Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Raising a Vegetarian

Jason and I were both raised in homes where we were expected to eat everything our moms made for dinner and be thankful for having food to eat.  We have raised our girls the same way.  We have always been proud of the fact that our girls were not fussy eaters and would eat almost anything--they do draw the line at spicy things, which we understand.

So, why did we allow our ten year old to decide to be a vegetarian?

Since Piper was very small she would chew meat and chew it and chew it and chew it, until it turned into dry pulp and then she would be unable to swallow it.  She never liked meat.  We knew that.  Also, I was a vegetarian for many years before we had kids, concern about protein during pregnancy and while I was breastfeeding convinced me to eat some meat.  Then, our decision to have our family all eat the same dinner together every night had me eating meat--how hypocritical would it have been for me to not eat meat but expect my growing girls to eat it?  This summer, when my family realized that I never order meat in restaurants and I decided it was time to eat a more meat-free diet, Piper stated that she no longer wanted to eat meat.

Of course we were concerned about her getting adequate protein.  I sat down with her and explained the importance of protein and we came up with a plan: Piper would give up cereal for breakfast and eat scrambled eggs or toast with peanut butter or french toast for breakfast every morning with a glass of milk.  She understood that she needed about 40-50 grams of protein every day.  She is a huge fan of yogurt and cheese and while she won't put beans as her top five favorite foods, she will eat them.

Jason and Allie are not vegetarians, so how do we manage that?

We still eat dinner as a family together every night and we still all eat the same thing for dinner.  How do we do this?

  • If Jason and Allie are having a regular old fashioned dinner of meat, potatoes and vegetable, the potatoes I choose to make are baked potatoes and Piper and I stuff ours with protein-rich vegetarian chili (I freeze containers of it), cheese, jalapenos, olives, and tomatoes and we eat the side of vegetables.
  • Tacos and burritos are a favorite around here, and it's very easy for Piper and I to stuff ours with black beans while Jason and Allie stuff theirs with beef or chicken.
  • If I am making soups, I substitute vegetable broth for chicken or beef and often find vegetable and bean soups that we can all agree on.  
  • Allie loves Chicken Posole and although I thought the vegetarian posole I made was just as good--I have made posole and not added chicken, just put grilled chicken on a dish on the side so Jason and Allie could add it as a topping.    
  • Stir fry is another favorite around here, I have started cooking the meat in a separate pan while I cook the vegetables in the wok and then scrambling eggs or browning tofu in the wok.  Piper and I put the vegetables and eggs or tofu over our rice, while Jason and Allie eat the meat with their stir fried veggies and rice.  
  • I buy a rotisserie chicken every week.  If I make lentil salad or Greek salad for dinner, Jason and Allie can gave a few slices of chicken with their salad.
  • Pasta is another easy dish to make vegetarian.  
  • There are, of course, many nights where I just cook vegetarian dishes that we can all agree on.

Some of our family's favorite vegetarian recipes:

Vegetarian Chili--you will not miss the meat!

Irish Nachos--a HUGE hit!  A combo between potato skins & nachos, sometimes I put bacon on half for Allie & Jason.  A fun dinner, we top them with beans, tomatoes, jalapenos, cheddar.  

Vegetable Curry - I serve this with jasmine rice; I usually cut tofu and sear it on each side, remove from pan, follow the recipe and throw the tofu back in at the end

California omelet--eggs, chopped avocado and chopped tomatoes

I have found that it just takes some creativity to have a family that sits down to {almost} the same meal every night, but it is not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be for half our family to not eat meat.