Vegetarian cooking with children.

A friend’s 10 year old daughter has decided she would like to try eating a vegetarian diet and I’ve offered to help plan out meal ideas for them to cook together. Her father has requested she take a more active role in meal planning because she’s still kind of a picky eater and this will make it even more difficult to find something she gets excited over.

Is there a vegetarian cookbook geared towards young people? Or maybe a website that has a good amount of non-exotic vegetarian ideas?

This will be a fun challenge due to her likes and dislikes. For instances no spicy food. She also has a fairly substantial number of foods she will absolutely not eat but has agreed on a list of foods she is willing to try.

I found this one & it’s mild-euro food:

being fussy about food can be all about power for a child, if she’s in charge of dinner, having to decide what to eat then cooking it, the onus will be on her. Smart thing to do whilst teaching her healthy nutrition.


Mollie Katzen has written a few children’s cookbooks. Honest Pretzels is one and I think the other is Pretend Soup. IIRC, the layout is very nice and user friendly, designed for kids to really learn how to enjoy cooking.

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I like this- some good ideas for using with my son! Thanks!

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I don’t particularly like spicy foods, and I found expanding my vegetarian diet easier when I stopped trying to make complicated meals, especially those requiring buying lots of unique ingredients only used in one dish or requiring following long paragraphs of instructions. For most of history, people ate food in season and it was without a lot of weekly variety. If she has a list of foods she likes, even if its small, so long is as they include the spectrum of nutrients she needs, and she’s not leaning on sugar and fat, I would let her start by focusing on eating what she likes, not introducing lots of unfamiliar foods, even if that means she’s eating a week or more of the same type of dish (like baked potatoes or pizza.)

Something I learned growing up with my sister, who later it was discovered had certain dietary needs, is that the foods she strongly liked – acidic foods, sour foods and bitters – were actually foods she needed to balance out her personal chemistry. Sometimes kids’ natural tastebuds and “dislikes” are what their body is telling them is “good” and “bad” for them, personally.

Many 10 year olds of course are attracted to vegetarianism simply because they are animal lovers rather than because they dislike the typical family meal. But I was better off when I stopped thinking of how to make vegetarian meals look like what the meat-eating majority thinks counts as dinner. A plate of whole grain bread or crackers, a bit of cheese, raw veg, nuts and fruit is very often my dinner, and I probably wouldn’t eat healthily if I was faced with the challenge of shopping and prepping to make a vegetarian pad thai or gumbo.

Truly don’t mean to sound negative about recipes, and will offer the constructive idea of helping to introduce the 10-year-old to the very wide variety of legumes and whole grains on the planet and discovering which she likes best. There is a big difference in flavor between black beans, lentils and chickpeas or peas, or buckwheat or barley or brown rice, but they’re all good, and a 10 year old might find it fun to shop, soak and try out that wide variety. Hopefully the rest of the family, even if they are sticking to meat, will join in sampling some of these as side dishes too because a 10 year old will have a hard time eating up all the purchases by herself.

But unless the child is actually suffering some nutrient deficit because of her refusal to eat certain foods, variety in diet is just a preference for some, not nutritionally necessary. There are many cultures where children and families do not eat something different for dinner every night of the week, and even parents aren’t fond of unfamiliar foods. I’m all for introducing kids to the widest possible experience of eating, but if they settle on a limited diet, and reject some food after one bite, that’s not a flaw or something they should be taught to change.


So I double checked on the Mollie Katzen books and Pretend Soup is aimed a younger audience (pre-schoolers) than honest pretzels, but the third one I couldn’t remember is called Salad People. Also, I I flipped through my copies of The Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest and think that many of those recipes are simple enough that they could work. The reason I’m suggesting so many Katzen books is that her books encourage experimentation and recognize that everyone has different tastes, which will come in handy when working with a picky eater.

Sundays at Moosewood has been one of my favorite cookbooks since I was given it as a vegetarian teen 20 years ago. I particularly liked that it is organized by countries- she might be enticed to think about “*where *would I like to eat from today?” While there are spices and strong flavors in some of the regional cuisines, there are plenty of options listed for adapting and plenty of chapters with more basic flavors.

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Thanks everyone for such great advice! I will definitely be getting her a Moosewood cookbook. I cut my vegetarian teeth on them when I was a young pup.

This is a great resource for non-scary foods. Thanks.

