percent of their meals are home cooked, so I think that is good enough for me. By doing that, they’re more discerning when they go out. They’d think before they eat. Na concious na.”

In terms of the benefits of having a plant-based diet, the mom-of-two said it will do a lot of good in the children’s health. It can help lessen the chances of childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and even keeps cancers at bay. “Cancer feeds off on animal protein and sugar,” Juana explained. “So if you start your kids off liking vegetables at a young age, their palette will be trained already.”

(Featured image by Kevin Tristan Espiritu)