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April 2018

Introducing: Plant-Based Proteins

We are hearing so much about plant-based proteins (“PBPs”) these days, but what are they and why are they healthy?

Plant-based proteins include members of the legume family (beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils) and soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh, soybeans). PBPs are a subset of ‘vegetarian-friendly’ proteins specifically derived from plants and they can be a healthy addition to any child’s eating pattern, vegetarian or otherwise!

In addition to protein, PBPs provide children with a source of fibre, iron, and important B vitamins.

  • Fibre is the part of a plant that we cannot digest. Research has shown that fibre helps to regulate our digestive systems and plays a role in controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Iron is a mineral our bodies need to make blood. The type of iron found in plant-based foods is absorbed best when consumed together with vitamin C-rich foods, like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some dark green vegetables, like broccoli.
  • B vitamins help with our metabolism or usage of different nutrients, including carbohydrates and protein. A variety of B vitamins exist and different PBPs can provide us with different combinations of these.

Plant-based proteins may be new to your children or the children you care for, but there are so many ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks! Presenting new textures and flavours from an early age is an important part of developing healthy eating habits and a diverse palate. Try introducing PBPs gradually for the whole family by serving them alongside familiar foods or by introducing a fun Meatless Monday theme in your homes! It may take more than 5 attempts before a new food is accepted, but each one counts!

Author: Melissa Frankel, Registered Dietitian