So originally, this was going to be a two-part series, with part I covering my general thoughts on raising mini vegans, and part II covering my thoughts on supplementing said vegans. But as I wrote about our supplement regimen, I realized that there’s all these foods that I use in our diet, to actually act as supplements. Some of them are just delicious additions to our meals – like nutritional yeast, yum! – and some have to be hidden away because they’re much less food-like and much more “supplemental” – like the sunflower lecithin, blech! Either way, I intentionally include them specifically for their vitamin or mineral content, and in my mind they’re supplements more than food.
So, what follows is a list of those foods, with a short explanation of why (and how) I incorporate them into our menus. In general, children are picky eaters and thus it can be difficult to provide them with a well-rounded diet that they’ll actually, you know, eat! So really, these foods are great for all kids, vegan or not, because all kids are prone to poor or imbalanced micronutrient intake.
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I don’t think this needs much explanation, right? Nutritional yeast – affectionately called nooch – contains 8 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons, plus tons of B vitamins including B12 (in most brands). And man does it taste great! We put nooch on everything from beans and grains to salads and steamed veggies. Waits adores it for it’s uniquely umami flavor, and I love knowing I can add a bit of B12 + protein to so many of his meals.
I wrote about this miraculous viscous superfood back in this post – as well as in my book. One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (it has to be blackstrap) has a whopping 20% of the daily recommendation of iron, and close to 20% for calcium as well. It’s amazingly mineral-rich stuff!
I put a bit of blackstrap in his smoothies, and in his oatmeal as well. When Waits was younger he would eat it right off the spoon (which is how I take mine), but now that he’s a picky kid he won’t eat it straight. So I have to work it into his diet in small doses.
So weird. Sunflower lecithin is a bitter, gummy, sticky substance that tastes awful and has a whole lot of choline in it. Choline is an essential nutrient than can be a bit tricky to obtain in high quantities . . . especially if you’re a fussy eater.
Since sunflower lecithin tastes so funky, I have to get creative. I can hide a little bit in a smoothie, but not much. I can also mask it in soups and some richer sauces, as well as in something like a marinara. It’s not the easiest one to work with, that’s for sure!
I use kelp powder as a source of iodine, which is a very rare mineral when you’re not using iodized salt (we use sea salt) or eating processed/prepared foods that contain iodized salt. But iodine is very important to proper growth and development – in fact, iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation worldwide. Little growing brains and bodies need iodine!
Kelp powder can be tricky stuff, since in light doses it’s pleasantly salty, but if you add too much it gets real fishy real quickly. So I just keep it to a light sprinkling. Kelp is super high in iodine anyway, so a little bit goes a long way. For me, I eat it on my salads. For Waits, I add it to beans and soups, to rice or quinoa dishes, and sometimes to steamed veggies (with soy sauce and nooch). It does add a saltiness too, which is nice.
There are a number of other foods, which I consider to be “superstar” foods, that Waits consumes on a regular basis. These are not necessarily high in one particular vitamin or mineral, but they are all-around awesome and health-promoting. They include things like chlorella tablets (powder is fine too, but we like the tablets), coconut products (dried, oil, butter, fresh), green juices/smoothies, and fermented foods.
In many ways, Waits eats a very healthy diet; the foods that he eats all tend to be quite nutrient-dense. But in all honesty, he doesn’t actually eat a ton of variety. He’s picky like any other kid. He likes what he likes and he’s not really open to much else. And that’s why I have no qualms about supplementing, with actual vitamins and with these super nutrient-rich foods.
And what about you guys – fellow parents out there. What are you feeding your kiddos to pack a huge nutritional punch? Any secret weapons? Let’s all share in the comments and help each other out!
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