February 10, 2016

4 Vegetarian Meals that Children will Actually Eat—That Aren’t Pasta.


For children who are a little picky but could stand to get more veggies in their diets:

When I first looked up vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas that were family-friendly, there wasn’t a lot to be found that kids would actually eat.

And then everything else that seemed relatively kid-friendly was a pasta dish! Kids can get tired of pasta pretty quickly.

So, if you’re trying to transition your own children into more vegetarian meals, try some of these first.

Veggie Quesadillas:

Sauté some chopped veggies—usually onions, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms—in a little oil. Add some spices if you like: cumin, garlic, chili powder, onion powder, and oregano make a taco flavor. While that’s cooking, grate some cheddar cheese. You can make your own tortillas if you’re adventurous, but the store-bought flour ones are just fine.

Take one tortilla and fold it in half to make a crease, and open it up again. Then, add cheese to one half, topped with a scoop of the cooked veggies spread out, and fold the tortilla back over to make a half moon shape. Repeat for however many you want, then bake in the oven or heat in an oiled pan on the stove. Serve with sour cream and salsa for dipping.

Bean Chili:

I usually cook chili from scratch using dried beans, but canned works fine too. If you’re going to use dried, make sure to soak them overnight or boil them for an hour before adding to the slow cooker.

Add a mixture of chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, and pinto beans. Chop up and add onions and green peppers. You can also throw in a cup of frozen corn. Then, add some fresh garlic, tomato sauce (homemade is great, but canned is fine, too), cumin, cayenne (optional), and chili powder, and cook it for around six hours on low in the slow cooker. For dipping: slice and brush some fresh rolls with vegetable oil mixed with fresh ground pepper, garlic, dried parsley, and salt, and broil in the oven.

Peanut Noodle Stir Fry:

First, sauté on high heat: broccoli, onion, thinly sliced carrots, and mushrooms, but you can use so many other veggies—just toss in whatever you like. A wok is best for this dish. While that’s cooking, chop up some bok choy (you can skip this if you’re not sure your child will like it) and mix together the sauce, which is basically about a tablespoon of peanut butter with light soy sauce, brown sugar, a splash of vinegar, fresh grated garlic, and fresh grated ginger. If your family likes spice, add in some chilies.

Once the veggies are cooked (high heat until they’re tender, careful not to burn them), toss in some thick Shanghai style noodles (or your noodle of choice), along with the bok choy, which wilts quickly, and finally the sauce, and toss it all together until everything’s hot and coated. Keep an eye on the kind of noodles you buy, as some might be made with egg.

Vegetarian Pizzas:

Fresh pita bread works well as a simple and easy base to make individual sized pizzas. Naan works too, but is more doughy, so it depends on how you like your base. I prefer mine a little more thin and crispy. If you make two per person, the second one is perfect for lunch the next day.

Spread on some sauce. I use basic tomato sauce and add my own spices—garlic, oregano, crushed red chilies, pepper, basil. Then add on some fresh veggies: bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, pineapple. Use whatever your kids typically like. Then, top with cheese and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the veggies are somewhat cooked. They won’t cook through completely but it adds a nice bite to the pizza. If you try to cook the veggies until they’re soft, keep an eye that the bottom of your pizza doesn’t burn or get rock hard.

Bonus: Side Dishes

Mish-mash some of your favorite side dishes to make a meal!

This can sometimes be the hardest part for families because traditional (Western) meals are usually made of meat with a starch and veggie on the side—without the meat, it seemed strange. But why not two veggies and a starch instead? You could make mashed potatoes, glazed carrots (add a tablespoon of honey and some dried dill), along with a green salad. Or garlic toast with mushrooms (cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic) and steamed broccoli with shredded cheese on top. Or, roasted seasoned potatoes with sautéed green beans and sliced tomatoes on the side.

There are so many good combinations that kids are totally okay with.

Besides having better health and reducing our impact on the planet, your grocery bill will go down significantly as well.

Share your tried and true recipes in the comments!


Photos: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr, T.Tseng/Flickr

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