Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
by Talya Lutzker
Ayurveda isn’t just for adults. But because it has an exotic or foreign ring to it, it might sound as if it’s too complex to apply to children. But the very fact that children are so simple and uncomplicated in their nature makes the application of it for kids easy. Once you understand the basic concept of Ayurveda as a natural, at-home remedy, even simple pleasure foods, like a cookie, can even become “medicinal” for your child.
Using Ayurveda as a template for feeding your child doesn’t mean the food has to be of Indian descent, nor does it mean it needs to be ethnic. Ayurveda is all about balance and bringing relief through balance. So if you have a hyperactive child with seemingly boundless energy and who’s mind goes a million miles a minute, Ayurveda wants to bring calmness, solidity and a slowing down to this youngster. Easier said than done, of course. But the right food for a child such as this can and does represent these healing, opposite, and/or balancing qualities.
For example, root vegetables grow underneath the ground. By nature, they are close to the earth and therefore solid. They tend to be starchy, complex, and have a fair amount of weight to them, which makes them break down slowly. And because they are a food that is characterized by solidity and earthiness, they tend to provide a calming, or sattvic, effect to the mind of the person who eats them (as long as they are not overeaten). This is how Ayurveda uses food to balance the body and the mind. A simple, baked sweet potato with plenty of ghee or olive oil, a splash of fresh lemon juice, and good mineral-rich salt tastes delicious, offers warmth, grounding energy, and nerve nutrition. It’s a food that most kids are apt to enjoy, and for the parent’s pleasure, it’s a snack chock-full of nutrients (like vitamins A and C and magnesium), healthy fat, easy-to-digest fiber and antioxidants.
Depending on your constitution (and the constitution of your child), different foods will bring the best complement, or balance, for the healthiest state of mind and vitality. What follows is a simple chart for helping you identify characteristics in your child (and yourself) from an Ayurvedic perspective. Below you’ll find a handful of specific foods, tastes and flavors that balance these constitutions. Read through each column to see determine which one sounds most like your child (or you!).
Try adding these healthful, tasty snacks to your child’s routine!
Almond Butter Popcorn
balances vata and kapha, increases pitta
Preparation time: About 15 minutes
Serves 2 to 4
1/4 C Organic Raw Almond Butter
2 T Brown Rice Syrup or Coconut Nectar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
4 C Coconut-Oil-Popped Popcorn
1/2 C chopped Raw Pecans or Walnuts (optional)
1/4 C Candied Ginger, minced (optional)
1/4 C Unsweetened Dried Cranberries or Raisins (optional)
In a large bowl, mix together the almond butter, liquid sweetner and cinnamon. Make it smooth and creamy. Pop your corn and while it’s still hot, toss it into the almond butter mixture. Stir immediately, aiming to coat every popped kernel with almond butter goodness. Stir in the raw pecans and optional candied ginger and/or dried cranberries.
Easy Baked Tofu
balances vata, decreases pitta, increases kapha
Preparation Time: About 1 hour, 30 minutes
Serves 2 to 4
1 lb. Organic Firm Tofu (or sprouted tofu)
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos, Coconut Aminos or Wheat-Free Tamari (optional)
Wrap the tofu between 2 clean, dry cloth towels (or several paper towels) and set it on a flat surface. Balance a plate on top of the tofu and weight it down with something heavy to help drain excess water from the tofu block. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, repeat if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cube the tofu into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Melt the coconut oil over low heat on the stove just until melted. Toss the coconut oil and Braggs with the tofu and arrange the tofu on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Toss and turn the pan. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tofu cubes are golden brown and slightly crispy.
Sweet Potato Fries with Raw Ranch Dressing
decreases vata, balances pitta, increases kapha
Preparation Time: About 1 hour
Serves 4 to 6
2 medium/large sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 4-inch long, 1/2-inch thick fries
2 to 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or ghee
1 teaspoon coarse ground Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup soaked raw cashews (soak for 30 minutes)
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
1 teaspoon mineral-rich salt (like Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Soak the cashews in water while you prep the fries.
Cut then toss the sweet potatoes with coconut oil, salt, cumin, sugar and coriander until fries are well coated. Spread a single layer of fries out onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the fries over, move them to the top rack in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the fries are golden brown and slightly crisp.
Put the remaining ranch dressing ingredients (aside from the cashews) into a blender or food processor. Add the soaked cashews and mix on high speed until the dressing is smooth and creamy. Add an extra tablespoon of water if the sauce is too thick. Serve together.
Talya Lutzker is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, nutritionist, chef, and yoga teacher, and the founder of Talya’s Kitchen. Her latest cookbook is The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen. Learn more at TalyasKitchen.com.