Thanks Everyone for All Your ideas!Easy Vegetarian Meals for Picky Kids

Updated on February 20, 2012
J.J. asks from Bethlehem, PA
14 answers

So I am moving toward a more vegetarian diet for me and my kids. But my kids are super picky. Neither of them eats beans other than my daughter eat green beans. They are both allergic to nuts and my daughter is allergic to peanuts. They refuse any type of spicy food and nothing at all with pepper. Even fresh peppers, the smell makes my daughter gag. They both hate carrots as well. They both eat many fruits and both eat broccoli, cauliflower, and my son will eat salad with ranch dressing, but my daughter won't touch it. They like pasta and rice, but my daughter will not eat anything with any kind of sauce on it. so i am having trouble coming up with new and healthy food that they will eat. I do present new things and have them keep it on their plates even if they won't eat it, we play games like have them kiss or lick it. But in the mean time I need some healthy ides that they will eat. Maybe I am asking too much for a 4 and 6 year old. but I really want to get them eating healthier. My daughter also will not touch anything with dairy in it, I think she has a sensitivity to it. Thanks for any advice.

Need to add that my daughter needs to be on a low protein diet, and my son pretty much refuses to eat most meat. My daughter will any and all meat, but because of her metabolic disorder she needs low protein. She is also allergic to eggs and won't eat any dairy and vomits from soy.

Oh and their allergies are official, have been tested on a regular basis since infancy, and we go a few times a year now and testing once a year as they are older and and have established their allergies already. Sarah's allergies are peanuts, treenuts, and eggs. She is not offically allergic to soy and dairy as in she doesn't have an anaphalactic reaction, she just gets GI symptoms like nausea and vomitting. Joshua is allergic to treenuts, with no other sensitivities or allergies tho he refuses to eat meat, but I think it may be a texture issue. I am not looking only for veggie dishes but vegetarian dishes meaning including things that are not meat because of my son's refusal to eat it, and my daughter's need to be low protein, hence this is a healthier alternative. We can't eat like I did as a vegetarian because of their allergies, I ate nuts and soy. So still my question is what can I feed my kids that is healthy moving toward a more vegetarian diet. Not completely vegetarian , just more so. Thanks for the ideas so far to those who actually answered my question. I don't want to feed my kids pasta and rice for every meal which is basically what they will eat. Just looking for creative ideas, even for the pasta and rice to include more veggies they might eat. Like I said maybe it is asking too much.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for all your ideas!!!! We do have a nutritionist through the allergist office, but she mainly specializes with allergies and where to get foods that do not contain the allergens. I have some great ideas now. My son is easier as he eats tons of dairy, which I am okay with, but the challenge is my daughter. I think I need to start trying to make some soups, and dips. My son will eat all that stuff but my daughter won't, so she is always the challenge, but if I start making it she will hopefully eventually eat it.

More Answers



answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with Gloria's idea of making dips out of beans (dips get around the typical bean complaints of "it's bland" and "it's dry"). My son won't really eat beans, but I've made a baked black bean dip that he devours. I leave the chorizo out of the recipe and it's still outstanding (has been a hit time and again at cooking clubs and parties for adults and kids), and you could leave the cheese off part of it for your daughter and substitute veggie stock for chicken stock:

Also, hummus might work for them. Chickpeas, I think, would fit well into your scheme, and you can get hummus (or make it) in lots of different flavors (lots of "gourmet" hummus makers are trying sweet flavors - I had an outstanding pumpkin hummus recently).

One last thought - dark, leafy greens are good for iron and calcium. Check out the cookbook, Greens Glorious Greens, for some intriguing ideas on unlocking the potential of various greens.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

I see a lot of processed food recommendations here. Please remember that the healthiest foods you can feed yourself and your family are unprocessed, whole foods. If your children will eat grains & pastas, have you tried quinoa? Quinoa is a complete protein, and though it's sold often as a grain (and treated as such), in actuality, a seed. You can use it in lieu of rice for pilafs or other dishes. You can also add it to soups or stews (or simply serve it in the bowl under the soup). It will increase calories and provide a whole protein, if you become concerned with protein consumption (for your son, obviously, rather than for your daughter). I would also encourage you to continue to offer beans and lentils. Have you tried making spreads or dips from beans, chickpeas or lentils? You could add these to sandwiches or possibly get the children to dip vegetables in them. If they will eat soup, adding beans, lentils or chickpeas to soup could also help.

The green smoothie recommendation is great, IF your kids will consume it. Adding flax seed or chia seed will provide some protein as well as omega fatty acids.

