Veggie Boy

Veggie Boy 2

I walked a few days last week, but I spent the majority of the time wrapping books, decorating the library, and painting the 4th grade classroom. Since I can sum up a week like that in one sentence (see above), I thought I’d talk about kids and how they can inspire action.

Immediately after bringing home Buttercup, Nico stopped eating chicken. Shortly after that he stopped eating beef, and not long after it was pork. Now we when go to restaurants he says, “I don’t eat cows or birds or pigs.” He eats veggie burritos or tacos at Mexican restaurants, burgers or sandwiches without the meat at casual dining spots, tofu stir-fries at Chinese restaurants (we’ve only been once because Mikey and the Mister don’t like Chinese food), and his favorite pizza is pineapple and onion.

People think it’s cute, but they think it’s just the whim of a 7 year old boy. Even I wondered about the strength of his dedication when we went to my mother in-law’s house. But he turned down her pot roast, which he loves, and when we asked him if he wanted gravy (true test) he said no because “gravy is made from cows.” He looked at us like we were dimwitted for not putting together the beef gravy = cow-thing.

Nico will occasionally eat fish. Dairy is a no-go unless it is an accent and even in tacos and burritos he asks for no cheese/sour cream.

Mikey says he doesn’t have what it takes to be a vegetarian.

Cooking to appease both boys has been challenging. Already I’m getting well-meaning advice from family and friends. Don’t let him eat soy. Don’t let him eat too many carbs. Were is he getting his protein? He’s going to get anemic. You’ll stunt his growth. The comments all come from a place of concern and love, so I don’t take offense.

The Mister isn’t a problem. He eats whatever I make and has already cut down the amount of meat he eats. He says Nico inspires him. The pediatrician said that I should not discourage Nico and that he wished all his patients were budding vegetarians. I have the support of Nico’s dad and his pediatrician, and that’s enough for me.

Nico says it’s important to him that I do this too, and of course I will. It’s not like he’s asking me to join him in his den of ill repute! That said, I do need some advice. We don’t know any vegetarian families. We definitely don’t know any vegan families. I’m not afraid of being different or trying something new. I consider this an exciting adventure and am up for the challenge. I’m hoping someone here has a vegetarian/vegan family that can lead the way and give me tips.

Comments
41 Responses to “Veggie Boy”
  1. Katherine says:

    I hope you gets lots of good comments and links to help in this new era for your family. My husband was a vegetarian for three years, around the late elementary/middle school times. It is frequently referred to with sort of an eye roll and a “what a pain that was” sort of vibe. If my kids choose that path, I would like to give it the respect you seem to be. I think it is great that Nico is thinking critically about the food he eats. Best of luck!

  2. Sarah S says:

    My son became a vegetarian when he was 5 and put together the whole meat=animals thing. We supported him in it, although we did not become vegetarian ourselves (we lean more towards Paleo). It lasted a good few months and then one day he decided he wanted some bacon at breakfast and that was the end of that. But I would have been happy for him to remain a vegetarian if that’s what he’d wanted. It really was a pain making sure he was eating well – luckily for us he still ate dairy and eggs. Vegan would be tough!

  3. Shelby says:

    I’d check out Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny. Easy family recipes that are vegan.

  4. Nicole says:

    What a supportive mom (& family!) Nico has! I made a similar declaration at 15 & it meant the world to me that my parents never once tried to talk me out of it or made me feel silly. Though it helps that my mom loves to cook & thought of it as a fun adventure to try new vegetarian recipes. 20 years later I’m still a veggie. :)

    That being said, I’m so excited you posted this – while I don’t eat meat, carbs are my primary food group & I’m really trying to learn how to eat more healthy. Unfortunately, I found out how easy it is to be more of a junk-food-itarian than anything – avoiding meat doesn’t always mean increased nutrition!

