Mike and I have been vegetarians since 2006 so of course we weren’t going to cook something we don’t eat just for our kids who came along well after. Other than the health benefits of eating more veggies, it’s also cheaper than meat and meal prep takes much less time too. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to try out some meatless recipes so I thought I’d show you a few things our girls love to eat along with some of our go-to dinners that we can all dig into. You can see these recipes and more HERE on my Vegetarian Meals Pinterest board too which I update frequently. (I also have a vegetarian meals for kids board HERE.) Who knows? Maybe you have a veggie-loving kid disguised as a mac n cheese eater. You just gotta keep trying.
Here’s an example of a typical lunch for the girls; a vegan quinoa salad from Whole Foods I picked up while shopping along with organic string cheese and fruit. We also do a lot of stir fry using frozen organic veggies (I get a huge bag at Costco) along with tofu cooked in Bragg’s Aminos (a healthy protien-packed alternative to soy sauce) over soba noodles. Or maybe we’ll make brown rice elbow noodles and mix in veggies they’ll eat cold like avocado, peppers, olives, and whatever else we have on hand with a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. I popped in veggie burgers yesterday when I was too tired to make anything else, I like these Dr Prargers California ones. They aren’t organic but they are GMO-free and have a pretty clean ingredient list. They taste really fresh and healthy (I think they’re gross personally, but Mike actually likes them) and the consistency is a little on the softer side which is good for kids. Harper loves cold food and her all time favorite meal is diced up tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers, with a little ranch mixed in. She’ll eat that every day if she could which makes us happy because it’s so easy and healthy.
I think the term ‘vegan’ sounds pretty blah and hippie but you probably eat vegan meals without even thinking about it. An example of a vegan breakfast would be oats with fruit, something most kids love anyway. THIS recipe for buckwheat porridge is probably our favorite for a really quick and delicious breakfast that we all love. You just put buckwheat (mild in flavor like oatmeal) with walnuts (optional) in a bowl of water overnight then in the morning you drain and blend it with oranges juice, apples, and vanilla. We eat it with mix-ins like shredded coconut, cacao nibs, granola, and berries. Harper loves adding her own mix-ins and the flavor is so neutral that you can make it taste any way you want. Try it out- it’s so easy and good.
Tips for getting your kids to eat more veggies:
– It’s all about the texture. Think about how many more veggies you put on a salad at a salad bar than you do at home. It’s because they’re shredded and easier to eat. I don’t want giant chunks of raw beets on my salad, but I’ll eat them shredded every chance I get. It’s the same with kids. Harper consistantly tells us how much she doesn’t like zucchini. It doesn’t matter what it’s in, if she sees even a tiny piece she’ll veto the whole meal. BUT she ate the ‘zoodles’ I made (below) and asked for more. Mike makes veggie pancakes with potatoes, zucchini and carrots that look at taste like hash browns that Harper loves too. She might never love zucchini, but for now we know how to present it so she’ll eat it along with the rest of us.
– Which brings me to my next important point: Keep trying and don’t give up on feeding kids veggies. Harper will regularly tell us that she doesn’t like food that she eats all the time which is just toddler talk, or boredom at meal time. We don’t own mac n cheese or nuggets so she doesn’t know to lobby for other options but she’ll try to shut us down and not eat what’s served. We all eat the same thing 3 times a day and it’s our job to be consistent and encourage them to eat too. I give on TV a lot of times because the distraction helps her to sit and keep eating instead of asking to get up. The bonus too is having time to get Everly (1 year old) fed and actually *gasp* have a conversation with each other at the end of the day. A little Mickey Mouse Clubhouse never hurt anyone right?
– Let them help. We’ve always sat the girls in chairs on the counter in the kitchen since they were babies to watch us cook. Now that they’re a little older Harper will grab her stool and stand next to us with Everly sitting on her chair on the counter both holding spoons, measuring cups, and snacking on whatever we’re making. When they’re involved and see the evolution of how the food came to be on their plates, it takes the mystery out of it all so they’re more willing to try something they helped make too.
Don’t get discouraged and please don’t think your child is more picky than others and you need to bend. They’re all picky, they’re all vocal, and they’re all bored. Keep encouraging and they’ll follow your lead I promise.
Because people often ask what we eat, here is a snapshot of some meals that are common around here.
Breakfast tacos can be made gluten free with corn tortillas, or just serve it up in a bowl. I’m so torn on eggs. I didn’t eat them for years until I was pregnant and for whatever reason both times I enjoyed them. Now I’ll eat them mixed in with other things as long as I can stop myself from thinking about how the slime inside the shell turns into a chicken at some point. This concept alone turns my stomach but for now I go along with it because Mike makes breakfast. I just realized didn’t sell that dish very well did I? If you like eggs, just make this, ok?
We love Mexican food especially enchiladas but they’re so heavy with basically just bread and cheese so we do enchilada bowls instead. We make the sauce and put it over rice, quinoa, or potatoes (or in this case tots!) then cover it with either hot or cold veggies. This time we chose cold using tomatoes, lettuce, guac, and cheese. You get the flavor of the sauce and the experience of having a Mexican dish that’s much healthier and easier to put together. You can do this the same way if you like making salsa or green chile, just throw everything in a bowl instead of a tortilla and get creative.
I love Asian soups, especially Pho. I throw everything together (here it was red peppers, tofu, broccoli, and carrots) with red curry and veggie broth and just let it simmer all day. We like it with soba noodles or rice but without is good too.
I made these tempeh tacos last week in about 20 minutes. If you haven’t cooked using tempeh (a meatier, healthier version of tofu) then THIS is the recipe to try first. You’ll get the texture of ground beef and the heartiness that even the biggest carnivore will love. If you’re trying to convert a meat eater, go tempeh before tofu.
Speaking of tempeh- here’s a stir fry we made using it. Stir fry is always so easy because you just grab whatever veggies are in the fridge or freezer and then add tempeh or tofu over rice. It’s such a simple formula and one of the fastest hot meals you can whip up especially when you don’t have to take extra time to worry about defrosting and cooking meat.
I’m obsessed with THIS spiral slicer we just used for the first time last week to make these zoodles! It was fun for Harper to help get zucchinis into a curly pasta shape, yes that’s zucchini and not noodles. I simmered a can of diced tomatoes over olive oil and spices until the water cooked down, then I cooked the zoodles until they were mostly soft but still had a slight crunch and then added a parsley pesto (parsley, parmesan, olive oil, garlic, and walnuts) and cooked it together for about 5 minutes more. I just got a T-Fal ActiFry last month (yay fries!) and I made curly fries using the slicer too. It’s a pretty neat gadget that I can see us using a ton.
Obviously I really believe in the way we eat but I know that it’s not for everyone so don’t try and make some huge change, just be on the lookout for one or two new recipes a month your family might enjoy.