Adding more plant-based meals to your diet is linked to all sorts of healthy outcomes, including better weight control, blood pressure and cholesterol. Increasing the plant foods in your diet is also good for the environment, since plants need fewer resources to grow when compared with animal food sources.
While that might motivate you to toss some extra veggies in your shopping cart, getting your kids to eat them is another story. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with 15 kid-friendly plant-based meals packed with superfoods that the whole family will love.
What makes them a superfood: Naturally sweet and tasty, blueberries are also high in fibre and low on the glycemic index, meaning they help keep energy steady and balanced. This kid-friendly fruit could also give young brains a boost. A recent study found that when a blueberry-rich drink was given to school-aged children they showed significant improvements in their memory recall.
How to get your kids to eat blueberries: Serve delicious blueberries as they are, or toss them in smoothies for a quick breakfast, snack or treat. If the vibrant colour and promising flavour don’t intrigue them, tell your kids that blueberries provide super brain power, then ask them to remember a fact they know.
What makes them a superfood: Chia seeds are small but mighty—just two tablespoons’ worth packs five grams of protein, nine grams of fat and 10 grams of fibre. They’re also a pretty remarkable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps with healthy brain development.
How to get your kids to eat chia seeds: Just add a little liquid and chia seeds create a natural gel texture. Kids can enjoy the science experiment of mixing them with almond milk, maple syrup and cocoa, then waiting for it to gel into a healthy chocolate pudding. Chia also makes a fresh and easy jam.
Try it: Three-Ingredient Cherry Jam from theHUB from Walmart.ca
Most commercial jams are filled with sugar, but the sweetness in this one comes from cherries and a hint of maple syrup, so go ahead and let the kids have an extra PBJ.
What makes them a superfood: Sweet potatoes get an A+ for their ability to raise vitamin A levels, helping to support healthy eyes and vision. Sweet potatoes also have a hearty dose of vitamin C, a key nutrient for building and maintaining a healthy immune system.
How to get your kids to eat sweet potatoes: Try topping a plant-based shepherd’s pie with creamy sweet potato instead of traditional white potatoes. Tell your kids that sweet potato helps give them super vision and ask them what new things they can see after they take a bite!
Try it: Sweet Potato & Lentil Shepherd’s Pie from Canadian Living
This classic comfort recipe is a great plant-based family meal, filled with flavourful lentils and topped with delicious sweet potatoes.
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What makes it a superfood: Whole grains like quinoa are important for plant-based meals because they serve up protein and B vitamins, two nutrients also found in meat. Quinoa is a complete source of B vitamins, meaning it has high levels of all nine essential protein building blocks (amino acids).
How to get your kids to eat quinoa: Quinoa has a fairly neutral taste and takes on other flavours well, similar to rice. Make a quinoa salad by tossing it with flavourful ingredients the kids like (think dried cranberries, or diced tomatoes and avocados) and topping it with a zesty dressing. Or try quinoa grains or quinoa flour in baked goods—because who can say no to a fresh muffin?
Try it: Sweet Quinoa Muffins from theHUB from Walmart.ca
It’s always easier to get your kids to eat superfoods when they come in a baked treat. Feel good knowing they’re eating protein-filled muffins that are primarily sweetened with fibre-rich dates.
What makes it a superfood: Many kids have a particular distaste for broccoli (we’ll get to the later), but broccoli’s less flavourful cousin cauliflower is easier on picky palates. Plus, cauliflower kind of has it all: fibre, vitamin C, antioxidants, and sulforaphane, an antioxidant that’s being studied for its potential to protect against cancer and diabetes.
How to get your kids to eat cauliflower: Cauliflower’s neutral colour means you can easily blend it with other ingredients—which is handy if your kids will only eat veggies when they don’t know they’re eating veggies. Cauliflower also makes a great dairy substitute in a plant-based mac and cheese.
Try it: Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese from Food Network Canada
Mac and cheese is always a winner—give this kid-approved meal a healthy makeover with cauliflower. You don’t even have to tell your kids it’s healthy—the cauliflower blends in so well they probably won’t notice unless you want them to.
What makes them a superfood: Avocados are the ultimate brain food. They’re low in sugar and rich in fibre and monounsaturated fats, making them a great choice for all kids, but especially babies and toddlers transitioning to solid foods. Monounsaturated fats are important for normal brain growth and development. Plus, the body needs them to absorb key vitamins and minerals.
How to get your kids to eat avocados: Avocados aren’t just for savoury dishes, so if your kids have been hesitant to try them in classics like guacamole, trying mixing them with something sweet, instead. Blitz them with cocoa powder and maple syrup for a chocolatey pudding, add them to fruit smoothies, or try them with strawberries for a sweet-and-salty salsa.
Try it: Strawberry & Avocado Salsa from theHUB from Walmart.ca
The combination of avocado and strawberries is a real flavour bomb and kids will love that they get to scoop it up with chips! Serve this dip as a snack, or use it as a topping for rice and beans or tacos.
What makes them a superfood: These mighty beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, offering up about 15 muscle-building grams of protein per cup. Beans are also inexpensive whether you prepare them from dried or buy them canned and ready to cook (just give them a quick rinse first).
How to get your kids to eat black beans: Stuff beans into kid-pleasing meals like tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Tell your kids that beans help their muscles grow big and strong, and ask them to show off their muscles after they’ve eaten a few bites.
