Planning the weekly menu before shopping helps design a balanced diet and reduces food waste. Meal planning was already presented in the first unit of this module. In this unit we will highlight ideas that should be taken into account when planning a weekly menu for a vegan/vegetarian child.
3.1. IN THE SUPERMARKET.
Options for vegans and vegetarians have grown exponentially, but not all vegan/vegetarian foods are equally healthy.
Let’s go step by step. Do you know how to identify vegan/vegetarian products?
This brings us directly to talk about ultra-processed products… Do you know what the definition of ultra-processed product is?
The WHO defines ultra-processed products as industrial formulations mainly based on substances extracted or derived from food, as well as additives and cosmetics that give color, taste or texture to try to imitate food. On a practical level it is said that an ultra-processed product is as industrial formulations that has more than 5 ingredients and in which no fresh food can be identified.
Ultra-processed products have a high content of free sugars, total fat, unhealthy fats and sodium, and a low content of protein, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. From a nutritional point of view, they are very unbalanced products and their consumption has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality.
Considering all this information, it can be understood that a product can be, simultaneously, vegan and ultra-processed.
This brings us directly to talk about the importance of food labeling… What aspects of labeling are helpful in identifying a healthy food?
Be careful when comparing two ultraprocessed foods. We should not be fooled by phrases such as “with extra virgin olive oil” or “reduced in salt”. It is important that we look at the content of each nutrient. “With extra virgin olive oil” can mean a ridiculous content of this fat compared to others much less healthy. In the same way, a “reduced in salt” product can have a lot of salt since that phrase only means that it has 25% less salt than another similar product. This kind of phrases leads us think one ultraprocessed product is healthier than another one, when the reality is that no one is healthy.
The so-called “vegetable meats” (including “vegetable sausages”) have been promoted as a healthy alternative to meat for both omnivorous people who want to reduce meat consumption and vegans/vegetarians. A careful reading of nutrition labelling will lead us to realize that these are in fact ultra-processed and, therefore, unhealthy products.
In addition, those “vegetable meats” are usually offered as the protein serving of the meal, when, in fact, their protein content is minimal. Most of those products are made from third-generation plant proteins, which do not reach the nutritional value of tofu, tempeh, textured soy or, of course, legumes. Most of “vegetable meats” are made from refined flours, unhealthy fats and dyes. Although some of those products are made from tofu or legumes, they never represent a main ingredient. As far as burgers are concerned, the best option is still to make them at home.
In this video you will learn how to make 2 different burguers for vegetarians
Something similar happens with bakery; that it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians does not make it healthy. Most vegan desserts are made from refined flours, unhealthy fats and sugar. The advice is the same as for the general population: baking, no matter how vegan or vegetarian, should be consumed occasionally.
3.2. THE PURCHASE
Remember that you can cook and can your preserves yourself.
3.3. AND TO THE PLATE
Having good raw materials in the pantry will allow us to prepare a large number of quick and healthy dishes with 3-5 ingredients. Some of the videos you can see in this unit 3 (Healthy and easy recipes with 3-5 ingredients) are suitable for vegan children.
Regarding culinary techniques, the recommendations are the same as for the omnivorous population. Unit 2 (Healthy culinary techniques) of this module is dedicated to healthy culinary techniques.