I believe this is the case with her along with environmental issues. Luckily she has a broad enough palate that it isn’t a health concern (I know plenty of adults more picky than she) but some of her no-go foods are things I really rely on when cooking vegetarian such as mushrooms and onions. I think she can be talked into introducing these if they are hidden such as grating the onion or very finely mincing and very finely minced mushroom and mushroom stock. I think it’s just a texture thing so maybe all is not lost.

She actually likes strong flavours, just not hot spicy. So mild curries might be okay. If anyone has a recommendation for a mild Thai curry paste, I’d love to hear about it. I use Mae Ploy and that’s going to be way too spicy for her.

I have bad memories of mistreated mushrooms that were slimy, so if she lives someplace where there are a variety of unusual fresh mushrooms available, like enoki, that might get around some of the bad associations. Also, the smell of mushrooms can be offensive to many people, even just having them around the house. I happen to like that very earthy aroma and flavor, but I can see where it would be a permanent turn off for some.

Again, regarding onions, experimenting with leeks and chives might be provide a way in. It took me years as an adult to learn how to work with onions without tears streaming down my face, and some American onions are really powerful that way, so hopefully there is a way to avoid that negative experience if she is willing to relent on onions in a recipe.

Had a few more thoughts: tofu. It’s mild and you can do all kinds of stir-fry dishes, even veg Pad See Eew/Thai drunken noodles just leave out the hot chilis & get veg fish sauce. The only way you could get mild red curry is to make your own…

Onions: vidalias are sweet if that would help. Otherwise you could givef Asafoetida, which is used to replace both onions and garlic in Indian cooking a while. I use it all the time.

Finally I just looked in my collection and Jo Stepaniak’s “Vegan Vittles” looks very suitable, not expressly for children but things like tofu egg salad, philly cheezesteaks, lasagna roll ups. All mild old-fashioned euro-american food. And it’s very good.
my go to dish for newbies is whole wheat spaghetti and veg crumble meat sauce. Make/buy sauce toss in crumbles and tons of veg: brocolli, zucchini, etc dead easy and nutricious.

some of it may be textural. for me it surely is. as a kid, i didn’t like mushrooms or onions either. as an adult, i very much dislike sauteed button mushrooms, but like duxelles quite a bit. i hate raw onions, don’t like sauteed onions all that much, but really like them caramelized. american yellow onions can be VERY acrid, so no reason not to try shallots, leeks or scallions instead.

it’s great the op is willing to help? but expecting a 10-year-old to develop a balanced vegetarian meal plan and do her own cooking sounds like the dad has another agenda. what happens if she winds up living on grilled cheese and carrots? what will the rest of the family be eating? do they eat meals together?

If I gave that impression, I must have explained it wrong. She is not being expected to create her own meal plans, she’s expected to be willing to try some new things so there will be enough of a varied diet and dad is asking for her to actively participate is making suggestions. That’s where I come in, I’m giving her ideas for suggestions.

I’m really hoping to keep her out of the grilled cheese, fake chicken nuggets and French fry trap. There’s no way around it, vegetarian cooking takes a lot longer than pan searing a piece of fish with a side of steamed broccoli. I don’t think pops has the patience for recipes that will take much more time than 30 minutes. Maybe some freezer meals made with his daughter on the weekends for the upcoming week could become a tradition.

They do eat meals together. I’m hoping to find enough options that the two omnivores will be satisfied without having to add meat or at the very least they can match up a roasted chicken thigh or steak or whatever without much extra effort.

could be my reading comprehension. :slight_smile:

it’s a challenge even for adult vegetarians to get a balanced diet and most have to take supplements for iron and b12, at the very least. it will be next to impossible for her to consume sufficient dha which is critical for childhood brain development. 10-year-olds may think cows are too cute to eat, but they lack the critical thinking skills to make serious decisions like this.

a friend recently received a similar declaration from her daughter so mom assigned her a research project and was very firm that “faux foods” like boca burgers and tofu hot dogs were not an option. as a result the daughter chose to give up red meat and birds. she eats fish, shellfish and eggs, so when the family is having steak, she scrambles up some eggs and eats the veg and starch that is also for dinner.

off soapbox, sorry.

not book rec’s, but some ideas for making dinners easier:

unless she is going to eat eggs, she will be relying on legumes for protein. these can be made in huge batches, portioned and frozen for easier weeknight meal prep. a pile of beans warmed up and finished with some salsa comes together in a snap and is good over almost any starch. look for bags of frozen shelled edamame which cook quickly too.

one-bowl meals of broth, lentils, some frozen spinach stirred in and a splash of coconut milk can be very satisfying. most veggies can be steamed or roasted, then pureed, portioned and frozen; then turned into soup with broth and/or coconut milk.

whole potatoes can be baked or steamed in quantity and then used throughout the week as a platform for veggie stirfry or something like cheesy broccoli.

quinoa and barley can also be cooked in big batches, portioned and freeze well.

bagged frozen veggies cook quickly and will most likely mean less waste than trying to always cook from fresh.

having some home-made sauces on hand will help liven up steamed veggies or salads:


green goddess:

thai peanut sauce:

lemon-yogurt dressing:

you’re a nice friend to help. :slight_smile: if nothing else, it will serve as a great lesson in cooking from scratch.