I aggree, however, with a previous mama that with your children having a list of allergies and intolerances, you would really benefit from discussing their dietary needs (and your concerns) with a specialized child nutritionist.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Fried rice (not really fried). Cook brown rice, dice up a selection of veggies (we use broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, peas, green beans, carrots). Stir fry the veggies (I add garlic, ginger and maybe a red chile but you could leave that out), mix in the rice (I use about equal volumes of veggies and rice), stir and toss. Add in a mixture of dark soy sauce, sake and black vinegar (you can use regular soy sauce, sherry and rice or plain vinegar) I often scramble an egg and add before the rice. You can also add fish or meat.

Chick pea chili

Moroccan stew

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hon, I think you are running the risk of serious health concerns by not providing enough protein and fat in their diet. Vegetarian does not mean only vegetables, because that's what you listed above. Humans do not make good herbivores. Unless your children receive the proper nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet, they can be set up for many health problems later in life.

If you really must cut out meat, which is your best protein source, I would look into Indian vegetarian stews or start researching the SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) cook books.

In the interim, please feed your kids lots of eggs, tofu, cheese. But again, there is NO iron in those protein sources, so the chances of becoming anemic are high, unless you start preparing stews in a cast iron skillet every day. The iron will leach into the food.

Depending up your local grocery stores, there are plenty of fake breakfast meats, like bacon and sausage. And almost all stores carry Veggie burgers, that can be used in a variety of ways.

**post edit** J. - after reading your addition, given the numerous nutritional constraints you are having to contend with, I highly recommend you work with a proper children's nutritionist. You are going to have to make very educated choices to feed your specific kids a healthy, well-balanced diet. Your description basically erradicates every major protein group. I would think that a nutritionist would be covered by your health care provider given the fact that your daughter has a documented metabolic disorder.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

With such restricted diets already, why are you moving toward a vegetarian diet? I'm sure you have your reasons, but just because it's vegetarian doesn't make it "healthy".

No more games- time t ofind out what they are allergic/sensitive to "officially" and then start getting them to eat balanced diets before restricting them to a vegetarian diet.

Can you do:
- chicken and veggie quesadillas (using vegan cheese)
- omlettes with veggies
- pizza with veggies
- tofu stir fry

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

One of my favorite meals is Campbell's minestrone soup (2 cans feeds my family of 3) and I add Barilla's noodles to it (either the Squash & Carrots, or enriched shells, etc.). Usually the noodles outnumber the amount of veggies, so the kids may not mind the few beans and carrots that make it into their mouths. Ha ha. :) (I sprinkle mine with parmesan cheese)

I also love yellow squash. I used to boil mine for a few minutes, then slice it up in some butter. YUM!

There's an awesome series of cookbooks by Jessica Seinfeld called 'Deceptively Delicious' where various fruit and veggie purees are added to meals that kids would love. They are all super creative and look great.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

We have a 6 year old, he is pretty particular about what he eats as well. WE told him that we were going vegetarian because its healthier and beret for our bodies. We use for a lot of our recipes and we use "fake meat" for quite a few dishes like chikn parmesean(we also opt for non dairy cheeses) which we get at whole foods type grocery stores. I've also found that having him help me make the meal, hes more apt to eat it (because its his creation, not just mine). Hope that helps a bit. Best of luck!



answers from Reading on

Preparing meals sounds like a full time job in your house! I think it's great that you want to eat healthier. We are in the same boat, without the allergies. I really love the Peas and Thank you website: This is a blog from a vegan mom with veg kids. To be honest my kids are too picky to eat very much from her cookbook but I keep trying! I think trying to go "cold turkey" is too challenging. I would find a couple of go-to meals that are healthy and that your kids will eat and put those into the rotation for a couple of weeks. Then, introduce another, etc. Don't feel like you have to go completely veg right away (or at all!). Just do what you can. Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

I would keep it real simple for now. Make a pasta or rice dish for yourself, but don't mix the pasta and the sauce before serving them. My kids often had pasta tossed in a small amount of pasta water with some steamed veggies on the side when I knew that they won't eat my pasta sauce. My little one was really picky for a while, but he has gotten so much better now. The healthy choices that my kids like are:
- Salted, boiled potatoes, steamed fish and chopped spinach
- Morning star crumbles in a brown or marinara sauce with pasta
- Pan fried tofu in a mild fruity curry sauce over steamed rice
- Caribbean rice (leeks, carrots, red peppers (just leave them off), broccoli and little pieces of pineapple) prepared like a risotto and spiced with a bit of mild curry power
- Pasta tossed with garlic, lemon and broccoli or flat leaf parsley

But with so many things that your kids don't like it's very hard to come up with some decent menus. It's probably easiest to just give them the veggies that they tolerate in a steamed form and introduce some new once every so often.

