Moncton daycare adopts vegan menu
YWCA official says plant-based diets are nutritious and better for the planet
The daycare at the Moncton YWCA is taking on a mission that many parents find next to impossible — getting kids to eat their vegetables.
Margie's Early Learning Centre has adopted an entirely plant-based menu.
"Kids love it so far," said Michèle Nadeau, the YWCA's executive director.
"The transition was made gradually so they could get used to maybe a little change in the texture and the taste, but really, it's gone over very well."
Nadeau is also a registered holistic nutritionist.
She developed the menu herself based on her education and a lot of research.
"It's not difficult at all to make sure that the kids have all the different proteins, plus all the different nutrients that plants will provide," she said.
The main thing is to understand what makes a complete protein, said Nadeau. Typically that's a grain combined with a legume or bean.
But some foods such as quinoa, chia seeds and hemp hearts have complete protein on their own.
The menu at the daycare includes children's favourites, such as spaghetti, pizza and burgers, but instead of meat ingredients they contain an alternative.
The shepherd's pie, for example, is made with lentils instead of ground beef.
"A lot of them don't even know the difference," she said.
Of course, some children are still "picky eaters."
Nadeau said they're given plenty of opportunities to try new things.
"What we do is we ask our educators to sit down with them and have a conversation around the meal, what's in the food, inviting the kids to smell, to taste, to touch — to really make it a sensory experience so they really enjoy the experience of eating."
In modern lifestyles, eating is almost a lost art, said Nadeau.
"We've really gone away from sitting down and socializing around a meal, so we really want to introduce that to the children and they are responding very, very well."
Nadeau said she braced herself for a lot of pushback from parents, as well, but has been pleasantly surprised by the reaction.
"We've even got some parents saying, 'You know, I'm really glad my child's going to be eating this way because I don't necessarily have the time or the knowledge to be able to provide such meals at home.'"
Nadeau said the main motive for the change was to reduce the centre's carbon footprint.
"We really want to make sure that these kids had a planet to live on in the future. And research shows that one of the best ways to have an impact is to switch towards plant based, so that's why we did that."
With files from Information Morning Moncton