    Though I’m not much help, I am a hoarder of aspirational veggie info – sharing in case it is useful:
    * Lots of vegetarian recipes on my pinterest board (and some non-veggie for the husband): http://www.pinterest.com/NicoleMcCabe/looks-yummy/
    * At some point I saved this article of best Vegan blogs: http://www.greenthickies.com/8-best-vegan-blogs-vegan-recipes/

  5. Trina says:

    Not many tips here, just applause.

    My mother raised her three kids vegetarian. The two girls are 5’9″ and 5’10”. My brother is 6’7″. From that standpoint, we seem to have gotten plenty of nutrients. It makes me so happy that you’re approaching your son’s desire to eat vegan/vegetarian in a mode of discovery and support–whether this diet is for the rest of his life, or just a few months.

    One tip: At home we make lots of stir-fries, Mexican-style dinner bowls, and Indian- or Thai-style curries. Eating out, Indian and Thai are also two of the easiest cuisines to find interesting and well-balanced vegetarian options, especially if Nico is open to the fish sauce (a staple of Thai).

  6. Kate says:

    Your kids are so awesome (and your Lenten Fridays just got soooo much easier).

    My sister became a vegetarian in her middle school years. She started eating meat when she was pregnant because she CRAVED it. She’s pretty much gone back to not eating meat much at all. I became a vegetarian for about five months after reading “The Ethics of What We Eat” but at my daughter’s first birthday party we served brats and I caved. (HARD – I ate 3). I have become very particular about purchasing local, sustainably raised meat but I love a good steak. Abram doesn’t like meat so it’s usually not the centerpiece of our meal but it makes an add on often because the rest us of do. (Big salads with the option of steak on the side. Rice and veggie bowls for him, chicken added for the rest of us)

    I couldn’t do vegan because I love eggs (and honey and seafood – so true “vegetarianism” is out for me too) but I really like the websites Oh She Glows, Fork & Beans, and Sprouted Kitchen. We also have used the cookbook “Peas & Thank You” and the cookbook “Super Natural Everyday” is also a really great vegetarian option – though it took me awhile to adjust to some of the ingredients (or find some of them in our Midwest grocery stores).

    Looking forward to seeing what other resources are suggested!

  7. Shannon Kruger says:

    This might be a good resource, Jules, http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Whole-Family-Recipes-Children/dp/157061525X. I don’t have the cookbook but friends who do love it and the recipes I’ve eaten from it are amazing.

  8. Jenn says:

    My husband and I have been vegetarian for over 20 years. Our 11yr old is very picky and could subsist on dairy. Our 9yr old was dairy allergic until he was 5 and remains extremely allergic to peanuts, and mildly allergic to tree nuts. Dinner has always been a challenge! We have two types of dinners- basic vegetarian dinners that most everybody likes (lasagna, burritos, tofu stir fry, quiche, pasta, homemade pizza, taco night) and some vegetarian dinners that don’t appeal to my picky eater (mushroom stroganoff, interesting salads from cookbooks/blogs like super natural everyday.) On those nights he will eat a modified version of what we are eating. I occasionally will prepare meat at home for the kids, but mostly they eat meat at restaurants.

    Does nico like nuts and seeds? We always have hulled sunflower seed and pumpkin seeds to add to salads and to homemade trail mix. We eat sunbutter as well.

    I look to my favorite blogs for dinner inspiration- food 52, smitten kitchen shutterbean, joy the baker and orangette.

    Good luck!

  9. Shaina says:

    After reading Eating Animals with you a few months ago, I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating chicken or pork. Beef was still okay. Apparently bacon was okay too. Then after a month or so, pork was offered and I couldn’t remember if that was one that bothered me – or why it should – and ate it. I still haven’t forgotten about the chemical bath of chickens. That said, I’ve eaten chicken twice in the last month. Once was at a farm-to-table restaurant that we had a gift certificate to. I decided not to wonder too hard about how the chicken was slaughtered. The second was at a family reunion that had a wide array of all sorts of disgusting looking meats & casseroles. Knowing that none of it would be a good choice made chicken an easy choice. Now I’m questioning my resolve. I lasted 3 months. I’m still squeamish about the chemical bath but that little voice in the back of my head is reminding me that I’ve been “fine” all these years while I ate it ignorantly. *sigh* I commend Nico’s resolve.

