Meatless Lunch and Dinner Ideas

Updated on September 11, 2019
L.S. asks from Levittown, PA
24 answers

Recently my 9 year old asked if we could eat less meat at dinner. We eat mostly chicken and even I am getting tired of the same ole dinners. So we sat down together and googled recipes. We found some really good ones but most of the recipes have elaborate steps or ingredients we don't eat. I was hoping maybe other people had some good lunch and dinner ideas.

Also I would love some fresh ideas on sides. I mostly make rice, mash potatoes, veggies or biscuits. But would love to branch out. Thank you.

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So What Happened?

Wow I didn't not expect this thread to go the way it did.

First off, my son was simply asking if we could do some dinners without meat. He isn't looking to go vegetarian or demand I make him something different. He was showing an interest in what we eat which is why we researched together.

Secondly, thank you to those who have given me some great options to try.

Featured Answers


answers from Boston on

I do a lot of vegetable based soups (especially in the fall/winter) where I basically throw in anything I have. I also do a lot of meatless meals for myself by substituting beans with a little salsa for my protein. Try googling mealtess meals with 5 ingredients or less and choose whatever comes up.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Red beans and rice - mustard greens on the side
Black bean quesadillas - slaw on the side
Veggie omelets - waffles on the side
Pasta primavera - salad on the side
Veggie soup - cornbread on the side

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Aguadilla on

A great go to is using pasta with sauces. Try pasta with tomato sauce and you can leave at is or add veggies, or make a home made pesto which is super easy to do with a blender and mix some pasta with it along with chopped up tomatoes. Eggplant parmesan is also very tasty!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Norfolk on

Beans are very versatile.
Bean soups, bean salads, baked beans, hummus is pureed garbanzo beans with a few spices, tofu is technically bean curd.

Stop thinking about veggies being a side - they can often be the main dish.
I love squash soups - pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash - all are tasty and easy to make.
Veggie lasagna
Veggie chili (it's often more spicy than other kinds of chili)
Veggie gumbo and stews

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

When your 9-year-old starts putting demands on your dinner cooking, the single best person to research recipes is...your 9-year-old.

You’re not running a restaurant out of your home kitchen. Your 9-year-old is plenty old enough to read recipes (if not to cook them). And if they have “elaborate steps”, well then your 9-year-old can try cooking and learn that it is not always so easy!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Welcome to mamapedia, L. S!

If my child wanted meatless meals? I would tell my child to do the research, get the ingredients and start learning how to cook themselves...I'm not a short order cook nor do I run a restaurant.

If you are wanting this change too? then you do what you have already done and research. I'm not a vegan nor a vegetarian. We love meat in this house. When you go "meatless" you will find things that you normally don't eat. Then you will start demanding products that look like ham or something that isn't really meat - but makes you feel like you might be eating meat....

Look at restaurants you go to that have meatless meals and see what you like. WHY does your 9 year old want to do this? Is she being indoctrinated at school?? WHAT? I mean really - this is sudden for her, yes? WHY does she want this? Does she feel it will be healthier? Does she know how many supplements she will need to replace what she will NOT be getting via the meat???

She needs to talk with her pediatrician about the vegetarian lifestyle as well., Hopefully, he or she will tell your daughter that at the age of 9 - she needs the protein found in meat to help her reach puberty and a healthy life style.

there is moderation and balance - as her mom - it's up to YOU to show her that. NOT let her dictate what happens in the kitchen.

If you're serious about going meatless - you need to do the research as well.

Beans and cheese are great for dishes.
there are times I do a bean and cheese burrito.

Bell peppers stuffed with rice and veggies. Use beans instead of meat.

Beets - great source of iron. Beet salad with cheese - yum.!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Veggie burgers are fun, and you can put all kinds of things in them. It's a great way to use up leftovers, and to repurpose peppers that are getting a little too soft to be good in a salad. We add wheat germ and flaxseed meal to ours.

Lentils are really versatile, and so are beans. Do you have a crock pot? Soups and chilis are great and so easy. You don't even need an exact recipe. A taco bar works like a salad bar - people just pile on the things they want and maybe they'll try something new. Again, quantities don't matter. Enchiladas are really easy - we use the burrito size and pile on beans and veggies and cheese, the fold and secure with a toothpick. We pour sauce on top and add more cheese.

Try stir fry veggies - we love them over rice. We stir the long-cooking ones (broccoli, carrots) while someone chops the next round (peppers, onions) and when those are added someone chops the last round (zucchini, celery). I use the firm, cubed tofu which I fry up first in healthy oil, then set aside while the veggies stir fry, and mix it all at the end with an easy sauce. We toss in some water chestnuts for crunch, and nuts like peanuts or cashews. We throw on a handful of sprouts just at serving time. If you make the rice with 5-spice powder or ginger added to the water, it gets a nice flavor.

I'm not sure which ingredients you don't eat, but maybe you can expand your palates a bit or you can do any of the recipes above without the thing you all dislike. The recipes are fine either way.

