Are you newly vegan or transitioning and wondering how you’ll feed your young nieces/nephews/grandkids/friends kids when they pay you a visit?
Afraid you’ll have to buy some chicken nuggets, fish fingers or dairy yoghurts just to get the kids to eat?
Are you scared that if you don’t buy things they know, they’ll hate you and think you’re the weird vegan person who gives them strange food?
Don’t worry. Not even a bit. And don’t underestimate kids!
(You can also get ideas from this post if you have your own small kids and are wondering how to transition them or raise them on a plant-based diet – but you may want to focus more on slightly healthier foods if the kids are yours long term! This post is more about kids that visit you for a few hours, or a few days, and about feeding them well – but incorporating plenty of treats so they have a fun impression of the way you eat).
I just had the pleasure of hosting two kids (aged seven and eleven) of a friend, for the weekend. Both are non-vegan. One eats ANYTHING (so that was easy!); the other is a slightly pickier type to say the least! A good (mini) cross section right there!
The truth is, it’s easy to nourish and satisfy even the pickiest kids on a whole-foods vegan diet, and we succeeded in keeping them well-fed and happy. They were essentially vegan for three days, and didn’t know – or even if they suspected (which they probably did – they’ve known me for a while!), they didn’t care. They were eating tasty and fun food, that’s all that mattered to them.
These kids are well-known to us and would definitely NOT have been shy about speaking up if they were unhappy or hungry.
At home they already eat lots of fruit, and have been exposed to lots of different foods, so that was a great start.
If you know the kids you’ll be hosting are adventurous and open, food-wise, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t just eat whatever you’d be making for yourself.
Otherwise, or if you want to play it safe and include a few more treats than you’d ordinarily have in the house; I share below just what we did.
(Don’t forget to consult my previous post ‘How To Answer Questions From Other Peoples Non-Veg Kids’ if you anticipate any questions. If you don’t have time to read this, the main take away was – stay truthful, simple and kind in your explanations).
OK, let’s get to the food:
First up – Snacks
These kids were avid and enthusiastic snackers.
There are a TON of vegan snack products out there. I can only speak for UK products in this post, as I shopped for the kids here – but I know there are even more amazing vegan snacks in the US (try Whole Foods, or the health food section of any major supermarket), and no doubt in Australia too.
- Nature Valley cereal bars
- Fruit Yoyos
- Rice crackers
- Popping corn (always great to make fresh popcorn with kids! Top with salt and/or agave nectar or maple syrup)
- Innocent Fruit Tubes
- Low fat plain crisps
There are PLENTY of other options, these are just what I happened to choose.
Funnily enough, these kids were also partial to a treat or three. Here’s what I bought:
- Sainsbury’s dairy-free chocolate buttons (Asda do a version of these too).
- Swedish Glace ice cream (you can top it with agave nectar or maple syrup). There are other, coconut-based ice creams out there, but Swedish Glace is a good, affordable option. In the US you’re spoilt for choice – So Delicious, Coconut Bliss, Purely Decadent, Almond Dream etc – any kid should be so lucky to be visiting YOUR vegan house!
- We were out and about, so treated them to Starbucks frappucinos. They come in strawberries and cream flavour, caramel or vanilla. Ask for them to be made with soy and hold the cream. This is a nice enough treat, creamy and sweet – dairy cream is not needed.
These particular kids are not fond of soy or rice milk, so cereal wasn’t an option. Instead they had:
- Toasted wholemeal bagels with Pure (Earth Balance) and fruit sweetened jam (or you could use peanut butter and banana)
- A clementine
- An apple
Breakfast of champs!
- Wholemeal pasta, and sauce made of fried onions, chopped mini red peppers and passata (salt and garlic to flavour). Fresh radishes and cooked beetroot (from a jar) on the side.
- Peanut butter and jam sandwiches in wholemeal pitta pockets. Cherry tomatoes, celery and cucumber batons and hummous.
- Sumac baked potatoes (easy on the spices), chick peas, half a corn on the cob, and some lightly steamed pak choi.
- Veggie sausages (in this case Vbites sage and marjoram), baked beans, wilted spinach.
- Alpro caramel/vanilla/chocolate desserts
- Soy fruit yoghurts (these are available in pretty much any supermarket these days)
- Fruit – take your pick! Apples, melon, grapes, clementines are all good!
At no point did I get any complaint about the sausages not being made of meat, or the desserts not containing dairy. I even had no complaint or comment about the wholemeal pasta (which I was expecting), even though these kids would usually eat white pasta. It even elicited the comment ‘…Mmmmm, THIS pasta is good!’
Don’t announce that any food you might make is ‘vegan.’ It’s all just FOOD, and kids know this better than most of us, why make it sound different?
And if they are up for it, get them to help you make the meals – if they’re involved in the process, they’re more invested in eating the results!
Also, don’t sweat it. If someone doesn’t like something, try something else. Remember; they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy everything that was non-vegan, so just calmly move on.
Most of all – enjoy yourself! And though it’s not ideal to eat high- sugar treats often, you now have an excuse to indulge along with the kids! It’d be rude not to!