  10. Shaina says:

    Oh! I also meant to say that if you come across any meal ideas that doesn’t involve soy/tofu & that Mikey likes (since it seems he’s your carnivore!) please share.

  11. Adeline says:

    I’ve been vegetarian for the past five years only so I’m not sure how much help I can offer, but growing up we would eat meat or fish maybe 1-3 times a week (partly for financial reasons and partly because no one in the family is a big meat/fish person). So at the risk of pointing out the obvious, making more vegetarian meals than before that the whole family can eat might avoid you having to prepare additional dishes for the one meal? Not sure if that’s helpful, but off the top of my head my parents relied on things like vegetarian couscous (a HUGE pot of veggies and couscous on the side), stuffed pumpkins or all sorts of stuffed vegetables like courgettes, onions and peppers (using rice or couscous) or gratins. Lots and lots of gratins and veggie pies or lasagna.

    In no way am I a nutritionist but the basics I’ve learnt are that veggies like broccoli, kale and other dark green leaves offer a great amount of proteins, vitamins and iron. In my five years of being vegetarian I’ve never bothered with the vegan ‘tricks’ of grounding nuts for ‘meat replacements’, adding avocado to cakes or having to take additional vitamins or iron supplements, and my health is just fine. Sometimes I add tofu to stir fries if I feel like eating tofu, but otherwise I rely on plain meals without feeling I should add a processed type of protein like Quorn.

    Anyway, vegetarian or not, it’s fantastic to see a kid show so much interest in and awareness of where his food is coming from, and it’s lovely to see how your family is supporting his choice. Good luck!

  12. nap says:

    I don’t have kids but I am a fussy (most of the time) vegetarian with a meat eating husband. I have a few tried an true recipes that I’d like to share.

    Beans and Greens – Quick, amazing dish that is filing. We eat it as a meal with a side of cornbread and substitute kidney beans for the cannellini – balsamic vinegar for the sherry wine vinegar. You will want to double to triple the recipe. It’s good leftover. beanshttp://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sauteed-Greens-with-Cannellini-Beans-and-Garlic-241906

    Oh She Glows – Lightened Up Protein Power Bowl – A little more time consuming but makes a TON of food and is delicious leftover. http://ohsheglows.com/2011/05/12/lightened-up-protein-power-goddess-bowl/

    Budget Bytes – Vegan Red Beans and Rice – Has a lot of hands off cooking time. Makes a TON of food and is delicious leftover. http://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/02/vegan-red-beans-rice/

    Smitten Kitchen – Smashed Chickpea Salad – I use canned chickpeas and a jar of roasted red peppers diced in the mixture. It’s good as a sandwich filling or as a salad topping. The flavors go together nicely but you could reduce the onion & olive to make it more kid friendly. http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/01/smashed-chickpea-salad/

    • Shaina says:

      Thank you Nap! These look like excellent make-ahead lunch options for me! I love a good make-ahead-and-portion option. :)

    • Jeen-Marie says:

      Oh! I LOVE Smitten Kitchen’s smashed chickpea salad!
      Also love Food Babe’s curry chickpea wrap. I usually 2x the recipe and 3x the dressing. I leave it in the fridge to marinate all week. So good and definite favorite!

  13. Susan says:

    I have been a vegetarian for 25 years and live with dedicated carnivores. Ideally, I prepare a vegetarian meal for me that is a side dish for the rest of the family. They are eating vegetarian a couple of nights a week now, too. A Variety of grains, especially quinoa and beans will provide protein. If you have a wide ranging diet you don’t need to concern yourself overly much with complete proteins (beans and rice are the perfect pairing for this). One thing that is VERY important is B12 supplementation, as it is one vitamin that is only found in meat. Sublingual products are best. GNC makes a tasty liquid one. Happy eating!
    Susan
    PS Beware the pasta and box foods traps! I fall into them often

  14. Samma says:

    Just wanted to add on to the recommendation for one of the first blogs I started reading; SmittenKitchen. Deb isn’t 100% vegetarian, but most of her offerings are meatless, and the recipes I’ve made of hers have been delicious.

