Plant-based swaps for kid-friendly meals
May 13, 2020
During these trying times, grocery stores may be low or out of some of your mealtime staples — meat and dairy included.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposes many of the challenges within the agriculture industry, as working conditions in meat processing plants place employees and the supply chain at risk. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from late April cited nearly 5,000 cases in facilities across the country, driving both beef and pork production down 35% from this time last year.
For those who are home with their kids, it may feel difficult to come up with creative, tasty meals that appeal to the little ones — especially when some of their go-to favorites are in short supply. With unpredictable meat and dairy supplies, now is a great time to get creative with plant-based meals.
We came up with some easy plant-based swaps and kid-friendly ideas to help you get started.
A smiley face pancake can start anyone’s day off on the right foot. Swap a few ingredients, and make your pancakes plant-based — while still keeping them fluffy!
Use whole grain flour to boost fiber and nutrients or a gluten-free flour option to accommodate for allergies. Complete your plant-based pancake masterpiece with a chocolate chip, banana or blueberry smile.
One of the most common struggles of plant-based hopefuls is giving up bacon. But I am happy to tell you that you can still complete your breakfast spread with a crisp, salty strip… of mushroom!
Hear me out. With the right spices and flavors, you can transform a variety of mushrooms into a bacon alternative that will work perfectly as strips, bits and in wraps — oh my!
Plant-based muffins and breads are another easy, quick breakfast that you can pack full of healthy nuts and berries, or make sweet with vegan chocolate chips.
Easily switch to a dairy-free milk alternative and use canola or coconut oil instead of butter. I personally love a warm banana-nut muffin with a spread of peanut butter to start off my day.
Mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is a quintessential kid’s meal with so many opportunities for creativity.
You can use whichever pasta is best for your kiddo (bows or shells, whole grain or gluten free) and top it off with broccoli or the aforementioned mushroom “bacon” bites. Wow the dinner table with this dairy-free mac and cheese recipe!
Whether it’s a quarantine lunch on day…(what day is it??), or your first potluck back together with family, BBQ or buffalo cauliflower bites are sure to impress hungry mouths of all ages. These healthy alternatives to wings are great for a quick lunchtime finger food and easily pair with your favorite veggies and dip.
If there were ever a time for comfort food, quarantine is it. Try a nice, melty, dairy-free grilled cheese with your favorite soup. This recipe is interesting because the dairy-free cheese is actually made of potatoes, carrots and onion — great for slipping some hidden veggies passed picky eaters.
If you thought a PB&J couldn’t get more “to-go”, think again! These peanut butter and jelly balls are the perfect afternoon snack. You can switch to a nut-free butter, pick your favorite fruit spread and add in whatever extra mixings your tastebuds desire. Recipes are more “guidelines” anyway, so get creative!
Ants on a log
Invite your little anteaters… er… I mean children… for an afternoon snack of ants on a log. With tons of different veggie and dip options, this is a great snack for even the pickiest of eaters.
Crispy kale chips
There is no disguising this leafy, green, fiber and nutrient packed snack, but if you season these crispy kale chips like your favorite chips, you and your snack pack will only have to worry about who is going to get the last bite!
Dinner tastes better when it’s messy.
Sloppy joes are a fun and easy meal for any busy family, and this plant-based sloppy joe recipe is packed full of protein. You can DIY the flavors from the recipe, or just buy the spice mix at your local store. Maybe pick up some extra napkins while you’re there…
Making plant-based pizza at home is a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
Whether you make your own dough and cheese or buy premade, the process of dressing and topping your pizza with the family is almost as fun as eating it. Swap out flour dough with a cauliflower crust for an extra serving of veggies.
Spaghetti and “meat” balls
Whether you’re making a quick dinner for hungry preteens or preparing a romantic candlelit meal, spaghetti and meatballs is a fan favorite. Chickpea plant-based meatballs are super easy to make and packed with flavor. For extra veggies, switch your pasta of choice to zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
Need to find your happy place? The smell of warm chocolate chip cookies might be a good start. The switch to plant-based is almost unnoticeable in this super easy dairy-free chocolate chip cookie recipe.
This dairy-free pudding recipe is the perfect base for creative concoctions. Get creative with toppings like cookie crumbles and gummy worms (to stay plant-based, look for gummy brands without gelatin).
A dessert that doubles as a hearty helping of fruit? Yes, please! End your evening with a plate of sweet apple nachos topped with caramel, coconut and chocolate chips. Try sticking it in the oven for a warm, gooey version.
Stick to plant-based, even after everyone is full
According to recent research from Earth Day Network and Yale, over 90% of Americans are willing to eat more fruits and vegetables, and more than half indicated that they would willingly eat more plant-based meat alternatives. Why not try some plant-based recipes with your family?
For more plant-based recipe inspiration, check out our Earth Day Climate Friendly Recipes. Follow our Foodprints for the Future campaign to learn more about the environmental and health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.