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Help! How to feed a picky vegetarian child... ?

714 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  melimomTARDIS

My name is Alicia, and I'm a newbie.
I'm hoping to get some advice/guidance out of this forum...

My boyfriend's 12 year old daughter is coming up on 1 year of being a vegetarian. When we were newly dating, she had just made her decision & began her no-meat journey. My boyfriend, the hopelessly optimistic carnivore he is, thought FOR SURE that she would fall of the wagon.... needless to say, she possesses his strong will. :)

I have since moved in with them & have witnessed several conversations about healthy eating result in tears. For starters, she is a 12 year old kid... she is a picky eater like the rest, and prefers junk food over healthy food. The problem with her opting for vegetarianism is that she cut meat out but didn't replace it. She'll eat tofu every now & then, and loves frozen veggie dogs & burgers, but we all know she needs more protein & vitamins, and less processed additives.

I have always loved food, and am what my boyfriend calls "an adventurous eater", so when I moved in & started cooking, I brought my recipes with me, which I quickly learned will only be eaten by me.

I would like to get some recipe ideas that may be accepted by a child. Over the last week, I came up with the idea that we, as a family, will prepare & eat 2 new 100% veggie meals a week, in an effort to try & incorporate new foods & hope that she will find more items that she is willing to eat. After the last debate frustrated both my boyfriend & his daughter, I started to think that we ALL need to be on board & supportive of his daughters decision. Thankfully he feels the same & is realizing that their head-butting is getting them both nowhere.

So far, lentil burgers & tofu fajitas have been successes. Spaghetti squash tossed with broccoli, not so much. However, the only "veg" on the tofu fajitas was icerberg lettuce... :/

ANY tips/recipe ideas are much welcomed! :)

Thank you!!
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How about fruit smoothies with veg thrown in, peanut butter sandwiches for protein, chilli with beans and tvp, pasta with vegetable-rich tomato sauce? I am basically the grown up version of a 12-year-old picky eater, and I love all these things. You could try black bean burgers with tomato, lettuce, onions and pickles. Baked carrot or sweet potato fries. Mac n cheese with some broccoli mixed in. I find it's helpful to cut vegetables into very small pieces. Are there any vegetables she genuinely enjoys? I know that I struggle with leafy greens but can't get enough peppers and onions... Maybe find what she likes and work that into as many meals as possible.
Smoothies are great for breakfast- you can throw all kinds of fruit in them along with protein powder, nuts and seeds. I also like homemade granola/breakfast bars - I make them with nuts, oats, dried fruit and seeds. There are tons of recipes online. School lunches can be tough. Wraps are easy to make and bring on the go - I like mine with hummus, falafel and veggies. Sandwiches are easy too. As for snacks, chopped veggies with her favourite dip (hummus etc.) and fresh fruit is easy. You can dip apples in peanut butter for example for more protein.

What kinds of things did she eat before going veg? A lot of things can be made vegetarian - the burgers like you mentioned, even some veggie meatballs and the like. Pizza is easy to make with lots of veggies and even tofu instead of just plain cheese. Maybe you can all make your own mini pizzas one night with whatever veggies you prefer. Of course, you can your boyfriend can pack yours with veggies so she is encouraged to do the same.

I make a lot of homemade pasta sauces, stir fries and soup. They can all be made with things like tofu, beans and even nuts. All of those things can be packed with veggies as well. Don't give up on a type of food after trying it only a few times - you can make almost everything in millions of different ways. That helps you to get some variety in your recipes if you like them so you aren't eating the same thing all the time.

Finally, get both her and your boyfriend involved with choosing some new recipes and with meal prep. There are tons of nice veggie blogs and cookbooks that you can all look through together. Check your local library for vegetarian cookbooks - mine has a lot. Maybe she can choose a recipe to try one day, your boyfriend another day, and then you can choose one. Getting her involved with cooking should make her more open minded to trying new recipes and more likely to eat whatever it is that you make. Also when you cook them together, you can taste them along the way so she can say it needs more of x ingredient or less of something next time. That might also help you find a specific ingredient that she really likes and work it into other recipes. Or something that she really doesn't like so you can leave it out in the future.
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My daughter was also picky and tiny. But she has grown up (now adult) and eats vegetables that I never heard of. She has a degree in martial arts.
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these type of posts make me sigh and chuckle a bit. One of my children has a sensory integration (processing) disorder, and he has very few foods he eats. He has some ARFID like behaviors, honestly.

The fact that your kids are eating veggie dogs, veggie burgers, and things of that nature is a blessing, not a curse. I see nothing wrong with boca burgers, we eat them once week around here.

Speaking from personal experience, dont make food a battleground. Offer whatever you are making, or give them the option of a cold plate they can set up themselves.

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great dinner, as is cheese and crackers with some sliced apples. simple microwaved quesdillas (with mild salsa on the side), and frozen plain cheese pizzas are a big hit too. Even a bowl of cereal is fine. My son takes a multivitamin with iron in it (flinstones brand) each day, and has a good healthy weight, and does well in school.

Today in food for my sensory issues kid-

Breakfast- fruity cereal w/milk, 6 oz OJ

Lunch (packed)- peanut butter sandwich, small brownie, granny smith apple, bottle of water

In school snack- cheerios and skim milk

- Grilled cheese sandwich, oven baked fries (ore-ida), another granny smith apple

Dessert/at home snacks-a hershey kiss after dinner, air popped popcorn before bed. Sugar free lemonade.
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