Raising Vegan Children Part III – Food Based “Supplements” For Super-Charged Children

May 19th, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

Firefighters drink green smoothies, obvi.

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.

And just a reminder, the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you click on them, I will receive a very small portion of any purchase you end up making. If you like what I’m doing here, then this is an easy way to support my work. But if affiliate programs bother you, just avoid the links and google around for the products on your own. Fair enough?

Nooch on beans = perfect preschool lunch.

Nutritional Yeast
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.

Blackstrap Molasses
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.

Sunflower Lecithin
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!

Kelp Powder
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.

Chlorella muncher.

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!

♥ ♥ ♥

Edited to add:
Part I: Let’s Talk Honestly, Shall We?
Part II: Why I Supplement The Way I Do


Hey-o! I am super duper not a doctor, or a nurse, or a health care practitioner of any kind. This post represents my personal thoughts and opinions and is in no way meant to be taken as medical advice. Whew!

  • MathTutor

    Discovering nooch and blackstrap molasses COMPLETELY changed my diet. I love adding the molasses to recipes that I think need more sweetness or color, like vegan ch****** lettuce wraps! Or soups….or overnight oats!

    Such a great post.

  • Jen

    Thanks for the great post! I add spirulina and hemp seeds to my toddler’s smoothies. I’m excited to start adding blackstrap molasses to his oatmeal now. I take the easy way out and give him a multi-vitamin. He loves the “Animal Parade” brand…it has almost everything he needs. I also give him a calcium chew with vitamin d even though he drinks a lot of fortified soy and almond milk.

  • The Cookie Fairy

    I’ve never tried blackstrap molasses. I think I have a tin of molasses in my kitchen, but whether they’re blackstrap, I’m not sure at all. Do you use any superfood powders like maca, cacao, lucuma, etc? I really like maca with raspberries in my smoothies, and lucuma gives my smoothies a nice caramel flavour. And do you have any tips or recipes for using spirulina? I find the taste so strong and can barely hide it in my smoothies.

    I’d NEVER heard of choline and its associated deficiencies. I wonder why people never mention it if it’s so easy to be choline deficient?!

  • Tracy

    Hemp seeds are my new choice for an add-in to my 3 year old’s waffles, pasta, rice, etc. It is white so I do not think he notices it. He loves nutritional yeast as well so I can put that on anything. I add chia and flax to things as well. Greens are a real problem. He loves Ella’s baby food though, especially the broccoli and peas one and can eat many each day at least. I wish he would drink my smoothies…he will not even taste them! It’s a control thing…I’ve asked him too many times if he wants one. You will see…they hit this stage where there need to individuate and it is exhausting!!!!

  • Tracy

    One other question…he loves nori so does this supply he need for iodine?

  • Alejandra

    Hey Sayward, thanks for writing on this subject again. I was wondering if there is a specific reason why you don’t use soy lecithin? I buy Non-GMO soy lecithin and add it on to our smoothie. It has no taste and makes the smoothie creamier… I was under the impression that soy lecithin contains lots of Choline too. Maybe it’s the “soy” part of it you are not into?

    Also for iodine, My daughter eats a lot of nori sheets… I’m not joking, she easily goes through one pack a day. They are toasted but I was wondering if maybe they are not that great of a source of iodine?

    I also add organic dulse to her rice and quinoa (she loves it).

  • Nadia

    Just a heads up, looks like the link for “Nutritional yeast” isn’t setup right.

  • Melissa Rixey

    I’m a very new vegan, so this is a great resource for me! Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/MrsOptimistic Tammi Cornett

    My boys are loving hemp hearts lately. They want them sprinkled on everything! Also goji berries in oatmeal, spirulina and chia powder in smoothies, nutritional yeast made into a “cheesy” sauce. I’m going to have to find blackstrap molasses and try that out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karenkayemyers Karen Myers

    Thanks for talking about supplemental foods – not only is it great for little vegans, but big ones, too.

  • ashley

    my new roots has a recipe for using Chlorella, although in the comments some have used spirulina instead. i’ve not tried it yet, but i also can’t stand the taste (i have chlorella) so maybe that might help.


  • Peaceful Vegan

    I was going to say this same thing about the Non-GMO lecithin… it does have a tremendous amount of choline in it, it’s tasteless and makes things creamier. I buy the Now Brand at the local health food store and use a spoon a day in smoothies. Also there’s a great Earth Balance replacement recipe online (no palm oil) that uses it and it’s super yummy.

  • Peaceful Vegan

    Thanks for sharing both your supplements and functional foods as it’s helpful to us vegan adults too :) I’m a bit of a supplement junkie as l work with a health food store on their web stuff and get an awesome discount, so I am constantly learning, discovering and trying new supplements and foods. Have you tried any of the alternative coconut products yet? Like coconut aminos or vinegar… sooo tasty!

  • megan

    red palm oil– that’s orangutan-safe, of course!

    it is a plant-sourced saturated fat (like coco oil). soooo heat-stable. and full of antioxidants, coq10, and vitamin E. also contains beta-carotene, which gets turned into vitamin A in the small intestine. vitamin A deficiency is a big deal world wide, and really the only place to get true vitamin A is in animal products.

    luckily, we can get provitamin A from plant foods too– provided that the gut is healthy (one reason out of a gazillion why fermented foods are so valuable).

    but wait a minute, because vitamin A is fat-soluble, it is best to consume it (and provitamin A that gets turned into vitamin A in the small intestine) with fat. you know, eat yo’ veggies with fat. if you (or your little one) can’t stomach fat, studies also show that fat promotes the production of lipase, the enzymes that helps wee bodies and big bodies to digest fat.

    so red palm oil is so awesome– and did i mention the antioxidants?? you know, also great for oil cleansing the skin.

    and what about biotin?

    i mean, if baby is pulling it from mama (so much so that many mamas grow deficient in biotin while pregnant), then it’s gotta be important for development.

    and so it is. biotin is a b-complex vit that’s needed for proper cell growth. also a bomb for things like hair and skin.

    our gut bacteria make biotin! this is why fermented foods are a big part of my diet. it’s also why my weaning son gets a little cultured veggie juice with his meals.

    also want to add the seaweeds (all of ‘em) are a great source of zinc. which vegan littles need to stabilize mood and blood sugar, support immune system and brain development. also, when babies wean they often are missing out on zinc (along with iron and some B vits).

