Vegetarian Meals for Kids

vegetables.jpgIn May, I wrote about Laurel encouraging us to start up vegetarian week every month. Since that time, she's increasingly gone off meat and this summer decided to become a vegetarian. We're not a huge meat eating family to start with, but I know that being a vegetarian has challenged her at times, particularly when she's thought about tuna melts, moussaka, and my chicken tenders. And it's not quite as simple as just putting a salad in front of her, because even though Laurel consumes a lot more veggies than she used to, veggies are more of an accompaniment than the main attraction for her. And some easy options -- such as falafel and hummus -- haven't been received favorably.
We've told Laurel not to be hard on herself; that if she wants to be vegetarian, that's great, but that if she adjusts her plan and eats meat once a week (or whatever) she's still doing something amazing. But she's holding fast. So we're trying to support her and come up with new food ideas. At the moment, here are her favorites:

  • Cheese pizza
  • Mac and cheese
  • Quesadillas -- usually bean + cheese as the base and then we add bits of corn, avocado, etc.
  • Pan seared tofu
  • Vegetable tempura (not all deep fried veggies are enjoyed equally though)
  • Eggs, any style
  • Vegetarian sushi
  • Spinach pie

    And that's pretty much it. So I turned to the fine folks on Twitter and Facebook this week and there were so many great responses -- thank you! I was going to reorder and categorize the feedback, but there was a lot of overlap in the respones and I wanted to credit appropriately, so I just left responses intact. I did sort the responses into three broad categories:

    Recipe Inspiration

  • From @StarryBrook: "check out Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. Fabulous ideas like stuffed tomatoes, lentil soup, etc. Big hit!"

    Incorporating Instant/Pre-Made Products

  • From @MinkyMoo: "We make tacos, lasagna, stroganoff, just about anything [out of Morningstar veggie burgers or crumbles]."

  • From Kristy: "My oldest is recently turned vegetarian. She loves veggie burgers. And I make lots of pasta with veggies in it. And for quick food, she likes lean pockets and Amy's organic frozen meals."

  • From Rebecca: "We are a family of vegetarians! Proteins at every meal: Gardein plant-based tenders, veggie burgers, black beans, hummus as a side, eggs (omelets for dinner sometimes), soy crumble burritos with cheese, etc."

  • From Michael: "‎'Meat' items by Boca and Morning Star are popular with my step-daughter but my wife swears by Quorn products. And the beef strips by Trader Joe's are perfect for fajitas (chicken strips aren't bad either).

  • From Amber: "Frittata is always a hit, and mine loves marinated or fried tofu. For quick lunches, Morningstar products have saved my butt on a few occasions!"

  • From Bill: "Lentils; split pea soup; fake meats from morningstar, quorn, and gardein; pastas; burritos; cheese toast; soy nut butter and jelly."

    Other Vegetarian Meal/Snack Ideas:

  • From @devarim: "I often make mild (not bland) dals and serve w/ plain yogurt, rice & complementary Indian vegetable dish."

  • From @SeastarsSeaside: "sweet potato, black bean enchiladas! Yum!"

  • From @Laurenmissesyou: ""[We're] vegan! Posted about it on my blog recently. S particularly loves avocado rolls, sweet potato, pasta with peas and carrots, beans rice and guacamole, tofu, and spinach."

  • From @threehautemamas: "burritos, beans & rice, & hummus platters (veg/pitas/cheese/etc)."

  • From @mamajoan: "my kids are vegetarian...they eat tofu, grilled cheese, quesadillas, umm and a LOT of pasta ;)"

  • From Kim: "Hummus & pita, black bean soup, eggplant parm, quesadillas..."

  • From Erin: "Stuffed portabellos, veggie stir-fry w jasmine rice."

  • From Lila: "Bean/rice burritos are easy and yummy. Augusta eats hummus with a spoon. We make quesadillas in the microwave. Stir-fries are always good if you can get your kid to eat them. And chili with TVP is also terrific."

  • From Asha: "Edamame. And my kids love tofu. Buy firm or extra firm, cut into small cubes, saute with oil till brown and crisp, and a few splashes of soy sauce near the end. Then keep it in the fridge to throw into rice, pasta, stir fry. Also, refried beans."

  • From Christy: "My kids aren't vegetarians, but I do a big pot of vegetarian chili in the winter (with beans). We eat it with tortilla chips, and use it to make quesadillas and burritos with rice. I make enough to freeze portions of it as well."

  • From Aimee: "Obvious, but valuable - veggie burgers, tofurkey dogs, omlettes, quiche, endless pasta options, risotto, baked potatoes loaded with cheese and veggies, nachos, quesadillas, grilled cheese and tomato soup....the list goes on!"

  • From Liz: "Black bean burgers, stir fry, and broccoli cakes are popular in our house!"

  • From Michele: "My child refuses to eat meat because he does not like it. He eats more in the style of tapas. A little of this a little of that. Most meals include a pasta(plain), a fruit, tomatoes, yogurt, and sometimes a granola bar of some kind. We give a carnation instant breakfast drink once a day at least to guarantee protein."

  • From Suzanne: "Black bean chili made with red/green peppers, tomatos, corn; broccoli and mushroom quiche (renamed broccoli pie which gets them to scarf it down); quinoa stuffed roasted peppers.

  • From Kate: "Lots of avocado!"

  • From Jocelyn: "We do veggie chili a lot in our house, although we are not veggies (I don't eat red meat). My 2year old cannot get enough of it when I make it. We also do 5 bean hoppin John."

  • From Cynthia: "Abe loves miso soup with tofu. Also roasted brussels sprouts (mainly because the cute 5-year-old down the street loves them, but hey, whatever works...)."

  • From Mamma's Cooking: "definitely veggie chilli. Someone mentioned Kale pesto to me recently. I haven't tried yet though."

  • From Karen: "I'm not a vegetarian but some suggestions: hummus with pita chips, lasagna with spinach and cabbage, veggie burgers, veggie sausage, cheese quesadillas, cheesy grits, Amy's organic meals, miso soup with tofu, refried beans, lentil soup, eggplant parmesan, pintos and cornbread (good southern food), smoothies with spinach and protein powder, cheesy potatoes, stuffed potatoes, curried pasta with cauliflower and chickpeas, Mexican dip (refried beans, salsa, cheese, onions, etc), fruit and yogurt parfaits, zucchini or pumpkin muffins."

    Thanks so much everyone! I'm making my grocery list now! Meanwhile, if you have additional ideas to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.

    Image credit: Michelle Meiklejohn /