Lasagna rollups are easy - lasagna noodles with a ricotta/cottage cheese mix or some tofu ground up in it (which you will not taste). Roll up pinwheel style and put in a casserole with sauce on top, plus some mozzarella or Parmesan. You can make on the weekends and reheat on Monday or Tuesday. They're easy to take in a thermos for lunch too. You can grate up zucchini and peppers into any Italian sauce, and you can throw in a handful of frozen spinach which will defrost quickly as the sauce heats. It's an easy way to put veggies you don't like into other forms. Try it!

Egg/vegetable casseroles are easy too, and they reheat well for breakfast the next day. You can do them with potatoes (hash browns or oven fries) as the base "crust" and then add typical omelet veggies you like, and top with eggs/cheese. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes and cut like a lasagna.

Go to the library and get a few good vegetarian cookbooks with 5 ingredients or less, and look for some with appealing photographs. You'll be surprised at how easy things can be. I often have a 5-ingredient limit (not counting salt & pepper) and that's how I taught my son to cook.

For lunch, do hummus spread on flat bread/wraps with some sliced up veggies (thin carrots and cukes, some lettuce or spinach leaves).

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

One of my favorite childhood memories is of choosing a meal to make with my dad. We'd look through cookbooks and pick something to try. I'm so glad that you wrote that you sat down with your child and looked for recipes together.

A website that I like is (note that kitchen is spelled without the e for some reason). Here's some of her meatless Monday ideas:

Another idea for resources is to go to an actual bookstore, like Barnes and Noble. Sit down in the cookbook section and see if there are books that you both like, with simple ingredients and directions.

There's a book by Dorothy Bates called Kids Can Cook, Vegetarian Recipes, that might be interesting to you and your child. You can look it up online.

I hope you and your child can turn meatless Mondays into a great learning experience together!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Eggplant parmesan on a bed of spaghetti squash.
Zucchini lasagna. ( zucchinin instead of noodles and a meatless tomato sauce)
Veggie burgers.
Cauliflower pizza crust with any veggies you want on top

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Bean, rice and cheese burritos. Cheese quesadillas with bell peppers and onions. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Pasta with marinara or alfredo sauce, side of salad or veggies, and garlic bread. Veggie quiche or fritatta, with soup or salad. Veggie minestrone soup. Veggie stir fry with tofu and rice or Asian noodles. Pizza! Most grocery stores have some kind of ready made dough if you don't want to make it yourself.
All of these are pretty easy to make and easy to adjust for your tastes. As far as sides try roasted or fried or baked potatoes. Instead of rice try risotto (the box versions are great.) I like the bagged salads because they are easy and less wasteful than buying a bunch of produce I may never use. Fruit is a great "side" dish, especially in warm weather!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Here's a real easy recipe for Mac and cheese. Put 1 box uncooked elbow macaroni and 3 Tbls. melted butter in a round casserole dish. Mix to coat macaroni. Add 8 oz of shredded cheese I like Colby jack, mix again. Add about 4 cups milk just enough to almost cover. Bake at 325 for 1 hour.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It's great when young kids express a desire to eat healthier. I guess I wouldn't view it as a "demand" but rather a request. Reducing red meat and sticking to no-meat/lean meat options is definitely a healthy start.

Check out for some really great recipes. She codes them so you can easily sort out the meatless meals. Plus, many of her recipes easily convert to meatless. Her meals are generally kid friendly and usually use ingredients that are either easy to get and are ones most folks are familiar with (but don't be afraid to get your kiddo to try some new ones - this is a perfect time to do this!!!). For times that you do eat meat, maybe consider fish and ground turkey - rather than chicken ALL the time to add a little variety to your meals.

For sides, I mostly stick to vegies, fruits or salads - I don't really eat carbs/starches so I've given the rices, potatoes, and breads up.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Tacos are very easy to make without meat. You use either refried or black beans for the protein and then whatever other toppings you like (in our house it's cheese, tomato, sour cream, and if I can find a good one, avacado).

With winter coming, meatless chili in the crock pot is also a go-to dinner.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

1. Rice bowls are awesome. You can keep ingredients in your fridge and then mix and match to make it the next day. Buy or make a can get jarred sauce if you don't want to make ginger sesame sauce or salad dressing. Put in sections in the bowl: black beans, half an avocado, brown rice (or white if that is what you have). Then different chopped veggies on can always do something different here. You can do corn, chopped purple cabbage, cherry tomatoes and then the sauce (not too much). I like putting some seeds or nuts on top.
2. A tofu scramble...treat it like the tofu is ground beef. First press the firm tofu with paper towels to get out liquid, then cut up and cook in a frying pan with some oil mixing it up till it gets brown and crispy. Add some salt, pepper, cumin, and then whatever you recipes! You can use it to make burritos or tacos or make a "hamburger helper" type dinner.
3. Beans are awesome. You can make a couscous salad and put in garbanzo beans, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, olives, and then olive oil and basalmic vinegar. To be fancy you can add some feta cheese!
4. I make black beans all the time...there are so many good bean recipes. If you make a big batch of beans there are so many recipes you can use them in that week. black bean soup. Black bean quesadillas. Chili. A mexican style casserole. Etc. I use them to make quick burrito wraps for lunch or add them to salad for some protein.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Rice, eggs, veggies, beans, cheese...all things used in meatless dishes.

