Saturday, September 24, 2011

Children are our Future - Teaching Plant Food and Health


My son's school requested "parent experts" to help their 12 year old students in various topics - including nutrition and health, and sports nutrition!  With my recently acquired Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition with Dr T Colin Campbell, I felt bold enough to volunteer my amateur and certified expertise.

During my study, I was inspired by Dr Antonia Demas's Food is Elementary project, which takes a full curriculum on plant-based nutrition straight into the heart of schools.  So this offer was too good to refuse.

My offer was quickly and encouragingly accepted - my declaration of knowledge in Plant Based Nutrition apparently did not trigger any alarm bells.

What to Say?  How to Say It?

Starting from scratch, I enjoyed the challenge of creating a presentation that was comprehensive but not overwhelming.

I designed a friendly lead-in allowing the children to show what they already knew about healthy food.  When I asked, these smart kids already knew that an apple is healthier than a burger, vegie soup healthier than a meat pie, and a potato is healthier than chips.  What a relief!  We were already friends...

The Presentation

Essential topics included:
  • Food and New Zealand Health
  • Nutrition and Confusion
  • What makes a food healthy
  • Plant vs Animal food nutrients
  • Protein, Iron, Calcium Myths
  • B12
  • Milk as the Perfect food (got in the breastfeeding angle here)
  • Genes
  • Processed Foods and Food Extracts
  • Are Humans Omnivores?
  • Calorie Density
  • Healthy Eating Basics
  • Making Changes
  • Health in Later Life
  • Sports Nutrition (with Vegan Champions!)
...and more!

This was a special interest group of 7 children, which created a friendly atmosphere.  All the children were attentive and several readily responded to prompt questions as well as reacting to various points I made.  


This tested out as a full hour presentation and I did not have quite a full hour - it got quite rushed and there are areas that need adjusting.  There was no time for questions but it didn't feel like there were any - probably because there was so much new information to absorb and everybody had already heard the bell.

The teacher's response was very encouraging - she was able to relate very well to the health information I presented.  She seemed even more pleased after my presentation than before, and I admit I had some fears that my plant-based message might seem threatening.

Lessons for me

  • With handholding and encouragement, people can accept the new idea that plant foods are always better than animal foods.
  • This presentation was still aimed too old.  When I revisit this presentation, I want the kids to be as interested as the teacher.
  • This presentation would be great at other schools.


  1. Have just discovered Plant Based Eating and would love it if you could share in a series of posts what you learned on the course and how you are adapting that to shopping and cooking in NZ.

    I'm also in NZ and most of the Vegan books I've read constantly mention things you cant buy in rural NZ. One good thing though - my veg garden has taken on a radical new importance!

    From a long term breastfeeding attachment mum of 3 now aged 21, 23 and 25! (i.e. they survived)

  2. Hi Deb,

    Thanks for the feedback and inspiration - I'd love to hear more of YOUR story!

    I don't know if you've already read my posts that are my assignments from the course (search on Campbell). My Vegan Feasts post also has some clues, but not as specific as you might want.

    I was already eating this way so I'm not recently adapting, but I can and should do a series on NZ specific plant based eating. I like to think I don't depend a lot on specialty vegan foods but I know I always have the option. And most of my compromises aren't for my tastes but the kids!

    Have you found the Vegan Society of NZ?

    Not all information there is the same focus as plant-based eating but many members (including me) are health focused.


  3. Hi Jess,

    I just discovered your great post as I was searching for "nz plant-based nutrition expert" I am pleased you are able to apply and use the knowledge from the Campbell foundation certificate. I was just saying to my partner (a nurse & mum) that's what I should do in the near future...
    We discovered plant based nutrition courtesy of Mike Anderson of about 7 years ago or so and are now finally feeling knowledgeable enough to offer plant-based cooking workshops and classes.
    Based in the Whangarei area we want to add and support the gentle push toward delicious and healthy nutrition in NZ.
    We are currently putting together a comprehensive plant-based starter guide, maybe you could be one of our contributors, Jess? It would be an honour :-)
    In any case - go the plant-based nutrition educators, our kids and the world will feel a lot better for it.

  4. Hi Dimitri,

    How great to connect with another plant based nutrition expert! I will contact you through your lovely website...