Don't panic when your kids decide to become vegetarians. As we learned when our oldest took this route 11 years ago, there are still plenty of easy, delicious and nutritious ways for the whole family to eat well. Get started with these 10 child-approved dishes:
Parents often worry their kids won't get enough protein on a vegetarian diet. Knock that fear out with eggs, cheese, nuts, soy, certain grains, beans and other legumes -- including this crowd-pleasing, crunchy falafel made from canned chickpeas, pictured below. The fried chickpea balls tucked into pita breads can be customized to your tastes with all sorts of toppings, including sauces (maybe tahini?) and salads (eggplant is good). If you've got a little more time, use Chef John's well-reviewed version, starts with dried chickpeas "Even better than the local Mediterranean restaurant," wrote one fan.
Photo via BigStock
2. Veggie Burgers
When you have fresh buns, piled-high toppings, and tasty fillings, vegetarian burgers are as satisfying as the meaty ones. Plain veggie patties are good, whether store-bought or a homemade version like this staff favorite made with black beans. Another tasty option is filling buns with portobello mushroom caps (try this recipe,) "the steak of vegetarian burgers."Photo via BigStock
Our kids love making their own sushi rolls, and it's a lot easier than you might think. After layering rice on the seaweed, we fill our rolls with tofu or tempeh, along with avocado, cucumbers, and strips of carrot. For extra kid-appeal, wrap strips of seaweed around rectangles of tamago, a sweet egg omelet, to make a sort of nigiri sushi, as shown in this recipe. And if you can find inari wrappers, slightly sweet little pouches made from fried bean curd (available at Asian markets), they're always a hit when stuffed with sushi rice.
Photo via BigStock
4. Shakshuka and More Eggs
Eggs are an inexpensive, appetizing protein that appeal to most children. While you can't go wrong with frittatas and quiches (try these cute muffin-size versions packed with vegetables!), the North African/Mediterranean dish called shakshuka makes for a simple, savory dinnertime staple. Chef John's "fast, easy and delicious" version of the one-dish meal involves baking eggs in an aromatic tomato sauce and topping them with feta cheese. People also call it "Eggs in Purgatory." Dial the spice levels up or down as your family likes.
Shakshuka/Photo via BigStock
Going vegetarian doesn't always mean giving up your family's favorite dishes; often it just means reworking them. Lasagna is just as much of a treat when it's meat-free, as with this "Hearty Vegetable Lasagna" where one commenter said that "my family are total carnivores but honestly we didn't miss the meat at all." This "roll-up" version with tofu and spinach is good for freezing. (While we're on Italian food, you also have endless options for vegetarian pizzas.)Photo via BigStock
6. Taco Bar
Likewise, Taco Tuesdays (or any day) can keep going full speed. Most kids love customizing their meals, so we do a DIY taco bar with plates of taco shells and bowls of fillings -- beans, guacomole, shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and whatever else sounds good to you and yours. (Bonus: Any carnivores in the family can add a meat filling if they prefer.) If you want to just make them ahead for everyone, these "fabulous and filling" Guaco-Tacos can be ready in 20 minutes.Photo via BigStock
7. Fried Rice
Trendy grain bowls are easily tailored to all sorts of tastes and dietary needs, and we've got great tips here on how to make them. But for fast and easy, it's hard to beat the original grain bowl: Fried rice. This recipe bulks up leftover white rice into a filling vegetarian meal with tofu, eggs, hot sauce, and lots of veggies. Fried rice tastes great even with lots of substitutions, so work with whatever you've got in your fridge.
Sandwich almost any yummy combination between tortillas, cook them on the stovetop, and cut them into triangles for an instant hit. It's "so simple" and "so easy" to try this wild rice, corn, and black bean quesadilla, while other versions range from a farmers market special to the sweet-salty-barbecued appeal of apple and gouda. The same theory holds for burritos and wraps; one of our family's favorite weeknight dinners is this yam and kale wrap.Photo via BigStock
9. Lentil soup
Inexpensive, filling, and "family-friendly," lentil soup is a family staple. My kids are especially glad to get hearty soups for dinner because I always make a batch of these unbeatable Grandma Rita's Soft Butter Rolls on the side.Photo via BigStock
10. Pad Thai
Try addictive sour-salty-sweet pad thai topped with tofu instead of chicken or shrimp. This Sukhothai Pad Thai gets high ratings, and here's one with an added egg. The rice noodles in the dish cook quickly, and the secret ingredient in the sauce is tangy tamarind. (If you don't have time or tamarind, you can buy bottled pad thai sauce, but many versions will contain fish sauce, so read the labels -- or ask the kids how they feel about being pescatarians.)Image via BigStock
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