Trying to include more vegetarian dinners in your repertoire? Eating more plant-based meals is good not only for your health but also for the planet. While my kids are not yet bean, lentil, and tofu lovers, they definitely like a variety of veggies, nuts, and seeds, and slowly but, surely I hope they will learn to branch out a bit more.
I think for a long time I cooked more fish, chicken, and meat dishes for my kids to make sure they got enough protein, iron, and zinc (in addition to all that pasta). Of course, now that they are 7 and 9, and both getting enough of these nutrients, I want to expand their palate and have them eat more of my ideal diet, which means eating vegetarian dinners 2-3 times per week.
One of the recommendations I always make for getting families to enjoy a wider array of foods is to adopt the one meal at dinner rule, but also to make sure that there is, at least, one thing on the table that everyone likes. This way you know they will not go hungry (even if their meal isn’t as nutritionally balanced on that evening). For instance, maybe your child (or husband) isn’t a fan of tofu-stir-fry, but they love rice and snap peas–include that on the table and have them eat the parts they like. My kids still don’t (yet) have any interest in vegetarian chili, but if I make brown rice on the side and also put out some fresh cut veggies, I know they will, at least, have that.
So, don’t be afraid to try out some new vegetarian recipes on your family. Just start slowly and serve other family-approved recipes on other nights of the week. Here are 7 simple and healthful vegetarian meals, 4 that are in my repertoire and 3 that are on my list to try.
4 of My Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
vegan, whole-grain, make it gluten-free by using quinoa as in this picture
This is my go-to vegetarian chili. It’s adapted from a Cooking Light recipe and made with fiber-rich, quick-cooking barley, but you could also make it with quinoa if you need it to be gluten-free. It comes together in less than 30 minutes and leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day.
whole grain (if you use whole wheat tortillas)
Ok, if your kids are like mine, then cheesy quesadillas are up there on their list of favorite foods along with buttery pasta, grilled cheese, and mac and cheese. But add squash and kale? Will they still like it? There is only one way to find out. You could certainly make half of them with just cheese, or just cheese and squash, and then give them the option to be adventurous or not. Likewise, leave out the chili powder if your kids are not yet into spicy food.
vegan, gluten-free (if use gluten-free soy sauce such as Tamari)
This is a yummy tofu recipe that will appeal to kids and adults alike. The key is draining the tofu before you use it so that it soaks up more of the marinade. The finished product will have a slightly sweet, caramelized quality.
This is a great recipe for making use of summer produce, but you could certainly substitute any vegetables that you have on hand. Make it on a weekend and have your kids help cut the veggies–this may make them more inclined to try it. Serve it over whole grain pasta, brown rice, or quinoa.
3 Recipes on My “To Try” List:
(Honestly, I could add many more recipes to this list. Like I said, I have definitely started to move towards cooking more vegetarian recipes for my family, but you could say it’s in the early phases of development!)
If you like curry in a hurry, you’re in luck. This recipe from dietitian Kristina LaRue comes together in just 20 minutes! Not sure why I haven’t tried this yet, but it seems hard to go wrong with.
My favorite cookbook of the past year has been the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. Packed with mouth-wateringly delicious vegan recipes it has really opened up a new world to this dairy-loving girl. I’m surprised that I haven’t tried her veggie burger recipe yet because this recipe definitely looks like a keeper.
vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free
Ok, so I have a thing for “bowls” right now, and apparently it’s not just me. This trend seems to be going strong all over the country. I recently read an article that stores are selling more oversized bowls and serving bowls than small, traditional soup or cereal bowls. One of the things I love most about a “bowl” is the ability for each diner to customize their toppings–perfect for picky eaters or families with varying tastes. And, of course, its focus on whole grains and veggies makes it uber-healthful too.