How to cope with a vegetarian in a meat-eating house

Has one, or more, of your children decided to become a vegetarian? Are the rest of the family carnivores? Many families find it hard to get one meal on the table each night, let alone two. Here are some tips and tricks to make sure that everyone is getting a balanced diet while minimising the impact on the head chef!

1. Start with a Meal Plan

The more organised you are, the easier this becomes. Rather than thinking about meals being meat + vegetables, think protein + vegetables. It is so important to make sure that a vegetarian child is consuming a range of different vegetarian proteins to make sure that they continue to grow and develop as they should. Many vegetarian children (and adults) can fall into habits of preparing plenty of vegetables and carbohydrates, but forget the all important protein.

Some great vegetarian proteins include:

  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans etc
  • Tofu and Tempeh
  • Eggs
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • Quorn
  • Nuts (unsalted preferably)
  • Seeds such as pumpkin/pepita, sesame, sunflower, chia, hemp seeds etc

2. Turn the vegetable component of meals into the main dish and the protein component into the side dish

For example

  • Prepare stir fried/steamed/roasted vegetables, a vegetable risotto, mixed vegetables salad etc
  • Separate to that prepare the usual meat containing dishes such as grilled/barbecued/poached/stir fried meats/chicken or fish
  • Alongside that, prepare a comparable vegetarian protein such as tofu/vegetarian sausages/burgers etc

3. Have two pots side by side.

Dishes like bolognaise, stir fries, curries etc can all have the same base ingredients other than the protein and can be started off in one pot and then split into two pots just before the protein component is added.

For example

  • Bolognaise – use brown lentils or Quorn rather than mince
  • Stir fry – include tofu, Quorn, nuts in place of meats
  • Curries – include tofu, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans in place of meats
  • Burgers – either purchase vegetable burgers which include a protein (nuts, legumes, tofu etc) and have them in the freezer ready for family burger night or prepare a large batch of them and freeze them for the same purpose.

4. Initiate at least one meat-free night as a family

It is good for our health, and the environment to try to reduce our meat consumption just a bit. Many families have a “Meat-Free Monday” or similar weekly tradition.

5. Get the new vegetarian to help with meal preparation.

It is important that the new vegetarian in the house helps with the meal preparation so that they can take some ownership over this new phase of their lives. Sit together to look through cookbooks and websites to find some recipes that appeal and spend some time together filling the freezer with lots of nutritious vegetarian options (because we are all allowed to have lazy dinner nights!)

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