  • The Cookie Fairy

    What a lovely website! Will give this a go and hopefully build up some “flavour tolerance”

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Me too! Nooch and blackstrap are staples, I love love love them!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! Hemp seeds are a big one, kiddos just love them.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I use maca for myself. I used to be much more into the superfoods/powders, but it’s less nowadays. If I had more money I might get back into them, but I certainly don’t think they’re necessary.

    Spirulina is REALLY intense, haha. I started off by adding just a teeny tiny amount, and working up my tolerance. I do like it paired with strawberries, not sure why. It’s also good in energy balls with chocolate – the cacao kind of masks it a bit.

    Yeah it’s always weird to me that no one’s talking about choline. But then, there’s a lot of nutritional info that people just don’t think/talk about.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah what is it with kids and hemp seeds?? They love ‘em! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yep, nori should supply iodine!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, I don’t avoid soy entirely but I do avoid it when I can so that I don’t have to worry about it when I *can’t* avoid it. Does that make sense? I used to be more concerned about soy intake than I am now, but I still prefer to use non-soy options when I can. I’m not sure how soy lecithin is made, but any time soy is refined/separated/processed, it makes me cautious. That’s just me.

    My understanding is that nori is a good source of iodine.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal


  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    You’re welcome! Oh and congrats on going vegan!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Waits loves hemp hearts too. Loves loves loves.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh yes, I eat all of these as well!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I used to be more of a sup junkie. It’s a fun world to get into, especially when you have a discount! ;-)

    I reviewed allt he coconut secret products here.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    LOVE this comment! =D

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’m late to the party – but loving all of the previous posts and hearing about new food-based sups I haven’t tried out on Ni yet!

    She’s not too keen on hemp hearts if they’re visible (that goes for any sort of seed or small nut), but loves them blended into things. They always go into vegan parmesan and any sort of pesto. I think nutch is her favorite way to flavor anything savory – on popcorn, in sauces, plain straight out of the container. Blackstrap molasses are added to oatmeal smoothies; greens are added to tropical and citrus smoothies.

    To keep an overall variety in our diets, I always bake with a blend of flours (being allergic to wheat has advantages!), usually ground right as I use them. I also try to keep a dozen or so different raw nuts and seeds on hand for adding to things – salads, pestos, granola, cookies. My family will eat anything in cookie form, so I make a small tray (4-6) of cookies almost every morning, with different add-ins/nut butters/oils every day. I pack one in N’s lunch, one in mine, and my husband eats the rest during the day.

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    Hooray for no palm oil!! Making your own EB is super easy – I use the recipe over at veganbaking.net , and I use sunflower lecithin. Have you ever made the banana version? Amaaaaaaaaaazing on cinnamon toast.

  • http://vegmomof4.blogspot.com/ April

    A question about Blackstrap Molasses: Our label says 20% DV of calcium/iron per TB (same as you reported). This is based on a 2000 calorie adult diet. How does this translate to kiddos? Trying to figure out an appropriate portion for my 2 year old!

  • Emily

    What a great post – so informative! I’m going to get some of that molasses for sure!

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  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    You should be able to Google “iron RDA at *your kids age*” and that will tell you how much they need. The label has percentages but also has numbers (like grams), so you should be able to figure out roughly what percent of their requirements are being met by the blackstrap.

    I haven’t done that since I’m not worrying about getting too much (you’d have to eat a lot of blackstrap, even for a little kid), but that’s how you could do it if you wanted to.

  • http://vegmomof4.blogspot.com/ April

    Thanks, Sayward :) My little veggie detests the taste of straight up blackstrap molasses, but if I sneak it into a peanut butter & cocoa powder smoothie, he doesn’t notice!

  • Nicola Jackson

    Thanks for being so detailed in your approach, this post is very informative, lots of things we can learn from here. Like I very much like that “Nooch on beans” school lunch idea, like other boys, my son also not take full of his lunch in school, so in order to give him full food value I am providing him some foods supplements, but this will be enough for me.

    In addition I just want to add that anyone can try garden of life products also, I came to know about the same when I searched for a food supplemnts for my son, I am providing a url for whom who does not know about the same:


    Thanks Again for this beautyful blog.

  • zvezda

    I can’T find info on using chlorella in kids. How early? how much ? … I had mercury fillings removed when pregnant :(

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I don’t know that there is a definitive answer for that. I’ve seen conflicting reports on Spirulina, but not as much on chlorella. I was comfortable giving a few tablets a day, but that was just my personal choice based on my reading and research.

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  • SopranoNatasha

    Hi Sayward! Thank you so much for this info! Tell me more about chlorella tablets: why you use them and how/how much, etc. Also, what are your thoughts on Fuhrman’s Pixie Vites? I’m contemplating a multivitamin for my 2.5 yr old just to make it all simpler…I currently give her B12, D3 and will soon be adding DHA. Thanks!

  • Brandy

    Your “sunflower lectin” link is missing an h before ttp:// so the link isn’t working