Our family kind of fell into a vegetarian diet. Just like all new things introduced to a family, it began with Mom (me). I chose to follow a vegetarian diet due to health and environmental effects. Since I am also the primary source by which my family eats aka “the chef,” it was easy to implement various vegetarian meals. This new lifestyle diet was/is not forced upon Aria and Drew; we make certain that they have food options to choose from, whether or not it is vegetarian. Introducing new meals/foods or raw food to children can be challenging. When you introduce new activities (or anything else) to children, they have to find the good or benefit to them to trust that they can accept whatever it is. This is true of food as well. Here are a few quick tips to getting started and staying firm in your new diet change.
Grocery shopping is the foundation to a vegetarian diet. Do not just make a list, make lists within your list. Break down your shopping list into categories. For example: dairy, snacks, breakfast, fruits, and so on. ASK the children for their must-haves and things they would like to try. Knowing exactly what will be consumed at a certain time of day will eliminate any food hiccups. The bulk of your shopping list should come from the produce and the “organic/natural” section of your grocery store. Also, shopping the outer aisles is accepted but steer clear of the inner aisles; that’s where the junk lives, filled with artificial flavoring and GMOs. Anyhow, if processed foods are being bought, READ THE INGREDIENTS. You should be able to identify the names in the ingredients. Keep the ingredients to 10 or less. Also, whatever the product is, that should be the first ingredient; for example, peanut butter, the first ingredient should be peanuts.
Now when I say meal prep, I do not intend for you to cook all of your meals for the week on Sunday, like those in fitness tend to do. I simply mean for you to plan out your meals for the week. Pinterest always saves the day with meal prepping; I get a ton of vegetarian meal ideas from Pinterest. By meal prepping, this leaves little room for hungry meals, making you relapse into your old meat-eating ways. Hey, I’m not judging; it happens. Include the children on planning the meals, they are more likely to eat any dish if it was their idea. Also include the children during the meal cooking, now you’re getting a great meal and a little bonding time.
This tip is my favorite, most successful, and simplest. Here is where you will swap those yucky ingredients for the healthy ingredients in your family’s favorites meals. Really simply. Swap those boneless buffalo wings for cauliflower. I know, I know, it does not taste like chicken, but it’s still so yummy. Two of my family’s favorite meals are tacos and spaghetti and I just swap the beef for an alternative meat protein, and they never knew! Taco night is still our weekday party day without the guilt.
You know, children always want a snack. It never stops. Now you can become the Snack Queen or King amongst your parent group. This is also a pretty simple tip: just look for the healthier options. Add more fruit and veggies into the rotation. When introducing new snacks, I like to play a game of guess the flavor, this tip generally swings in my favor and gets them excited.
Now we cannot always cook gourmet dinners 7 days a week, and luckily for us there are people who studied and love to cook for others for a living. Healthy eating has taken over, which means most restaurants are adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menus. You are not limited to salad and fries! In most places, you can swap the beef patty for a veggie patty on a burger. If the vegetarian and vegan options are not included on the menu, ask your server if the options exist. If the restaurant does not have dedicated vegetarian/vegan meals, then take a dive into the sides menu, which is usually filled with veggies. Usually the portion sizing is plentiful to where if you ordered 2-3 side plates, you’ll have fulfilling meal. Below are a several places in Memphis that offer amazing vegetarian/vegan options:
1. City Silo Table & Pantry
3. The Slider Inn
4. The Green Beetle
6. Eat Radical
7. Soul Fish café
8. Central BBQ
9. South of Beale
I hope these quick tips were helpful for those of you starting the journey or have stumbled and need help with refocusing. If you still have unanswered questions about switching your diet or children and the vegetarian diet, How to Raise a Healthy Vegetarian Kid has great insight on any lingering questions/concerns.