You’re vegetarian, but the kids aren’t

So you’ve been a vegetarian for years, happily sitting on the bacon sidelines and letting the world of steaks, mince and roasts pass you by. But then you have a baby, who after a delightful vegetarian life reaches the 8-9 month mark and is ready for a bit more protein. What do you do?

Perhaps your reasons are ethical, environmental or just plain taste-based, you now have a bit of a dilemma about how to feed your family and do the best thing for your kids’ health.

There is no reason why you can’t raise vegetarian children. It does mean that you need to pay special attention to their diet to keep it nutritionally balanced. There’s a good article here and resource here to help guide you.

Kids need much less protein than we often think. Here’s a link to just how much they require. Often you can fill their need for animal protein with milk, cheese and eggs. Ideally though, you should take a visit to a nutritionist or dietician to ensure there is no deficiencies anywhere in your eating plan.

Possibly the biggest battle you’ll face is the opinions of concerned grandparents and friends who really can’t fathom that your little lovelies can survive without the occasional chop. And perhaps they have a point. Unless you’re being really vigilant, then it might be a good idea for the kids to get a little dose of animal protein and iron a couple of times a week. If you’re ok with this, then here are a couple of ways to do it without you having to handle meat too often.

Big batch and freeze it

Make double batches of bolognaise, fajita mince or chilli and freeze them in small portions. These lamb sausage rolls are also good. That night the kids can have their meat fix and you can enjoy your Indian-style tempeh all by yourself.

Versatile dinners

Heaps of dinners can be made to a point, and then modified to suit the meat and non/meat-eating members of your household. Cheesy pots can be customised easily, as can rice paper rolls (cookbook 2) and pasta bake (just make individual ones).

This recipe for Chinese meatballs is perfect too. Make a double batch and freeze them. Then next time you whip up a stir-fry, add a few reheated meatballs on top of the kid’s serve.

Remember, if handling meat is a problem for you, maybe ask the concerned grandparent if they wouldn’t mind whipping up a meatball care parcel for you from time to time. I reckon they’ll be so relieved that they’ll be happy to help.

vegie smugglers plum sauce chinese-style meatballs

Serve meatballs on whatever vegies and noodles you like. Top with another dollop of plum sauce and some coriander.

Chinese-style plum sauce meatballs

Canola oil spray
1 slice bread (any flavour)
1 large clove garlic
½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 zucchini
500g veal/pork mince
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp plum sauce
Sprinkle white pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line an oven tray with foil and spray with the oil spray.

Use a food processor (I like my mini-one) to blitz the bread up into breadcrumbs. Add in the garlic and 5-spice and blitz so that all the crumbs are a garlicky-aromatic source of yum. Add to a mixing bowl.

Pulse or grate the zucchini and add the bowl. Also add in the mince and all the flavourings.

Wear kitchen gloves and mix this all together well (or you can do all this in a large food processor if excessive handling of meat makes you queasy). Roll into bite-sized balls and place on the oven tray.

Spray meatballs with oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, use tongs to carefully turn over, spray again and bake for another 10 minutes until cooked through.

Makes 30ish.

11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    toadfoolnn said,

    Love your posts (usually). But this one propogates a common myth “you need to pay special attention to their diet to keep it nutritionally balanced”. That actually applies to ALL diets. Eating a wide range of unprocessed food, understanding a little about protein, carbs, fats etc and avoiding junk food just about sums it up for vegetarians. signed vegetarian mother of two vegetarian children.

    • 2

      wendyblume said,

      Yes, good point. All parents need to pay attention, particularly if they’re cutting out an entire category of food that we’re recommended to eat. It’s not a myth though that “you need to pay special attention to their diet to keep it nutritionally balanced”.

      If I hadn’t of recommended paying attention, people would have complained about that too and told me I was being irresponsible.

      • 3

        toadfool said,

        So we agree “all parents need to pay attention to their childrens’ diet to keep it nutritionally balanced”. Your statement inadvertently implies that this is harder for vegetarians. Meat eating families need to be careful about saturated fat and cholesterol intake, calorie denseness, higher risk of bacterial contamination, shortage of fibre etc etc, but also chemical and antibotic residue in meat/fish, the impact on the planet etc etc.

      • 4

        wendyblume said,

        Yes. I think we’re arguing the same point. 😉

  2. 5

    toadfool said,

    Also we don’t “cut out an entire category of food” – we eat protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals and water every day as required by our biology. The food pyramid etc are a human marketing invention. I hope you are hearing my words in the spirit they are intended – these are really important issues and I value the opportunity to have an open and honest discussion but now i need to go and make some pumpkin (grown in the garden) and chick pea soup topped with sesame seeds, served with cheese toasts, and fruit and lemon custard for dessert!!.

    • 6

      wendyblume said,

      You sound like a great cook and a great mum and I take all your points on board.

      I’m not wanting to dig into why people choose to be vegetarian – it’s highly personal and I totally support everyone’s choices – I’m pretty consistent in publishing (and eating) meat-free recipes.

      This post was written in response to requests on Facebook from vegetarian parents who want to feed some meat to their kids and were after easy ways to do that. Hopefully I’m achieving that brief.

  3. 7

    becky mcclure said,

    Like the sound of this one!
    I think you filled the brief put to you on FB. For the record, your blog has encouraged me to eat more vegetarian meals!

  4. 8

    Hays said,

    I think that the meal achieves the point perfectly. Also do not forget that there are meat alternatives such as quorn or sanitarium “mince” which taste very similar to meat and still have a good nutritional mix. As a vegetarian not by choice but by medical need I think that you are doing a great job Wendy and I applaud your wonderful food choices and I know that as a veggie with non vegie kids your recipes are insiteful and easily substitutable. keep the great recipes coming !!

  5. 10

    Kylie Bradley said,

    any thoughts for an eight year old who is gluten and diary (cow) intolerant. Am worried about making sure her calcium intake is good enough.

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