    Also, the Morningstar black bean patties are a really tasty burger substitute. It’s easy to keep a box of them in the freezer for when we host our vegetarian friends, and we eat them too.

  15. Katie says:

    Just ran across this recipe right after reading your post. It sounds yummy and I plan on making it this week. Thought I would share. http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/roasted-cauliflower-and-chickpea-tacos/

  16. Alicia says:

    I became a vegetarian at age 11. I tried when I was in 2nd grade, but my mom was not exactly supportive. You’re lucky it’s so easy to find veg recipes these days! Will he eat eggs? I get my eggs from the farmer’s market so I can ask about how the chickens were raised, maybe that would work for him as well? Overall, I think it’s just important to eat a wide variety of foods, especially veggies. People overreact about protein, it’s in all foods and as long as he eats beans and some nuts/seeds he’ll be fine.

    Don’t forget to ask your mexican restaurant if they’re refried beans are vegetarian, a lot of places still use lard (even most canned refried beans). And soups can be sneaky too, even if there’s no meat it might use chicken broth.

  17. Sarah says:

    I think I’ve recommended this before, but I love Veganomicon and I’ve recently purchased a few new cookbooks that I’ve been having fun with – Sprouted Kitchen, Feast, Oh She Glows cookbook and Meatless. I can also attest to Smitten Kitchen and Super Natural Every Day being great.

    If you need something fast and delicious, I love the Masala ‘burgers’ from Trader Joe’s. Smear a little hummus on top and put some tomatoes on there and I don’t even eat it like a burger with bread.

    I think you’re friends with Anna Dorfman on Instagram; she’s vegan and might have suggestions for you.

  18. Caitlyn says:

    My fiance and I are vegetarians and plan to raise our kids this way. A ton of food is already vegetarian or easily made that way. Not sure if you are looking to cook only vegetarian foods or if you are trying to accommodate both Nico and Mikey. I’d probably recommend cooking mostly vegetarian meals, but having a few meals that have meat option. Homemade pizza is great because Nico can have his pineapple and onion, while Mikey gets his meat on. Almost all Mexican dishes can be made with just beans + veggies – tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, etc. Not sure if Nico eats eggs, but if so, breakfast for dinner is always yummy (if he is primarily concerned about animal welfare, perhaps free range eggs would be a good compromise, if your family is willing/able to get them) – waffles/pancakes are good options if eggs are a no-go. Tons of pasta dishes – I usually throw some spinach/broccoli in creamy sauces or eggplant/mushrooms/peppers and onions in red sauces – this adds protein as well as veggie nutrients. Sometimes when I’m craving meat, I will throw some veggie crumbles (i.e. fake ground beef) in spaghetti sauce or use taco seasoning to make traditional Americanized “beef” tacos. I know veggie meat isn’t for everyone, but those are the two applications that you can barely tell the difference. As others have said above, Indian and Asian foods also offer a ton of vegetarian recipes. Burgers are another good option for when Mikey wants meat – it’s pretty easy to serve both veggie burgers and real burgers (I prefer Gardenburgers Original or Morningstar Black Bean – neither is trying to be meat, they are just yummy veggie/bean patties – of course there are also a ton of recipes to make your own if you are trying to stay away from packaged foods). Sandwiches can be tough when you don’t eat meat – but powerhouses are great (basically hummus and your choice of veggies – cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, sprouts are my favorites, but you can find a lot of other ideas/suggestions online).
    One last recipe (for this super long comment) – I make a veggie chili that is amazing and even meat eaters love it – start with a chopped onion, green/red pepper, and a few cloves of garlic, add a can of black beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans (I don’t usually drain them as the juice evaporates, but if you are worried about sodium, you can rinse them and just add a bit of water/veggie broth), a can of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, about a cup of corn (I use frozen), then add cumin, red pepper, cayenne to taste (I usually do a couple tablespoons of cumin because I love the stuff, and just a little bit of the peppers, but I don’t measure anything). If you make it on the stove, it’s usually done in about 45 mins. – in the slow cooker, on low, it can go for a few hours.
    Yay Nico! You can do it! Passing up pot roast really is impressive! FYI, if he’s still going strong come November, Thanksgiving will be tough, but if it’s at someone else’s house, I’d highly recommend bringing a main dish for him – I usually do a big mac and cheese for the whole table (and it’s always popular with meat-eaters and veggies alike), but if cheese is out, I’m sure you can come up with something he loves to make it easier on him. Good luck!

