A Guide to Healthy Vegan Junk Food: Sneaking in the Good Stuff

I have always encouraged my daughter, Leilani, to make healthy eating choices. I provide her with lots of lovely snacks and meals based around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. But somewhere down the line, after going to many birthday parties and gatherings, I suppose, she discovered chips and chocolate. Almost overnight, she went from asking me for carrots and hummus to lollies and ice cream.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to the occasional consumption of what I call “sometimes foods”. I personally have a big (secret) weakness for sorbet, cookies, and chocolate – and certainly eat them more than occasionally. However, I feel good nutrition is a priority for me as a mother and I want to pass on good habits to my daughters.

Luckily, with a little creativity and perhaps some inspiration from the web, it is totally possible to “fool” your little ones into thinking they are eating junk while you cram in veggies, fruits, and other goodies. Our “junk food” is a nutritional powerhouse.

Drinking "fairy milk" aka Vegan smoothie crammed with goodness

Fairy and Elf smoothies

A good place to start is smoothies. My three-year-old has a smoothie every day. Unlike the “junk food smoothies” some of the shops sell, our smoothies do not contain any refined sugar, cow milk, or any thing else that isn’t in-line with our beliefs or our health. In our house, a smoothies isn’t just a smoothie either, to Leilani it’s fairy milk (due to the pink or purple nature of it) and to me it is an opportunity to cram in as many goodies as possible, including raspberries or strawberries (pink), blueberries or blackberries (purple), Chia seeds (full of fibre, calcium and Omega 3), Acai powder (high in antioxidants), flax seeds, ground almonds, etc.

Unfortunately, fairy milk must be pink or purple so I haven’t had a chance to experiment with greens, but I am working on it – perhaps I could call it elf milk? Here are some green smoothie ideas from Vegie Head, with her Double cacao smoothie incorporating kale (but looks oh so chocolattey) and using only raw cacao powder and cacao nibs, which are extremely healthy.

Homemade roast pumpkin vegan pizza. Click the picture of the recipe.

Homemade vegan pizza

So your child won’t stop nagging you for pizza? No problem! It is so incredibly simple to make a healthy pizza and making a base from scratch is easier than I expected. I now do it on a weekly basis.

I use wholemeal flour instead of white and it tastes fantastic. I have also experimented with wholegrain spelt flour, and nutritional pizza toppings with no ill effects or bad reactions from my family. 

Healthy fries?

Another favourite in my house is fries. Let’s be honest – is there a person out there who doesn’t like fries?  What makes fries so great for a health-conscious mother is that they needn’t be unhealthy. They are essentially based on a vegetable – the amazing potato! And you can even experiment with other starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes (red and purple) and even beetroot and carrot.

Carrot fries are a hit in my house and they taste great. We fry them in rice bran oil which has a very high smoke point, making it ideal for frying.

Another idea is this fantastic recipe for parsnip fries from Oh She Glows, which not only incorporates parsnip – an unlikely choice for a child – but it also has nut butters with healthy fats and protein for growing vegan bodies.  If you happen to be more conscious about fat or calories, Vegie Head has a brilliant recipe for spicy sweet potato fries as well.

Who said Chocolate mousse should be a nutritional disaster? Click on the pic to learn more.

We love Chocolate…

If you have any chocolate addicts in your family, consider it a fantastic opportunity to cram in the goods. My vegan chocolate mousse contains mostly avocados and raw coco powder, while the traditional chocolate mousse in its non-vegan form is a nutritional disaster, full of refined sugars, cholesterol and saturated fats.

I serve the vegan chocolate as  mousse and as popsicles, as I found that it freezes well into icy pole moulds.

The healthiest crisps you’ve ever had

Does your child like snacking but refuse to snack on plain old fruit, boring rice cakes or mundane veggie sticks with hummus? Are they asking for crisps instead?  Fear not. Give your child a vegetable boost with clever raw kale chips.

Other healthy snack ideas tried and approved in our household include vegan brown rice sushi filled with avocado, tofu, tempeh, carrot, lettuce, and cucumber, muffins made with wholegrain flours and jam packed with goodies such as banana, grated apple, berries, grated zucchini (no, they will not notice), chia seeds, almond meal, and oats.

Pancakes with Fresh Strawberries, Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream - all yummy and vegan. Click on the pic for recipe.

It’s vegan pancake time

Pancakes are not only a Saturday morning tradition for us in our little vegan household but they, too, are a carrier of super foods. Sure, we have vegan ice cream and maple syrup with it, but that hardly seems significant after you consider how healthy the rest of the meal is. I use a combination of whole-wheat flour and buckwheat flour and I have used teff in the past when it has been available. I also add chia seeds and sometimes I also add a touch of acai powder.

Our favourite flavours are blueberry pancakes, lemon pancakes (grated lemon zest and the juice of a lemon), apple cinnamon (grated apple and cinnamon) pancakes, strawberry (fresh strawberries hulled and placed on top of the pancakes) and vegan chocolate chip pancakes.  

Vegans eat ice cream too!

Vegans eat ice cream too! Click on the pic to read about Nat' Ice Cream Potluck.

If you are a true health nut and feel uncomfortable with commercially prepared ice creams, it is possible to make your own vegan ice cream at home from scratch that is so healthy that you will feel deceptive feeding it to your junk food longing child.

Our friend, Katie, from ‘Chocolate Covered Katie’ has come up with a very clever way to sneak green vegetables into your little one’s belly via ice cream, and her recipe for Spinach, I mean “mint” ice cream”, is super clever and fun! Her nutella fudge pops are also fantastic and well worth feeding your kids. If you use raw cacao powder instead of cocoa powder, you have a nutritional powerhouse of a fudge pop! What’s not to like?

Leading by example

Aside from serving your child wholesome and nutritious food options, one of the best ways to get your child to eat well is to lead by example. If they see you eating fresh, healthy food then they will want to model you as you are their most significant role model. You cannot serve them broccoli and expect them to eat it if they have just seen you eating doughnuts. Make meal times family time and eat together. Make it fun and enjoyable. Seeing your child chowing down on healthy food is one of the most satisfying things you can do!

Happy eating!

Natalie Cunningham

Writter & Reviewer

Vegan Super Mum Columnist

My name is Natalie Cunningham and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am a mum of two beautiful girls, Leilani and Malia and my husband is Robert. We are a vegan family – I have been vegan for over 10 years now, Robert for 3 years and our children have been vegan since birth. I am the vice president and one of the founders of Vegan Parents Australia – an organisation dedicated to bringing vegan families together for moral support and friendships and to mainstream veganism by dispelling the myths that it is dangerous for children to be vegan, and that it is in fact easy and healthy!

More about Natalie

Check out Natalie’s co-founded organization – Vegan Parents Australia

Check out Natalie's Vegan Family blog - The Veggiebacons