Cooking for a ‘Mixed’ Vegetarian and Carnivore Family
Tips and tricks for parents who struggle with what to prep for their plant-based kids.
By MEGHAN RABBIT
When a child decides to become vegetarian, it can lead to mixed emotions for the rest of the family—particularly for parents, who might wonder how they’ll prep meals that everyone will like. Here are five ideas that’ll make the transition easier for everyone.
1. Serve meat on the side.
Rather than plan meals that make animal protein the star, consider making recipes where it’ll be easy to pop a protein on top or serve it on the side—like a rice-and-veggie bowl or taco “bar” where everyone assembles their own. “Plan your meals with vegetables as the main event and think of meat as more of a condiment,” says Caitlin Self, M.S., a licensed dietitian-nutritionist and certified nutrition specialist in Baltimore, Maryland.
2. Time your meat-filled meals well.
Does your little vegetarian have gymnastics practice every Wednesday night or indoor soccer every Saturday morning? Make that your time to serve meat-forward family favorites for the carnivores in your clan.
3. Inspire everyone to become a flexitarian.
According to health experts, your plant-based family members may actually be on to something: Research shows forgoing meat in favor of plant-based protein at least a few times a week can go a long way toward boosting your health. So, look at this as an opportunity for all of you to clean up your diet. Start by adding one new fruit or vegetable each week to your normal rotation, suggests Eliza Savage, R.D., C.D.N., a New York City-based dietitian. “This tends to be much more sustainable—and more likely to be accepted—than a whole diet and lifestyle overhaul, which usually focus on elimination,” she says. “What’s more, over time these weekly additions will crowd out some of the more processed, sugar-laden product picks.”
4. Make plant-based eating convenient.
You don’t have to become a short-order cook to make everyone in your family happy. If you don't have time to prep and clean produce ahead of time, purchase pre-cut fruit and vegetables so you and your kids can grab as a snack or add to a salad or grain bowl, says Savage. Good-for-you frozen foods are also important to stock up on, like Alpha Foods’ heat-and-eat burritos and pot pies, which will wow your little plant-based foodie’s palate.
5. Get your kids excited to cook.
If your child wants to try a plant-based diet, urge him or her to come to you with ideas on what to make—and to spend some time in the kitchen helping you create those delicious meals. You might buy or borrow a vegetarian cookbook for ideas. Another great place to start—especially for younger kids—is putting together finger food. “Truffles” (a.k.a. protein balls) made with nut butter and seeds are not only filled with protein, they’re also fun to make and eat. You can also create crudité platters, filled with fresh-cut fruit, veggies and dips like hummus.