  19. Lauren says:

    My vegetarians are much older and much younger (my husband and my almost-2-year old), but we’ve found a lot of good recipes at http://weelicious.com/ We do tend to eat a lot of cheese (my toddler and I have picnic lunches that are basically fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and sliced bell peppers, yum), and I make sure we’re having dark greens (broccoli, spinach, kale, etc) at least 4-5 times a week for the nutrients. Depending on how you feel, you may want to try to find vegetarian versions of your favorite family recipes so you can all eat the same thing a few nights a week. For us, it was a nice stepping stone.

  20. Lisa says:

    We are down to eating meat once or twice a week. In fact, we eat meat on Mondays, in direct contravention to Meatless Monday, for the simple reason that I go grocery shopping on Sundays and thus the one piece of meat I bought is freshest on Mondays. But the rest of the week is usually meatless or meat is an small add-in to the main meal, with the exception of the occasional bbq with hamburgers on Saturdays.

    I also struggle with the feeding of multiple needs for different people–between insulin resistance, lactose intolerance and multiple food allergies, I need a Venn diagram to make dinner. I make a lot of “deconstructed” dinners, where there’s a lot on the table and everyone can pick what they want to add. For example, I make a lentil minestrone soup that is just veggies and lentils, and on the side I serve rice or pasta and sausage and kale and cheese. The kids can bulk up the soup with pasta, the insulin resistant one can skip the rice but add sausage and kale, everyone but me can add cheese, etc.

    I substitute lentils for meat in a lot of dishes. We eat lentil tacos frequently–boil up some lentils, then toss in some refried beans and a packet of taco seasoning and voila, meatless tacos. My kids do not appreciate the relentless pushing of lentils (I keep saying “clearly you just haven’t tasted them enough times to like them! Maybe this time is the one!”), and I make sure there is at least two different kinds of fruit on the table and one other side that they do like.

    My other recipe to share is pasta with broccoli. The mister and I eat the broccoli sauce over zucchini noodles, and the kids eat it over pasta. And they love it–my daughter ASKS for broccoli sauce every week. (If you don’t have a vegetable spiralizer it is sooo worth the money. Don’t buy the crappy $14 handheld one, get the $39 one on Amazon.)

    I use two bags of frozen broccoli to feed a family of five. Defrost the two bags of broccoli first (it will cook much quicker if you defrost for five minutes in the microwave first.) Pour a lot of olive oil over the bottom of a big pan, add one can of anchovies in oil and break up the anchovies. (Yes, trust me, this is what makes it delicious, do not skip the anchovies, I promise it will not taste fishy.) Toss in the broccoli and cook through. My kids like the broccoli a bit greener, I like it cooked down till its crispy, but it tastes good either way.

    You can stop there and just toss the broccoli over pasta (that’s how my mother in law serves it), but I take a half a cup of boiling pasta water , add it to the blender along with about a cup of the cooked broccoli, and puree it. (My middle one likes the broccoli pureed but not whole, the youngest insists on both pureed and whole broccoli.) Serve pasta with broccoli sauce and remaining cooked broccoli. The best part of this meal is that it is 3 ingredients, costs about $7 for a family of five, and is ready in about a half hour.

