How to Cook for a Vegetarian and Meat Eating Family


I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years. My husband has always been a carnivore. I suppose opposites really do attract! When our children were born, we started them on a vegetarian diet for kids, and as they’ve gotten older, we’ve allowed them to choose between vegetarian foods and meat items. As a result, we always have both vegetarian kids and carnivore kids in our household. The kids experiment with various foods and have plenty to choose from in our home. Here’s how to cook for a vegetarian and meat eating family.

how to cook for a vegetarian and meat eating family

How to cook for a vegetarian and meat eating family

Of course, cooking for a hungry family and cooking vegetarian are both challenging enough for busy parents. When you have to cook both vegetarian and meat dishes at the same time, it can feel limiting. In order to remain diverse in our menus and not limit the meat-eaters among us, we use the following tips for raising both vegetarians and carnivores.

Opt for substitute-friendly dishes.

Soups, stews, and casseroles are easily adapted, allowing parents to substitute vegetarian protein sources for meat. Simply halve the amount of meat and replace half with a protein substitute, then prepare the dish in two saucepans or casserole dishes instead of one.

Need help with protein substitutions? The following make for easy and tasty alternatives:

In casseroles or burritos:

1. Pinto or black beans for ground round
2. Chicken protein substitute for diced chicken

In meat-based casseroles and pot pies:

1. Extra vegetables and vegetarian broth for diced chicken in pot pies
2. Diced potatoes or yams for pork, chicken, or beef in casseroles

Try noodle, pasta, or rice-based dishes.

Stir fries, pasta dishes, and Asian noodle dishes are also highly adaptable, and easily prepared in two pans. Replace meat or seafood with diced, fried tofu cubes or strips, or double up on the vegetables. Or, even easier, make it like you would for the vegetarians and cook the chicken on the side to be added tableside.

Make vegetarian meals hearty.

When you just can’t take the time to prepare two similar dishes, opt for vegetarian meals that are rich and filling. Our favorites:

1. Vegetarian chili
2. Corn or potato chowder
3. Spaghetti marinara

Do It Yourself Salads

Make the salad — choose organic when you can — and let everyone add their toppings: crumbled bacon, chopped eggs, cheese, and grilled chicken.

Buy locally-sourced and free range meat.

Purchasing the meat you do buy from local sources can go a long way toward making a vegetarian mother feel better about purchasing and preparing meat for her family! Families have varied reasons for pursuing a vegetarian diet, but in my case, I refuse to support factory farming. Instead, I turn to local farms and even the 4-H program for my meat. I know the animals have been treated fairly in life and lived free-range.

Where to find locally sourced meat:  In our rural area, our local grocery store carries meats from local farms, and our farmer’s market has several vendors offering weekly meat purchasing. Box stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, or your local natural food store also may carry national brands of organic, free-range meat. Remember to only purchase and consume sustainable seafood as well.

Remember that meat substitutes are your friend.

With the meat substitutes on the market today, almost every recipe is still at your disposal. While we use tofu and beans for protein often, we also keep a stock of the following in our freezer:

1. Quorn ‘chic’ products
2. Original Garden burgers
3. Morningstar meat-free crumbles

The above can be tossed into stir fries, casseroles, or tacos. And everyone loves a burger night!

Breakfasts are easy.

Serve up plates of hashbrowns and toast and let the family decide on eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage. Everyone will be happy.  (Photo credit: lablasco)

Once you get the basics down, you’ll find how to cook for a vegetarian and meat eating family will save you time and stress. It will keep everyone eating healthy too.