1. Include something you know they like
Add an ingredient your child already likes to any new dish that you’re introducing. Vegan dad Danny Payne found that his young daughter Clara really liked hazelnut butter, so he started adding it to everything from sweet potatoes to lentils. “Now we have to stop ourselves from following the path of least resistance and just adding it to everything,” he jokes.
2. Play with texture
If tofu is off-putting at first, try tempeh, which is chewier, or TVP, which has the texture of ground beef in chili or tacos. Payne’s daughter Clara really liked pearl barley, which is bland but pleasantly soft and contains plenty of B vitamins as well as vitamin E, zinc, iron, and protein.
3. Try, try again
The same way it can take a few tries to introduce a new food to a baby, it can take a few tries to get kids who haven’t grown up vegan—and adults, for that matter—to accept jackfruit or mushrooms as a replacement for beef, pork, or chicken in tacos or tomato sauce. “There may be a transition period, but be patient,” says vegan mom Lacey Dumler. “They’ll follow what the adults do, so it’s up to the adults to take the lead. If you want them to love their veggies, you have to sit down with them and love your veggies too.”
4. Make snacks count
Have fruits, vegetables, hummus, and nut butters on hand for snacking, but stop making snacks available a couple of hours before a meal. “They’re much more likely to dive into the beautiful plant-based meal you’ve prepared if they’re actually hungry,” says Dumler.
5. Don’t assume that a child won’t like a food
Vegan dad Richard Hachem’s daughter loves vinegary and salty foods such as pickles and olives. “One of her favourite meals is bok choi with ginger, tamari, chili flakes, and a little maple syrup,” he says. “We have to turn down the spiciness of meals for her, but she already enjoys some very spicy foods.”
6. Don’t make different meals for your kids
Dumler’s five-year-old son eats the same soups, curries, burritos, and pasta dishes as she and her partner, Philippe, but there are vegetables he doesn’t like on their own. He won’t eat a kale salad, for example, but he will enjoy the hardy greens if Dumler adds them to any soup or smoothie. Other reliable favourites include steamed broccoli with nutritional yeast and salt, blanched green beans with sesame seeds, and roasted cauliflower.