Vegetarian Diet Plan And Recipes For Picky Eaters

Picky Eater Pre-Teen makes mom worry about vegetarian nutrition.  Savvy Veg helps with kid friendly recipes for picky eaters and a vegetarian diet plan.

Picky Eater

Message for Savvy Vegetarian:

I have a very picky eater (10 yo)! She will only eat:  Pizza, white rice, refried beans,  mac&cheese or cheese tortellini,  mini bagels (with strawberry cream cheese),  soft salty pretzels,  and veggie ham and cheese or egg and feta as long as I wrap it in a white tortilla (slaps forehead).

She will gag …and physically puke if she detects the slightest hint of an herb or taste that is not what she expects or likes. I’d like some suggestions on how to stay true to vegetarianism, offer her what she likes but add some variety and healthiness in her (mostly) vegetarian diet.

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She likes pepperoni (!) but no other meat. I convinced her to take a bite of some seitan which she didn’t gag over (hope!).  The only thing I’ve been able to sneak in is pureed pumpkin or finely chopped spinach in the refried beans, and tofu in eggs.  I’ve bought books with recipes for picky eaters, mom-n-me, and the recipe books on hiding things in your child’s meals, but I can only get 1-2 things out of them. Some of the recipes make me point and laugh out loud. Really?!  – O.A.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Hi O.A. – My granddaughter, who just turned 11, is like that too! But you should be able to find healthy things that she’ll eat, because there’s almost an infinite variety available in vegetarian food.   I don’t believe at this age that you’ll get her to eat 100% healthy or 100% veg all the time. 50% is a realistic goal. I think you probably agree that the occasional pepperoni and chicken nuggets is a non-issue compared to her overall nutrition levels.

At ten, your daughter is most likely ready to start learning about vegetarian nutrition and to help with cooking, shopping & cleaning up – so she knows what vegetarians need to eat to be healthy, what’s involved in producing food, and can start “owning” her diet, taking responsibility for her diet, and deciding what she needs and wants to make for herself to eat. (You’re her Mom, not her kitchen slave. :-) Once she understands what her food should be providing, for optimum health, growth and physical development, she’ll be more likely to get on board with the healthy food choices. Choices being the key.

The freedom to make some of her own food choices, instead of having you nag her to eat right or try to sneak green things into her food, must come with responsibility for eating healthy so she gets the nutrition her body needs. The consequences of NOT eating healthy must be clearly spelled out. She’s on the verge of adolescence, when proper nutrition is more critical than at any other time of life except infancy.

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Once the idea of eating a certain amount of veggies, fruit, whole grains and legumes every day is accepted, then the choices you offer her become easier and more obvious. E.G. whether to eat Black Bean Quesadillas or a Black Bean Veggie Burger for supper, granola with almond milk or whole wheat toast & almond butter for breakfast, hummus or fried tofu in her veggie wrap, an orange or an apple for a snack.

I realize that the tricky part of this vegetarian diet plan is getting her on board with it. A lot depends on the amount of interest and motivation she has. It’s not something you can force on her, but it’s something you can motivate and help her to learn, by making this a project you do together, gradually increasing her responsibility as her knowledge and cooking skills grow. The idea isn’t to turn her into a little vitamin counter, but to raise her awareness about food.

Have a look at our kid friendly recipes. Many of them are easy enough for her to learn to make herself, and will appeal to her 10 yr old taste buds. Savvy Vegetarian’s nutrition report gives nutrition basics without boring statistics. Follow up on some of the resources we list there if one or both of you want to go more in depth. One book I highly recommend is the reliable and readable veg nutrition bible, The New Becoming Vegetarian by Melina & Davis. Even if she’s not interested in reading it herself, it’ll help you become a knowledgeble source of nutrition info for her.

All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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5 Responses to “Vegetarian Diet Plan And Recipes For Picky Eaters”

  1. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi Evangeline, whether or not you jump right into a vegetarian diet or not is a personal choice, and one that younger people like yourself are more likely to make. From what I’ve seen, people who go 100% veg all at once are just as likely to go back to eating meat as those who go veg gradually. It’s normal and human to go back and forth with veg diet, until veggie knowledge, attitudes and habits get well established. The big danger I see is in deciding that veg diet doesn’t work, makes you sick etc, and turning against it forever. You need to give veg diet a fair chance, study up on nutrition, make an effort to try new foods, and just keep moving forward, no matter which approach you take. As you seem to be saying, it’s a matter of commitment.

  2. Evangeline Mantler says:

    I am 11 years old and just became a vegetarian this summer. It’s kinda hard, but it gets easyer after a while. One thing, though. You can’t slide into it because you’ll just keep going back. You need to jump right in.

  3. Great advice. Making her “chief of command” works great and increases success odds! This is one of the tricks I use with my kids and recommend in my groups.

  4. Olga says:

    Bless you!

  5. Molly says:

    Great response, Judith. Good advice to help the child take responsibility, learn and grow. It’s easy to just do everything for them, make all the decisions, say “yes this,” or “no that,” but by allowing them to educate themselves, we’re setting them up for a successful life. Thank you!

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