by Laura Campbell
Hi, I'm enjoying looking around your site. The recipes look really good and am looking forward to trying some of them. Me and my family - me, hubby and 3 kids ages 13,7,5 are currently meat eaters and I would like to change that. Because I grew up a meat eater, I of course have it in my mind that the meal is not complete without meat. I know that's not true, but it's like a road block to becoming vegetarian. Where am I going with this? A couple of the recipes I noticed would be good starting off recipes for us (mainly the kids), like the pizza casserole. What kind of nutrition are we getting from it...it's only cheese, bread and tomato sauce (no sarcasm intended) what else do I need to add...like maybe a veggie side dish and a salad? I know this may seem silly, but I really am clueless when it comes to meal planning and nutrition. If you could give me a little pep talk or some basic guidelines, I would really appreciate. Like I said, it's like I have a mental road block when it comes to this, given the amount of conflicting information and lack of quality of produce we have offered to us at regular grocery stores, I'm surprised anyone knows what to eat anymore!
Thanks in advance for any advice for me...and I will continue reading your site, maybe my answers are already here.
Thank you so much for contacting me via my website. I love getting feedback and reading readers comments .
I certainly understand your concerns and believe me – I get asked this a LOT!
I’m sure you took a look at my “protein” page on the site - http://www.simply-vegetarian.com/complete_protein.html
that chart gives you a really good picture of protein sources. But because you are migrating from meat eaters to vegetarian (are you going vegan or veggie?) here are some ideas:
Eggs are a good source of protein – if you are not going vegan – keep eggs in your kids’ diet
Same for dairy products – cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium
Try SEITAN on your kids – it is a wheat protein product that you can cook like any meat dish – for instance put it in a stew, order slather it in barbecue sauce – the texture is easier for kids to get used to (there are recipes galore on my site) – I like it best in stews or curry or something saucy like that.
Introduce tofu to your family – perhaps by grinding it up first and making something like sloppy joes until they get used to the texture. Both tofu and seitan take on the flavour whatever it is cooked in.
Use a lot of lentils, legumes and grains – barley soup, beans and rice, split pea soup is a great source of nutrients – experiment with these ingredients.
Start using more “whole” foods like brown rice, whole wheat bread and flour and pasta etc. Quinoa is a great protein source. if your kids aren’t used to these foods, introduce them gradually by mixing - cook brown rice and white rice and mix them up. Cook white rice and quinoa and mix them together. Gradually lessen the amount of white rice until they’re used to the brown rice. Same with pasta etc. the less processed the food, the better it is for you – so brown sugar, whole wheat flour, olive oil, coconut oil are good to use (canola oil is not recommended).
I find that vegetarian meals do not necessarily follow the rules I grew up with such as: meat, one “starchy” side dish such as potato or rice, one “vegetable” side dish such as salad or steam broccoli or similar. You need to break out of that mind-set and think differently. You may wish to add soup in order to get extra nutrients in like veggies, barley, beans etc. your main dish may be a casserole packed with veggies with a side dish of brown rice and beans – things like that. You’ll get the hang of it as you go along.
Tahini is a great source of protein – use it on sandwiches for the kids.
Dried fruit instead of candies for the kids – they are FULL of sugar but also have a LOT of iron so if your kids go for it – you are giving them good nutrition.
Use part or all whole grain flour when baking and part or all molasses or cane sugar or honey when baking – you will add some better nutrients to your cakes and cookies.
Frozen bananas make great “ice cream” and if you dip them in chocolate and put them on a Popsicle stick the kids will love them!
It is a lot of work to be veggie, but once you’re “in to” it – it gets a lot easier. There are some ideas below – you can swap the soy milk and soy yogurt for regular -
I hope I have helped a little bit but please feel free to contact me any time with questions or ideas or anything. If you come up with goods ideas while you are experimenting please post them on my site – I love it when people share their recipes. http://www.simply-vegetarian.com/add-a-recipe.html
And speaking of sharing – do you mind if I share your letter with my readers? There are tons of other people out there asking similar questions. Please let me know.
Keep me posted how you are coming along!
Take care and be happy,