Sustainability is an important topic for our world today and choosing plant-based proteins can help towards sustainability efforts while also supporting overall health and wellness. However, current Canadian diets are not shifting towards choosing plant-based proteins. According to Statistics Canada, where 63% of Canadians report consuming meat products daily only 14% report eating legumes.1 Early learning and child care programs (ELCC) can play a key role in sustainability while also planning for food and nutrition for the children in their care. Use Canada’s food guide plate to plan meals and snacks with ½ vegetables and fruit, ¼ protein foods, and ¼ whole grain foods.2
Nutritious foods are the foundation for healthy eating. Consume plant-based proteins more often.
Canada’s food guide suggests eating plant-based proteins more often.3 Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other animal types of protein foods. This promotes regular bowel habits and healthy hearts, and provides children with many vitamins, and minerals. Some plant-based proteins may also help with menu costs as they are often cheaper than some animal proteins.
ELCC can be a place for children to learn about and try new foods. Some plant-based proteins may be new to children. You may need to offer these new foods on several occasions before children are interested in trying them. Be patient when children are exploring new foods. For increased success, it is great to pair new foods with familiar foods.
Varying protein foods for children by incorporating plant-based proteins into main meals and snacks is an easy and cost-effective approach to introduce children to a wider variety of nutritious options. Exposing and encouraging children to plant-based protein foods in child care will support children’s nutritional needs today and help them to choose plant-based food for the future.