You’ve been so helpful, much appreciated!

Actually generic “curry powder” from the regular grocery store is likely the best option- i have yet to find one that is actually hot spicey and at the same time it’s like a babybstep towards what a proper curry is. So if this is a new flavor for her perhaps a good starting point

I was that kid myself at one point :)) well, minus the picky part.
I think it’s important she get involved with cooking to help broaden her palette as well as feel like an active participant in this new lifestyle choice.
Perhaps cooking a few dishes on the weekend that will be lunches/dinners for the coming week is a good idea. Something like bean based veggie burgers (or meatless balls), a stew or soup, and batch of baked tofu. I would also prioritize ways to cook with tempeh since that is great high protein whole food that can be great just as a quick stir fry or crumbled and used as a ground beef alternative for something like tacos or casseroles with ground meat.

For cooking a vegetarian main for the family jaime oliver’s site actually has a great collection of fairly quick recipes

Hotoynoodle: this is absolutely wrong! > it’s a challenge even for adult vegetarians to get a balanced diet and most have to take supplements for iron and b12, at the very least. it will be next to impossible for her to consume sufficient dha which is critical for childhood brain development. 10-year-olds may think cows are too cute to eat, but they lack the critical thinking skills to make serious decisions like this.>

This kind of unsupported nonsense really is offensive to Vegetarians such as myself. And contemptuous to boot. I’ll be sure to tell all my Jain friends their ethical beliefs they teach to their children and diet are rubbish"A well-balanced lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, including dairy products, can satisfy all nutritional needs of the growing child.

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the key here being well-balanced. becoming a vegetarian shouldn’t be a lark from a 10-year-old.

as for your links, i too have google and could counter your studies, but know that would be futile. :wink: suffice to say we evolved as omnivores.

Kindly leave this forum and peddle your opinions elsewhere. This isn’t the place for it. I expect respect in the Vegetarian/Vegan forum, which I helped found.

I’m an ethical Vegan and I won’t put up with the disrespect you’re dishing out.

You cannot dispute the NIH - the government National Institutes of Health, which is the study I posted.

I might feel the same about yours but was too respectful to call you on it and believe you have just as much right as i do to be here. this is a cooking board, not a place for discussing “ethics”.

the op is about a 10-year-old kid, growing up with omnivorous parents. she won’t be cooking all her own food, has no real idea about meeting her nutritional needs, and will spend a good portion of her day at school, with limited dining options. i’ll assume that unlike this child, you are a well-informed adult?

Plant foods are not a high-quality source of vitamin B12. Thus, it is not surprising that studies have shown low serum concentrations of vitamin B12 in children on vegan and macrobiotic diets without supplementation (4). Vitamin B12 deficiency is not a benign condition; it may lead to megaloblastic anemia and neurological disorders. Mild vitamin B12 deficiency in infancy, with or without hematological signs of deficiency, may be associated with impaired cognitive performance in adolescence, specifically, fluid intelligence (which involves reasoning, the capacity to solve complex problems, abstract thinking ability and the ability to learn), spatial ability and short-term memory

nonheme iron from plants is less bioavailable than heme iron from animal sources. Consequently, iron deficiency anemia has been shown in many studies to occur in vegetarian children and in a greater proportion of macrobiotic children. Iron deficiency is also not a benign condition, because anemic infants may have significantly lower Mental and Psychomotor Developmental Index scores compared with control infants

Calcium intake for vegan and macrobiotic children may be below current recommendations (2), and their diets may contain substances found in plant foods that may impair calcium absorption

** Without the appropriate monitoring and supplementation**, these diets may have deleterious effects on a child’s health outcomes. Nutritional deficiencies, particularly early in life, may adversely affect growth, bone mineral content, and motor and cognitive development.
studies consistently show that up to 50 percent of long-term vegetarians and 80 perent of vegans are deficient in B12.

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