It’s been just over two years since my daughter, then ten years old, told us she would like to become vegetarian. She was once a lover of pulled-pork sandwiches and breakfast sausages but, as she grow older and learned more about the environment and animals, she decided that she wasn’t comfortable eating meat. Vegetarianism was the answer for her.
As parents, it was an easy request to accept; it was her choice and we could support it. But, in practice, it was a bit harder as we all learned what it really meant when only one of the four of us decided to follow vegetarianism.
We started with one primary rule, if you could really call it that: There were to be no rules. Which meant that if she wanted to be vegetarian, we would make sure she was supported and meals would be made accordingly, but if she changed her mind, that was okay too. We also wanted her to know as she learned more about what she was comfortable with, that could change.
Over these past two years, she’s become more vegetarian. In the beginning, food that was touching meat, or made from it (like gravy) was ok. She just didn’t want to eat meat. Then she didn’t want anything to do with meat. Eventually, we also learned about gelatin, which surprisingly is in a lot of foods (marshmallows, candies, Mini Wheats!) and she ditched everything made with that.
We’ve been open in conversations with her brother, who loves steak and bacon, and as a family have been learning about meat alternatives, trying new products, learning about what will provide iron and protein. She kept eating butter, eggs, and honey so there was a lot of options still.
As a family, we’ve always had meatless meals by choice but we’ve increased the recipe options. It’s always a process to determine what flavours and food she’ll enjoy. We’ve found meat replacement products, but we don’t want to have to rely on our fake chicken (‘ficken’) nuggets all the time, or the Beyond Meat burger (although, admittedly, that one is a favourite of hers and the most consistent). So instead, we’ve found soups that have lentils and peas (but is a take on a classic pea soup. One brand we’ve found she has said reminds her of grandma’s bean soup in flavour, so that’s a winner.
She loves avocado, and avocado sushi. We’ve tried spinach and ricotta lasagne which is a hit, as well as other variations of pasta like a creamy garlic with roasted cauliflower. She somehow doesn’t like chick peas. It has been interesting, and at times, fun, to find new recipes we can all enjoy (although her brother much prefers a tradtional beefy lasagne) and it’s been a constant try and test (when on sale) for other products to find the right ones.
There are a few things that remain consistent and that’s communicating together to find out what works and what doesn’t.