5 Ways Kids Benefit From A Plant-Based Lunch (Even If It's Just Once A Week)
Did you know that 57% of the calories that Canadian children consume come from ultra-processed foods?
That means that more than half of their diets are made up of things like processed meats, instant noodles, chips, and soft drinks that have high levels of sugar, fat, salt and additives.
As parents, we know that this isn't good for our kids. But getting rid of these foods isn't easy: they are easily accessible (and convenient), and tend to be pretty darn yummy which is why our kids absolutely love them!
So how can we make our children's diets more healthy (while not making them hate us in the process?).
The key is to make small but deliberate changes to their diets.
For example, making one or two meals a week be completely plant-based foods, is a good way to start. This transition will not only help balance your child's diet but will also help them out in more ways that you could even imagine.
Wondering how your children will benefit from having plant-based lunches (even if it's once a week)? Read on to find out.
1. Better Physical Health
Providing your kids with some plant-based meals is a great way to begin offsetting the other unhealthy food choices that happen throughout the week. It will help reduce the overall amount of junk they consume while increasing the high nutrient, fibre-rich, healthy foods.
Research has found that a balanced diet can help prevent childhood obesity and reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.
Plant-based meals are also associated with stronger immune systems. Fruits and vegetables are full of immune-boosting phytonutrients and vitamin C which help protect against pathogens. They also increase the body’s production of white blood cells and interferon, an antibody that blocks out viruses.
According to the organization that popularized Meatless Mondays, going completely plant-based just one day a week, will help:
- Lower blood cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure levels
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of hypertension
- Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower cancer mortality rates
2. Improved Mental Health
There's an old Latin saying that goes something like this: Mens sana in corpore sano.
Literally translated, the phrase means "in a healthy body, a healthy mind".
While this bit of ancient wisdom has existed for a while, it is now scientifically proven. In recent years, studies have shown that a healthy diet improves mental health, lowering the incidence of depression and anxiety amongst other things.
While your kids don't need to go completely vegetarian or vegan (unless they want to), it is worth noting that higher levels of antioxidants in the blood associated with consuming more plant-based meals have been linked with a significantly lower risk of depression.
In other words, going plant-based at least once a week can have a significant impact on your child's mental health.
3. Increased Academic Performance
A study of 5000 children done by the University of Alberta found that those who ate plenty of fibre, protein, vegetables, and fruit in their regular diets did better on examinations compared to those who ate foods that were higher in saturated fat and sodium.
A variety of plant-based foods have been proven to support alertness and retention of information. These include leafy green vegetables, berries, broccoli, nuts, and other foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
On the other hand, junk food negatively affects several brain molecules related to memory and learning.
4. Reduced Carbon Footprint
While most kids aren’t thinking about their long term health, many are thinking about the fate of the planet. Since meat production accounts from nearly 15% of global greenhouse emissions, plant-based lunches are a great way to make an impact.
According to statistics provided by the organizers of Meatless Mondays, eating one less burger a week has the same environmental impact as taking your car off of the road for 320 miles. Skipping steak for a week is the equivalent of not driving for almost 3 months!
If a family of four decided not to eat meat and cheese one day a week, that would be the equivalent of not driving for five weeks or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.
Forgoing meat also saves all of the resources that go into maintaining livestock. The world’s cows eat enough to feed 9 billion people. Producing an 8 oz steak requires 900 gallons of water.
Obviously, not all meat has the same environmental impact (although they all have more impact than plants). Producing a pound of chicken, which is the most energy efficient meat, still requires 500 gallons of water, while 600 to 700 gallons of water are required for a pound of pork.
5. It Creates Healthy Habits
Research shows that health habits develop very early in life and, once well established, are exceedingly difficult to change. This goes for good habits and bad habits alike.
That is why making sure that your kids learn about the importance of balancing their diet and making eco-friendly choices at an early age is so important.
Having your kids eat plant-based lunches (even if it's just once a week) is a great way to start having these conversations, and teaching them lessons that will last a lifetime.
Need Easy, Healthy Lunches For Your Kids?
Kindermeals provides delicious and healthy plant-based lunches that are delivered directly to schools.
Our service provides one to five plant-based meals a week. If fully adopted, nearly one fourth of the meals they have in a month (21 out of 90) will be plant-based choices that will impact their mental and physical health and help reduce their carbon footprint, all while teaching them valuable lessons.