I know this because I have four and they demand to be fed at least three times a day! When I decided to become a vegetarian six months ago, I knew our lifestyle change would be drastic and the transition would have to be gradual to avoid kid-pocalypse.
Vegetarian breakfasts and lunches were easy since many of those meals are already meatless. But eliminating meat from our dinner plate was a little more challenging. We came up with four kid-friendly and simple vegetarian dinner formulas to keep dinner healthy and interesting and hold kid mutiny at bay.
This is a no-brainer that I'm sure you didn't need me to help you discover. Kids and pasta go together like summer and mosquitos. Pasta dishes have the added benefit of being simple and quick to prepare, too. Keep a variety of pasta in your pantry and each week create new meal combinations.
- Add sautéed, grilled, or roasted seasonal vegetables.
- Toss with your choice of sauce: tomato, garlic, or alfredo are some ideas.
- Don't forget the cheese: shredded Italian varieties or mozzarella cubes.
- Kids love pasta salads (They can easily pick out the stuff they don't like. Olives, for example. If you are one of those sadists that add olives to everything. Ew.).
Let your kids play "head chef" and brainstorm new pasta meal combinations. They'll be more likely to try dinners they helped create!
Fruit and Veggie Dip Dinners
Dip is magical.It transforms the most vile of vegetables into vehicles of delight for kids (ok, me) of all ages. We get caught up in thinking dinner has to be complicated and/or actually cooked in order to count. I hereby give you permission to serve nothing but a heaping plateful of cut-up seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables along with a variety of interesting dips and call that "dinner".
- Hummus: Mild varieties or homemade for picky eaters.
- Ranch Dip. Need I say more?
- Cheese Sauce. Another no-brainer.
- Yogurt. Plain for veggies, fruity for fruit. But if your toddler insists on carrots dipped in strawberry yogurt, who am I to judge?
Build Your Own Night
My kids enjoy making their own dinners. Or maybe I'm a particularly lazy parent and this is how I justify my behavior. Either way, "Build Your Own" night is always popular at our house.
- Potato Bar: Kids top baked potatoes with their choice of sour cream, cheese, veggie chili, and green onions (assuming they are not my kids and the mere whisper of the word "onion" doesn't send them screaming for the hills).
- Personal Pizzas: Refrigerated or prepared crust, shredded mozza, variety of vegetable toppings (maybe pineapple if you have never crossed the Mississippi).
- Build your own burritos: Beans, cheese, salsa, chopped tomato, sautéed onion and rice are some ideas.
- Salad: Probably self-explanatory, but let your kids help pick the available vegetables, toppings, and dressings for your personalized family salad bar. Be creative, think raisins and sunflower seeds.
Breakfast for Dinner
When I was in the business of having a baby every other year, we ate a whole lotta pancakes. I wasn't vegetarian then, but I did like that everyone from the baby to the preschooler would happily gobble up their dinners without complaint! As I mentioned earlier, many breakfast dishes are already meatless, so they're particularly easy to transform into vegetarian dinners.
- Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast : Try whole wheat varieties and fresh fruit on top to increase the nutrition. Kids typically adore blueberries, strawberries, and sliced bananas. Avoid adding chocolate chips and whipped cream (exception: Very Bad Days).
- Eggs (fried, scrambled, or omelette style) and/or Tofu Scrambles. Add lots of vegetables for a vitamin-packed, protein powerhouse and delicious dinner.
- Fruit platter. Again, I grant you permission to call fruit and yogurt "dinner" once in a while! Especially if the kids have had a big day and they really really really just need to get fed and go to bed.
By incorporating these kid-approved meatless dinner formulas into our regular meal rotation, we've been able to enjoy more healthy and simple (complaint free!) vegetarian dinners.