  21. Jessica says:

    There tactics and politics are often incendiary and divisive, but the PETA website has good resources and information, such as this article: http://www.peta.org/living/food/raising-vegetarian-kids/

  22. snapdragon says:

    Nuts!
    Not you… the vegetarians. They eat a lot of nuts. So do the Seventh Day Adventists- you might want to try one of their websites or cookbooks.

    And thanks for going veg- it leaves more bacon for me! :->

  23. Anna says:

    I’m not sure how much help I can be to you, but I’ve been a lone vegetarian in a family of omnivores for my entire life (27 years and counting). The story goes that when my mother switched over to solid foods I just wouldn’t eat anything with meat – I’d spit it all right back out. She tried for a year before she gave up.

    That said, I’ve always been tall for my age, I lived almost solely on pasta and bread for the first 11 years of my life, and I get sick only once or twice a year (usually after being in close contact with someone who has a cold). While I do have consistently low hemoglobin, that only means that I bulk up on spinach and leafy greens before I donate blood.

    Everyone above has had good suggestions, and I second the comments that nominate nuts and seeds as a good source of protein. Also, I know that I get a LOT of my protein from milk/cheese/yogurt/other dairy products. My favorite website for new recipes is Cookstr: http://www.cookstr.com/ Under “Advanced Search” you can specify vegetarian/vegan and get 1000+ results. It’s also good because you can search by ingredients and dietary restrictions, so you can try to use up what you already have (good for when you get a lot of something from the CSA).

    I admire your commitment to Nico’s commitment, and thank you on his behalf. I know I couldn’t have done it if my mother hadn’t been supportive throughout my lifelong vegetarianism.

    I am happy to answer any questions you may have if you think I can be at all helpful. Good luck!

  24. Anna L says:

    While I’m not vegetarian/vegan, I often find myself eating that way simply for health and budget reasons. One of my favorite places for recipes, based upon a family menu, is Naturally Ella.
    http://naturallyella.com
    Her Pinterest page may also be really useful as a better way to sort through types of recipes: http://www.pinterest.com/naturallyella/

    Forgive me if you already know of this one, but I wanted to pass along!

  25. Krysten says:

    As a former vegetarian who feeds her family several vegetarian meals a week (including a 4 year old boy) the cookbooks I really like are: Super Natural Every Day (the quinoa patties are a crowd pleaser), and The Yummy Mummy Kitchen (she has a blog too).

  26. Marian says:

    First off, kudos to you for respecting Nico’s stance. Not everyone does this! About a year after my then 11-year old daughter declared she was going to be vegetarian, her social studies teacher presented Food Inc. to her class. This resulted in one of her best friends telling her parents that she wanted to be vegetarian, to which they responded, “No, absolutely not!” (I was of two minds when this happened: first, slightly appalled that they would summarily dismiss her concerns; but second, I felt a bit duped, and said (tongue-in-cheek) to my husband, “I didn’t know we could just tell her “no” and that would be the end of it!”)

    Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before (during the Eating Animals discussion), our family is now almost entirely vegetarian (in restaurants our 9 year old eats meat/chicken/fish, and my husband, who travels a lot, will sometimes eat meat/chicken/fish depending on what vegetarian fare is available). This has been an evolution, occurring over several years. At the time my daughter declared her vegetarianism, we were already eating meatless meals several times weekly, so it wasn’t a huge upset. On the days meat was served, I cooked (heated) some sort of frozen vegetarian entree for her (like Amy’s burritos or veggie patties). About a year after my daughter became vegetarian, my second child declared he was going to be vegetarian too. There’s been ups and downs (at one point they both agreed to eat meat/chicken if it was free-range) and there was a point where – I’m very ashamed to say – I made it clear that the whole thing was impractical/un-doable/too much work. This happened shortly after moving back to Canada from the US (a particularly stressful move): I was overwhelmed, my youngest was practically declaring rebellion at the supper table, and their vegetarianism was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They softened their stances, things settled down after about a year, and when they declared their intentions again, I was ready to join them.