Or you could try to come up with some healthier version of what they like to eat. What do they like?



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think you are asking too much of these kids. They may not want to be vegetarians. They may want to be meat

I think that if you are really wanting to do this then perhaps moving away from the red meats and only using fish and chicken would be a nice first step.

My granddaughter will not eat anything that is mixed together. Like a casserole. The will eat two or three different HB helpers though. You could buy some Morningstar Beef Crumbles and make it with them instead. They are vegetable stuff made to look and taste like different meats that Walmart carries in the frozen foods section.

There is also Turkey ground meat. I would use that in dishes that resemble Chicken Helper type dishes or Tuna Helper type dishes. Kids like foods like that as a general rule is all I am saying. I can't stand Tuna smell and I am not buying Turkey anything.

So, what would I do it I were making a menu for you....thinking....thinking.....thinking.

What about investing in some meat substitutes that are sold in bulk. We have eaten this and did not know it was not HB meat. We get it from places like Emergency Essentials or some of the other links below.

What it is:

Where you can get it:

Emergency Essentials has everything you could ever want to cook totally vegeterain:

This company has some of the best tasting food that is around for food storage. I bought some on sale at Walmart and we ate it up that week instead of storing it. It looked like Military rations.

Amazon sells it:

There are lots of places to buy foods that will make any dish taste good and look appealing to kids. I have a picky eater and I have to dish out the pasta before putting the sauce on, I have to make sure her mac and cheese is just mixed so so. There are lots of ways to do this and not be a short order cook but it is often the case that you have to serve the food in different ways to each child.

Here's an article about TVP that talks about how it has changed over the years.



answers from Washington DC on

my sister is vegan and I eat mostly vegetarian food. sometimes I will get Fish. My daughter she is 5 years old now and she wants to be a vegetarian. She doesn't want to eat black bean. I have to give her some Fish, I told her that if she tried to eat black bean and more protein. we can omit fish from her diet. I often give her variety tofu. which I find in many Asian food store. . I made fried Tofu, Tofu soup for her, Fried Spinach- vegetable Tempura, corn dog (veggie), Plain pasta, steam broccoli, and Veggie Hotdog (they won't be mixed together). Fried rice. My daughter loves Noodle, Rice and Sticky Rice. also, sometimes I made Sushi with Soy Tofu (brown color) & carrot, you can find it in asian food store. my daughter loves this one. you can check on this webs tie how to make sushi. don't' worry about what your kids doesn't want to eat. you can tell them to try new food once a week or twice a week. I have tried to offer my daughter bean before, she she did not want it. Recently my daughter start loving to eat Japanese Bean Ecadame. it would take time for them to eat new food.



answers from Dallas on

Here are some veggie choices in our household:
1. Organic Soy free veggie nuggets
2. Grilled cheese sandwich
3. Veggie Home made pizza
4. Rice and Veggies cooked in either chicken broth or vegetable soup - this is a little soupy
5. Veggie Quesidillas (sp?)
6. Baked potatoes with steam veggies
7. lots of fruit and plain yogurt with each meal
8. pasta with different sauces and vegetables

hope this help!



answers from Albuquerque on

We do a lot of vegetarian smoothies, you can google for recipes. My new favorite is 'green monster' that has spinach, flaxseed, chia seed, pineapple and banana mixed with rice milk.

From your post, it looks like you need to avoid: dairy, eggs, nuts, soy. That cuts out almost every major source of protein. The only big one left is meat, so if you cut that out too, you're going to be relying solely on beans and high protein grains. And your kids won't eat beans. I think you're stuck and will need to keep fish and meats in their diets.

That said, we do a lot of Indian curries that have garbanzo beans or lentils in them. And Asian insired stir fries - noodles or rice with lots of vegetables. You could cook up some tofu on the side for your son to add in.



answers from Savannah on

They make high protein pastas & rice. Various veggies have more protein than others. I think the diet that you want for them/that they need is doable. However, after you eliminate the allergies, they will have to be a little more adventurous in eating. I use the 3 bite rule: after 3 bites, then you say that you don't like it. I am a vegetarian & my family eats vegetarian at home. Some weeks we are more adventuresome than others. There is nothing wrong with developing a set list of basic meals & rotating them for most of your meals.

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