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Family-Friendly Vegetarian Cooking

Q: I'm the only vegetarian in my family. Can you suggest how to cook one meal that makes us all happy?

A: Great question. If you're able to cook one meal that works for the whole family, you're doing everyone a huge favor. They will all eat as healthfully as you. This is especially important for children: growing up with a taste for plant-based foods gives kids an advantage they will carry with them for life. Even so, many people balk at unfamiliar foods, and children in particular spurn new tastes and textures. Still, plenty of vegetarian foods——pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal with cinnamon and sliced bananas for breakfast; bean burritos and guacamole for lunch; spaghetti or lasagna with a robust tomato sauce for dinner——are popular with just about everyone. Most people also like minestrone and butternut squash soups. Another way to keep everyone happy is to serve faux meats. Some taste so close to the real thing that your family will be amazed. I'm thinking of chunks of tempeh or seitan in a chili or stir-fry. Or how about taste-testing several brands of veggie burgers or veggie sausages? Cook them up, and ask which everyone likes best. Now, some faux meats are highly processed, with many ingredients you don't need, and it's probably best not to make them a habit. That said, they are still more healthful than the products they replace. Your family is lucky to have you looking out for them.

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Comments on this Article

I am the only vegetarian in my family too. I just make a random meat as a side for those that want it (usually one that doesn't take too much attention), but the main dish is completely vegetarian.

Add me to the list of only vegetarian in the house. I do pretty much like Alice says, I make a meat (I mean really, only one or two ways to cook those suckers up, right?) toss it to the side, and focus on the "real meal" :p Tacos are a favorite here, everyone does their thing and I have black refried bean burittos, cheese enchiladas, spaghetti also works as I do both meat sauce as well as alfredo sauce....things like that.

I am the only vegetarian in my house as well. But, since I do the shopping and a good portion of the cooking the rule is no meat in the house. I like to get the kids involved (they're teenagers now) so they often pick the recipes (must be vegetarian) and help me prepare it so it hasn't been as much of a struggle. When we go out to restaurants, though, all bets are off. I'm the only meatless plate of the bunch! :-)

We have been married for 50 years and I've been a vegetarian for 30 years. I also prepare things like spaghetti with meat on the side and veggie lasagna. Last night I made a kale quiche which my husband really enjoyed. I often prepare meat dishes for him but I don't like doing it. When I first became a vegetarian our teen-age sons said, "We just hold Mother by the feet and push her around the yard". It's a good thing I have a sense of humor.

I am the only vegetarian in the house for about a year now, but I cook only vegetarian dishes. Everyone eats the meals I make and when they get a hankerin' for meat my husband or mother (she lives with us) cooks it themselves or orders out. My goal is to make everyone as healthy as possible.

My daughter, 10, came home Wednesday of last week and announced she wanted to be a vegetarian. I certainly support her choice and feel its a healthy one. But I do not have the first clue on how to adjust my shopping and cooking, especially since I personally (as well as the 3 other members of the family) have no interests in cutting meat 100% out of my diet. I look forward to learning how to increase our plant based food intake. But I really feel overwhelmed and don't know where to begin. What worrys me the most is how to get protein into my daughters diet. My lack of knowledge and experience tells me beans and nuts (she currently will not eat most nuts) which leads to little to no variety which I feel is not healthy and not to mention boring. This seems like as good as any of a place to put out there my situation and fears. Thank you in advance for any helpful information.

Nika, the idea that you can't get protein without meat is actually a complete fallacy! If you get enough of the various amino acids from your fruits, vegetables, peas, and nuts, your body will do a fine job of making its own protein out of the amino acids. Just use Google to look up "amino acids in foods" to find out which amino acids are in which foods. You can also ask a nutritionist for the famous "complementary proteins", which are several classic and well-known combinations of foods that together supply all the amino acids in the proper proportions the body needs. Perhaps the most famous vegetarian complete amino acid combo is beans-rice-corn, common in many cuisines. BUT if you are dead-set on consuming complete proteins, you still don't have to eat meat or nuts to get it. Try soy products, quinoa, cruelty-free eggs, organic cruelty-free milk, soy milk, almond milk, or cheese made with vegetarian rennet. No animals were killed in the making of any of those things.