Catering for varying diet choices in the family

Many people are moving to a plant-based diet and when you have a large family, all with different dietary choices it can be tough!  If the majority of the family are omnivores and there is one vegetarian or vegan it can be difficult to manage mealtimes.  If your children have decided that they want to cut out meat, let’s take a look at minimising animal products to allow for easier and more manageable meals.

Meals are built around a main protein source – usually meat or fish – it is easy to switch this to veggie or vegan.  The range of meat alternatives available on the market now is huge – at the Haelan Centre we have tofu, tempeh, seitan and more.  When switching to plant-based protein sources it is vital that you keep them varied – do not rely on a single source.  Plant-based proteins are often ‘incomplete’. This means they do not have the complete amino acid profile that humans need in the diet.  By varying the source of your plant-based proteins you will ensure that your family are getting the full profile they need to be healthy.

Protein requirements vary at different life stages – toddlers need more than children who need more than teenagers! A rough guide is 1.5g of protein per kilo of body weight for children up to around 7. So if your child is 15kg, multiply this by 1.5 to get the daily protein requirement: 22.5g. From 7-14 years this drops to around 1g of protein per kilo of body weight, then from 14 onwards it drops again to around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight.

Going full vegan after a lifetime of meat can be a shock to the system – take it slow, cutting out the animal products week by week until you achieve your goal. When bringing up children as plant-based, keep variation as wide as you can – exposure to different foods and tastes early in life leads to unfussy eaters.  Keep an eye on energy levels, B12 is low in plant-based diets and a supplement may be required. This can be taken either as Engevita (nutrient rich inactive yeast to be sprinkled on food) or as a pill or liquid supplement. A full range of foods and supplements, along with plenty of advice to support plant-based diets are available at the Haelan Centre (central Crouch End – 41 The Broadway, N8 8DT –
*Human Nutrition BSc (Hons) from the University of Westminster to be completed 2021