    Sorry about that long-winded preamble! Regarding protein: while it used to be thought that you had to combine foods at the same meal in order to get sufficient protein from plant sources, that’s now known not to be necessary. I find the website nutritionfacts.org to be an amazing resource, and the medical doctor who runs the site recently highlighted a study that shows vegetarians get plenty of protein.

    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/do-vegetarians-get-enough-protein/

    The meals I make for our family usually include beans or lentils (and if your kids don’t appreciate green lentils, there’s a huge variety out there to choose from). I often add beans to recipes that don’t call for them (for example, when I make tomato soup I add navy beans; when blended they make an almost creamy texture. So this meal, for example, would consist of the tomato/bean soup, whole-grain bread, cheese or hummus (depending on the person), a salad and another veggie. Plenty of protein!). One site I really like is Fat Free Vegan Kitchen (she does a lot with pressure cooking, but I just adapt to stove-top or slow cooker). I’ve tried many of the Oh She Glows recipes with good success.

    Soy: I’m not sure if the fear over soy is warranted or not. I tried researching this a few years ago, and as with many things in nutrition, it’s complicated (and polarizing opinions abound). I don’t know if the whole soy scare came out of people taking isoflavone tablets (people thinking, well, the Japanese eat a lot of soy and have low breast cancer rates, therefore I should eat soy and so I’ll take a tablet…), but to me it seems prudent to not overload on the stuff. We eat tofu about once a week (either cut into little cubes and put into a stir-fry, or frozen-then-grated and put into lasagna or chili as a hamburger substitute). TVP is, I think, a love-it or hate-it kind of thing. My daughter loves it; I hate it. I used to drink soy milk, but switched to almond milk.

    Iron: Most experts agree that it’s not difficult for vegetarians to get enough, if they’re consuming quality foods: legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, high vitamin C foods (cooking with cast iron, another trick). Our test for this came when my daughter turned 16 and became eligible to donate blood. Her first visit she was told her iron was marginally too low. For the next few weeks she made sure to eat vitamin C containing foods alongside her higher-iron vegetarian foods and the next time she went to the Red Cross her iron was fine and she was able to donate. I do buy iron-containing multi-vitamins for us just to make sure (but she was taking those the whole time, not just after the first low test).

    B-12: if a person is leaning more to veganism, it’s very important to supplement B-12, which is only found in animal products.

    DHA/EPA/omega-3: this is a very confusing something… We used to eat salmon a couple times a week (me thinking, phew, we’re covered on the DHA, but then I read Eating Animals and fish went out the window…). I do a lot of baking, and throw flax seed meal into practically everything (whole wheat cookies, muffins, etc) but there’s some question as to whether or not the plant-sourced omegas are converted in a large enough quantity to DHA/EPA, and to add further confusion, a high omega-6 diet (lots of vegetable oils, for example) appears to interfere with this conversion. There are algae based DHA supplements out there (because the fish consume the algae, so basically avoid the middleman) but I haven’t yet done anything about buying these yet. They’re expensive, and I’m not sure they’re necessary. I would love to hear others’ opinions on this!

    (Apologies for the length of my comment – I love talking food!)

    • Caitlyn says:

      Wow, super useful information! Thanks for sharing!

    • Susan G says:

      That is extremely helpful. I was diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer 16 years ago and I do lean away from soy somewhat. It’s still not certain whether the phytoestrogens block the estrogen and protect against it or act just like it.

      • Marian says:

        It’s definitely a complicated thing, and it certainly seems that when nutrients are concentrated and put into tablet form (with the “some is good, therefore more must be better” way of thinking) that quite often leads to unforeseen and undesirable effects. And yes, if I were in your shoes I’d be somewhat leery of soy as well; until they know precisely how it’s acting, why take a chance? (Glad to hear it was so long ago, and I do hope all is well with you now).