Try it: Black Bean and Veggie Enchiladas from Today’s Parent
These enchiladas make a plant-based family meal filled with varied tastes and textures. For a vegan version, omit the cheese or replace it with your favourite dairy-free alternative.
What makes them a superfood: Walnuts aren’t just shaped like brains—they’re also associated with improved cognition, plus they strengthen the immune system by feeding good bacteria in the gut.
How to get your kids to eat walnuts: Sprinkle walnuts on yogurt, salads and hot and cold cereals. Ask your kids what they think walnuts look like, and when they answer brains, ask them why they think they’re brain-shaped? (The answer: because walnuts make them smarter!)
Try it: Orange Cranberry Oatmeal from theHUB from Walmart.ca
Flavoured with orange juice and sweet cranberries and topped with toasty walnuts, this oatmeal starts the day off right with healthy fats, fibre and plenty of flavour. Make it vegan by swapping the dairy yogurt with an oat-based alternative.
What makes them a superfood: Rolled oats are a whole grain that most kids already love. They’re an excellent source of soluble fibre, especially beta-glucans, which help the body stay fuller for longer—so maybe they’ll finally stop asking you for snacks every 20 minutes! One study found that eating oatmeal was associated with better overall nutritional intake in kids aged two to 18.
How to get your kids to eat rolled oats: Layer breakfast oats with yogurt and berries in a glass jar for a breakfast that looks like dessert or add them to cookies for a sweet treat with a healthy dose of fibre.
Try it: ‘Oh She Glows’ PB & J Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies from CBC
Who wouldn’t want to eat cookies for breakfast? Now your kids can with this healthy recipe that’s loaded with immune system-supporting fibre.
What makes it a superfood: Spinach is a versatile leafy green with a fairly mild flavour. It’s full of vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, vitamin A and magnesium, which helps with digestion and sleep.
How to get your kids to eat spinach: Blend spinach with fruits for a quick smoothie. If your kids are turned off by its green colour, serve the smoothie in an opaque cup with a lid. Or quietly slip some spinach under colourful and kid-tastic toppings for a sweet salad.
Try it: Summer Berry Spinach Salad from theHUB from Walmart.ca
This salad is chock full of fruit, so reluctant little veggie eaters can ensure they’ve got a forkful of strawberry or blueberry with every bite of salad, and ease into a lifetime of loving—or at least tolerating—spinach.
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What makes them a superfood: These school-safe seeds are packed with protein, fibre, magnesium and zinc, which supports the immune system and helps wounds heal faster. Pumpkin seeds—also known as pepitas—have been studied for their potential to reduce blood sugar levels and stabilize the body’s energy.
How to get your kids to eat pumpkin seeds: Mix them with nuts and dried fruit for a homemade trail mix, roast them with olive oil and salt for a savoury snack, or with maple syrup for sweet crunch.
What makes them a superfood: Rich and nutty, sesame seeds are loaded with minerals like calcium, a building block for healthy bones. They’re also an excellent source of tryptophan, a key ingredient in the brain’s happiness chemicals, such as serotonin, and sleep chemicals, such as melatonin.
How to get kids to eat sesame seeds: Let the kids sprinkle their own sesame seeds onto rice or veggie bowls, or introduce them to tahini, aka sesame paste. It tastes great slathered on toast and topped with pomegranate seeds and can also be baked into yummy cookies.
What makes them a superfood: Most kids—even picky ones—tend to like sweet, versatile carrots. Like sweet potatoes, carrots are a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which supports eyesight and immune function.
How to get kids to eat carrots: Roasting carrots maintains some of their firm texture and sweetens them through natural caramelization. Plus, they’ll like that carrots give them super seeing powers. Give your kids a bite, then ask them to tell you what they can see.
Try it: Honey Glazed Carrots from theHUB from Walmart.ca
A dash of honey adds extra sweetness to these simple roasted carrots, a great side to serve with classic plant-based comfort foods like mashed potatoes and baked beans.
What makes it a superfood: Parents who were haunted by mushy broccoli in their childhoods may inadvertently send the message that broccoli is bad. Leave the over-boiled broccoli behind and try a modern take on this true superfood. You’ll be happy to hear it’s filled with vitamins, minerals and the antioxidant sulforaphane, a nutrient that has been shown to support immune function and cognitive health and that may protect against cancer.
How to get kids to eat broccoli: Roasting draws out the broccoli’s natural sugars, making them sweeter than steamed or fried versions. Tell your kids that broccoli is their body’s very own superhero shield, protecting it and keeping it healthy.
Try it: Zesty Roasted Broccoli from Today’s Parent
This is a quick and simple recipe with few ingredients. Roast up the broccoli with a bit of lemon zest for added flavour. If the superhero theme is working for you, and you don’t mind a bit of mess, let the kids have a broccoli battle before their first bite.
What makes it a superfood: Lentils are one of the richest vegetarian sources of iron—early studies show that eating them regularly may prevent iron deficiency anemia. Lentils are also rich in polyphenols, which may play a role in reducing inflammation and preventing certain types of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. They carry a protein punch, making them the perfect addition to vegan meals.
How to get kids to eat lentils: Substitute half the ground meat in your next meatloaf or taco recipe with lentils, or add them to slow or pressure cooker stew. Tell your kids that protein-packed lentils give them super-speed when they’re running.
Try it: Slow Cooker Lentil Stew from theHUB from Walmart.ca
This recipe combines lentils with sweet potatoes, onion, carrots and broth to get a whole variety of health benefits with its warming texture.
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