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Jan 25, 2008 12:36 PM

Vegan child!

Hi Everyone!

I am trying to create daily menus for a child at a child care center who is vegan. Only problem is the center gets all their food catered so the only facilities I have in-house are a refrigerator and a microwave (no stove, no freezer). The caterer can't provide vegan meals for just this one child.

I have played with vegan deli "meat" sandwiches, soychesse sandwiches, different beans/legumes and rice but I still feel she will be so bored!

Any ideas? I need to have a meat alternate, one starch, two vegetables or one fruit and one vegetable at each meal (plus soymilk) for enough menus for 4 weeks!


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  1. some of my favorite meals that are "naturally" vegan (no artificial "meat"):
    white bean or split pea soup made with veg. broth
    bean quesedillas made with smashed pinto beans, chili powder, onion and parsley
    white bean salad with onion, basil and tomato

    I highly recommend the new cookbook Vegenomicon for good recipes

    1. Check out the archives from this mom's blog, she has some amazing kid-friendly ideas and a book too.

      1. Another good cookbook is How it all Vegan, they have a whole chapter on kid friendly vegan foods. Cook/Microwaving vegan isn't as hard as you might think, good luck.

        1. don't know how old the kid is, but off-hand, how about:
          --tofu breakfast burrito (with onions/green peppers/tomatoes/scrambled tofu)
          --sweet potato ``fries.'' i.e., sliced, then nuked (in a bit of water). then use a crisper tray and add a bit of salt/herbs.

          I'll also check the menu/report card from my 2-year-old's daycare.

          1. play around with bean spreads - hummus, white bean, etc. - with child-friendly flavors/seasonings. they make great sandwich spreads, and you can use various breads, wraps, can also serve them with cut veggies for dipping - kids love finger foods.

            also consider rice cheeses as an alternative to soy...and you can always fall back on nut butters with various fruit spreads.

            have you asked her parents about her preferences or favorites? while it's certainly their prerogative to raise her with their chosen dietary restrictions, the burden shouldn't fall on you to create an entirely personalized special menu just for her when you still have the other children to worry about as well.

            8 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I think goodhealthgourmet makes a very good point about checking with the parents on this. Also the management of the center. The meals for the other children are catered and there may be a problem with your preparing meals outside of a licensed food-preparation facility, cleared by the board of health. Are there potential liability issues?

              The parents must certainly be aware of the difficulties of following a restrictive diet such as this and should certainly be willing to cooperate with the child care center in making certain that their child is provided for adequately, whether by sending meals of their choice with the child or working with you to design menus that are reasonable and that the child will eat.
              Many small children are happy with the same few things over and over again, day-in and day-out, and this might be far easier than you think. I've seen kids live on PB&J, carrot sticks and apple wedges for years. Throw in some soy milk and you might be home free.

              1. re: MakingSense

                No liability issues, no worries. In fact meals must be prepared by us if not brought by the caterer. Parents are NOT allowed to bring outside foods. This would be a health issue. Nut butters are great but under guidelines, as a meat alternate/protein substitute it can be tricky.

                Thanks again for all your ideas. I will certainly be playing a little more with this menu today.

                1. re: yomyb

                  "Nut butters are great but under guidelines, as a meat alternate/protein substitute it can be tricky" Can you explsin this, please. I do not understand.

                  1. re: Sherri

                    well peanut butter is a big issue in schools and such these days...that could be one.

           would have to eat an awful large quantity of nut butter to get your daily protein equivalent from it.

                    1. re: im_nomad

                      When the OP said "nut butters" I assumed she meant cashew, almond and the like (peanuts not being a nut ..... and all that). It was the rest of the sentence that I really wanted clarified "....but under the guidelines, as a meat alternate/protein substitute it can be tricky".

                      Combining incomplete proteins is a very effective way to make a complete protein for non-meat eaters, so I was most interested in and wanted clarification about the "tricky" and "guidelines" part.

                      1. re: im_nomad

                        Exactly...the limitation is the quantity I would have to serve to meet my protein requirement. When I mention my guidelines I am refering to established requirements of quantities of macro and micronutrients I need to have in all meals and throughout the day. We do serve peanut butter, mostly on breakfast and snacks, but it would be more difficult to serve for lunch. Plus, even thogh nut butters are a very healthy source of protein, they are high in fat, and although mostly monosaturated and healthy, I do have to keep that in mind as well, as it is a requirement my menus be low in fat. I am a registered dietitian and understand the concept of combining incomplete proteins, but the menu designing is complicated for vegans given our government requirements, which I must say, a lot of times may seem outdated and driven by interests other than health. But that is a different topic :-) For exmaple, beans are considered vegetables, and not the starch or protein they are made up of, under our guidelines. Therefore justifiying rice and beans as my protein and starch can be tricky, plus I need to serve the child a different quantity of the beans as a protein than I would if served as a vegetable and all this needs to calculated and then the child also needs to get two vegetables and milk on top of that. These kids don't eat that much!

                        It can get complicated but I thank you all for your help and suggestions. I can go back to my drawing board and calculate amounts etc.

                        I am pregnant but have no kids yet and it is great when I hear from parents from different places, what their vegetarian/vegan kids like to eat!

                        1. re: yomyb

                          Yomyb, Whatever you're being paid, it isn't enough! For the work required on this project, you deserve both a raise and sainthood. My hat is off to you.

                          PS Maybe because I live in the west, but I've never met a child who didn't like bean burritos.

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Thank you so much! I agree with you and I keep that in mind. We try to accommodate preferences such as these as much as we can, but sometimes parents need to be bit lenient and understanding....