        I do feel I should add a caveat to my novel of a comment: I have a B.Sc and a B.Sc in pharmacy, and I’ve done a TON :) of reading, but I’m not a nutritionist by training.

  27. Phaedra says:

    I love that you’re being so supportive of Nico’s choice and that the Mister is also joining in! I’m a huge fan of deconstructed/component meals that have a variety of options and everyone picks what they want. That works for most dietary lifestyles and it doesn’t have to feel like one person or half the table is eating one thing on their own. I saw some great links already listed for books & websites/blogs and I’m sure you guys will be inspired to continue on this path.

  28. We ate very little meat growing up, mostly for financial reasons, but it made it easy when my sister became a vegetarian at 12. (The two years she was vegan, that was not so easy – I had some hair pulling moments and we ended up eating more tofu than was probably really good for us)

    I was responsible for most of the family cooking and I relied on the Moosewood cookbooks pretty heavily. They’re vegetarian but not vegan. I guess they might be a bit dated now (and there are so many more veg resources now!) but I still have several standards from them that I love. Maybe worth checking out!

    As a family, we respected her decision and made sure that all dinners were vegetarian but we did occasionally have meat in the house for other meals and none of the rest of us converted. We ate a lot of stir fries, spaghetti with homemade marinara, and burritos.

    Nico’s resolve is admirable! I feel like I’m meandering towards something closer to vegetarianism when I’m outside the home and can’t be sure of the source of the meat, but it’s taking me a while. I did finally give up the lunch salads from Trader Joe’s that have meat in them, which was hard. They’are such a convenient lunch option for me and their meatless salad selection is sparse. Why do they have to put chicken in everything?!

    • Susan G says:

      I second Moosewood. They are somewhat dated but they are delightful to read. We are not vegetarian but almost always like what comes from those cookbooks.

    • Adeline says:

      Ok, sounds like I need to check out those books. I mean, one can never have too many staples cookbooks, right?

      Rachel, this is slightly off-topic but just wanted to say I love your blog! Long time reader here. :)

  29. Connie says:

    I’m so grateful you posted on this, as we are a family in transition as far as going vegan and there are so many useful resources in the comments. You’re actually responsible in part, Jules, as I discovered the Oh She Glows site through your blog links, started with the vegan overnight oatmeal, not because it was vegan, but because I’m so not a morning person, thus its appeal. Started making other recipes from the site, and we were off. My daughter is good with whatever I make, my son is not so much tied to meat/chicken as just a picky eater in general, although he’s signed off big on walnut taco ‘meat,’ which shocked me. I like the idea of a lot of deconstructed meals, as one of your commenters mentioned, because I am certainly not up for making separate meals for everyone! I must add that I find most vegan meals easier to prepare and easier to clean up, as well as less expensive, once you have your basics in the pantry, so, so far so good.

  30. Jennifer says:

    Yea for you and for Nico! Going vegetarian and/or vegan can be great. Congratulations on this adventure!

    Vegetarian cooking can be a evolution. Use the pre-done staples (Amy’s burritos, Morningstar burgers/pattys, Boca products) until you get your feet under you. Try cooking tofu in stir fry or baked like nuggets. Blend silken tofu into waffles or pancakes. Draining tofu will make it chewier as will freezing the whole block. Try seitan (wheat gluten) in fajitas or sandwiches. Make hummus with any kind of bean you want. Make your own bean burgers.

    I highly recommend Mark Bittman’s book ‘How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”. If a recipe is not in there or the Joy of Cooking, I don’t need it (just kidding…kind of). His book has the vegetarian basics, amazing recipes, a ton of variations on those, and simple instructions.

  31. Jessica says:

    Commenting again to recommend Two Peas & Their Pod: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com and to leave the link to the nutrition category on The Vegan RD: http://www.theveganrd.com/tag/nutrition since I only mentioned it by name before, and I think it’s easier to click than search. :)

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.