Most of us are familiar with the food pyramid or other nutritional guidelines designed to help children and adults eat healthy and balanced meals. But there is nothing healthy about dairy, meat, or eggs. The vegan lifestyle is good for our bodies, good for the planet and kind to all animals.
Share this information with your students as they explore health and nutrition so that they can choose healthy and well-meaning foods that will benefit them for years to come.
The Truth About Dairy Products
Cow’s milk, cheese, and other dairy products were once touted as increasing calcium in weak, fragile bones, but in reality, they can harm rather than help you and your students.
The milk produced by cows is specially formulated for their calves, which are taken from them so that humans can receive milk. In addition, people who consume dairy products absorb less calcium than those who get it from vegetables.
The PETA Kids comic above is a great resource to share with your students when discussing dairy products.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Calcium is the mineral most commonly associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helps muscles to contract, and regulates normal heart rate and nerve function.” Explain to your students that the plant kingdom is high in calcium. Good sources include dark green leafy vegetables like kale and kale, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, soy foods like tofu and edamame, other beans, almonds, sesame tahini, figs, and calcium-fortified plant milk and orange juice …
The Harvard School of Public Health also states: “Protein is found throughout the body — in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other part or tissue of the body. It makes up enzymes that trigger many chemical reactions and hemoglobin, which carries oxygen into your blood. ” Our body is made up mainly of different types of protein, which are made up of different combinations of amino acids. In about the same way, 26 letters of the alphabet can form millions of different words, 20 amino acids form different proteins.
Unlike animal protein sources, plant-based protein contains healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates. Vegan protein sources are widely available in stores and are likely already in your pantry or at your next meal. Reiterate to students that they can get protein from foods such as beans, tofu, or bagels. Whole grain breads, peanut butter, and potatoes are also great sources of protein!
Learn more about plant-based protein sources with our friends at Lean and Green Kids.
Chickens are intelligent, outgoing, sensitive animals that deserve more than the abuse and suffering they endure in the egg industry. Their eggs are rich in cholesterol and saturated fat.
The good news is, eggs are easy to cut. Today, there are many delicious and humane egg-free dishes that you can share with your students. Check out our favorite egg-free alternatives and recipes.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Encourage children to add them to their favorite recipes. Use “Eat Green!” Dr. Jean Feldman to have your students sing about the colors of the rainbow by teaching them about healthy fruits and vegetables!
Grains are starchy foods rich in carbohydrates that give us energy. This group includes wheat, rice, oats, barley, and grain products such as bread and pasta. Ask students to name some other foods in the carbohydrate group.
Check out these Coalition for Healthy School Feeding resources for a detailed look at the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Helping the environment and animals
Livestock production requires huge amounts of land, energy and water; leads to pollution of land, water and air; and causes immense suffering to animals. Even the United Nations (UN) has recognized that raising animals for food is “one of the two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems on all scales, from local to global.”
Explain to students that we can all help slow climate change, stop pollution, and help heal our planet by choosing vegan foods. A UN report concludes that a global transition to a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. In addition, the Worldwatch Institute, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Audubon Society and Al Gore’s Living Earth organization state that raising animals for food is more damaging to the environment than anything else humans do.
It is no longer enough to teach our students how to recycle or turn off the mixer while brushing their teeth. If we are to avoid causing irreparable damage to the environment, we must be prepared to negotiate and implement real solutions to the climate crisis, starting with changing what we eat.
“What is a Vegan?” Coloring
TeachKind “What is a Vegan?” This coloring book is perfect for elementary school students. Not only does he define the word “vegan” succinctly, he also uses language that kids can understand to explain why being vegan is so important. Ask younger students to watch how you read each paragraph aloud, or have older students take turns reading to each other. Then invite them to color in the pictures while they enjoy a healthy vegan snack or watch inspiring videos of rescue stories.
Plant Power coloring page
TeachKind’s Power of Plants Nutrition Guide has another activity to offer students. By distributing the included coloring sheet, let them know that vegan food not only saves animal lives, but is better for our health.
Making a vegan plate
Using magazines, glue, and paper plates, students can cut out images of vegan food and create a visual representation of healthy vegan food. Make sure students select a protein, grain, fruit or vegetable, and a calcium source. To make it easier, they can simply paint their favorite vegan foods on their plates.
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