We're meat eaters here. We do enjoy our salads, but our main meal is meat or fish, which I still consider meat. Here are things that I normally add meat to but the meal doesn't have to be in it:

Bean and cheese burritos
Rice salad bowl filled with veggies and beans
stuffed bell peppers with either pasta or rice and veggies and scrambled eggs (I don't like the pasta but it's an option if you want to use zuchhini pasta)
Lettuce wraps using nuts, beans and rice

Personally? If my 9 year old said this to me? I'd ask if I looked like her personal chef. There is so much more out there than just chicken. Fish. Pork. Beef. If you choose to only use chicken that's on YOU and no one else.

Get on-line and research search, and just start looking for more variety. I'd get bored of chicken every night too. Start making a weekly menu. Heck! Buy the recipe magazines you see at the grocery store for ideas! Get out of your rut!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Why do you mostly fix chicken? I think I'd get bored with that as well.

Every Saturday during dinner, we talk about the meals for the next week and what people are "feeling". I make a menu based off that and go shopping on Sunday.

We are NOT meatless people in this house. I have 4 boys (young men really) and they love them some meat!! :)

We eat salads. They love spinach salad. I add chicken to it when I make it.
I make a beet and goat cheese salad

I make rice bowls. I, of course, add meat to ours. I use the bib lettuce or iceburg lettuce as the "bowl" and layer the rice, then salsa, meat, veggies, cheese, etc. my boys call it a "lettuce mash up" because it's like a wrap with lettuce. you can remove the meat.

Start making menus for the week. Get your daughter involved. Expand ALL of your palettes.

Have fun!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

pasta with tomato or cream sauce, or just olive oil and sauteed veggies. baked potatoes stuffed with broccoli, cheese, veggies or marinated tofu. luscious mounds of steamed broccoli with orange olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toasted pecans. sauteed veggies and rice. fried rice. marinated grilled carrots. black bean burgers. beans and rice. grilled avocados stuffed with rice and tomatoes. stuffed zucchini boats. baked sweet potatoes. roasted root vegetables. vegetable stew. baked acorn squash. gazpacho. vegetable tempura. sauteed pepper and onion sammiches. cottage cheese 'roast.' quorn.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You could eat veggie curry. Here is the link to the recipe:

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I like to do copycat Panera tomato soup and grilled cheese on whole grain bread. For sides with this, I like to go easy. I keep cut up veggies in the fridge and we always have lots of fruit on hand.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Chilli over noodles, tacos with beans and cheese, meatless casseroles with vegies. Nearly all Mexican dishes canbe made without meat. Fish is very healthy. Perhaps serve fish/shrimp/scallops with noodles and a sauce. Anything with cheese. Include veggies in all meals. Learn about seasonings to change flavor. Google dishes with 6 ingredients and less.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You've received lots of good ideas, but I just wanted to reiterate that eating less meat will not threaten your daughter's health at all. There are many perfectly healthy vegetarians who have never eaten meat. Eating less meat is a healthy option for all of us and for our planet.

I was a vegetarian for about 20 years, until I started including some meat in my diet during a pregnancy where I had gestational diabetes, and just found the diabetic diet too difficult to do along with a vegetarian diet. That was over 20 years ago, and it is much, much easier now to be a vegetarian.

When raising our kids, we ate a diet that was primarily vegetarian, but included some organic meat, maybe once or twice a week. Today, all three of my grown children are vegetarian. They eat healthier than I do, and through them I've learned to enjoy foods that I never thought I would. If you are not eating certain ingredients because you think you don't like them, I would encourage you to try.

Most ethnic meals can be made vegetarian easily, especially Mexican, Italian, Thai, and Indian, just sub cheese or tofu for meat. There are some great, easy meals in Moosewood books or in Quick Vegetarian Meals. If you google "Easy Vegetarian Meals" you will also find many ideas. I'm all about quick and easy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Pinch Of Yum and Half Baked Harvest blogs have really good recipes. I like the rice bowls, wraps, tacos, naan bread etc. People can add their own fixings. Easy and simple.



answers from San Francisco on

Gotta love the internet. So many uptight women seeing "my 9 year old asked" as "my 9 year old is demanding" wth?
It's great when kids care about their health and environment. I'm sure many of these negative women are overweight and unhappy and therefore lash out at kids even SUGGESTING a healthier lifestyle.
Plenty of people go their whole lives without eating meat. Being vegan is a little trickier but it can be done. Eating less meat is EASY, even for people who like and enjoy meat, like me!
Beans, eggs, cheese, lots of greens. How about fish?
Bean soups, egg dishes (a quiche or simple omelet or scramble) almost any kind of Mexican food (enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas) Asian dishes, fried rice, noodles, etc. are all easy to make without meat.
And there are so many meat free alternatives available too, like veggie burgers, tofu/plant based "sausage" etc. It just takes a little practice, trial and error, to find out what you like. Have fun with it! Meat is fine, but we certainly don't need it every day.

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