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Are you interested in participating in Meatless Monday, but are worried that your kiddos will turn their nose up at the idea of a meal made of veggies? You’re not alone.
Many parents struggle to get their children to eat vegetables. Kids assume that healthy food such as vegetables are less tasty than other food and refuse to eat them. Parents eventually turn to drastic measures, such as sneaking veggies into favorite foods or bribing their kids.
If your kids already aren’t fond of vegetables, they probably won’t be too eager to participate in Meatless Monday. But with the right amount of encouragement and the right meals, your kids will eventually learn to love Meatless Mondays without you having you bribe them with ice cream for dessert.
What is Meatless Monday
If this is the first time you’ve heard about Meatless Monday, you might be wondering what it is. Meatless Monday gained popularity in 2003, during an ongoing international campaign that encourages people to cut meat from their diets on Mondays. Some people decide to cut animal products completely on Mondays, while others just cut out meat. Cutting out meat once a week can improve your health and improve the health of the planet. Most people don’t want to completely eliminate meat from their diet but find that eliminating it once a week is doable.
Reasons to try Meatless Monday
Instead of springing Meatless Monday on your kids without any prior discussion, have conversations with them about why it is a good thing. Talk to your kids about how Meatless Monday doesn’t only have health benefits, but environmental benefits. Your kids might not care about how eating vegetable-dense meals can help cut down on the risk of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Most kids, however, have a natural love for animals and for nature. Gentle conversations about how Meatless Monday can save animals and reduce the use of fossil fuels might have a bigger impact on them than focusing on health benefits.
Including your children in the discussion helps them understand why you’re deciding to incorporate Meatless Mondays into their diet. And if they immediately start worrying that they’ll be stuck eating plain spinach every Monday, reassure them that you’ll still be making tasty meals.
Meatless Monday can also help turn your kids into more adventurous eaters. As you try new recipes as a family, your kids might find themselves eating veggies that they’ve never heard of before! Introducing new foods repeatedly makes kids more likely to taste them.
How to make Meatless Monday enjoyable
After conversations with the kiddos about why you’re choosing to participate in Meatless Mondays, it is time to focus on making the experience as enjoyable as possible. The trick here is to avoid making your kids feel like they’re being forced to eat vegetables. Instead, you want to figure out ways to entice them into eating new recipes.
One of the best ways to get kids to enjoy eating their veggies is by incorporating veggies into an already favorite dish. This doesn’t mean sneaking vegetables into their diet (this can backfire if your kid discovers they’ve been tricked), but rather making a meal and using vegetables instead of meat. Vegetables are versatile and can be used in a number of ways. If you have a taco lover, skip the ground beef and fill your taco shells with black beans. Or if your child loves all things Italian, try this vegetarian lasagna on Foodal.
Another way to make Meatless Monday more appealing is to allow your child to help with the process of picking out the recipe, shopping for food, and preparing the meal. This actively engages your child in food prep. Most kids are more eager and willing to eat something of their own creation than something Mom simply sits in front of them. Plus, allowing them to help with meal prep teaches them necessary skills such as how to read recipes and how to use a knife. Cooking together as a family can also be a great bonding experience.
Super picky eaters that tend to graze instead of eating a full meal might enjoy dipping veggies into ranch or hummus. Dipping makes the eating process more interactive and many kids already have a favorite dipping sauce that will pair well with vegetables.
Finally, you should also avoid creating a scenario when the only time your child eats veggies is on Monday. Incorporating fruits and veggies into their daily diet throughout the week helps make Meatless Monday less of a big deal. Fruits make a great treat for when your child is craving something sweet and veggies are a great savory snack.
If you move forward with Meatless Mondays, make it a routine that happens weekly instead of something that only happens every so often. Many families have something such as Taco Tuesday or Whatever Wednesday that kids eagerly look forward to as a special day of the week. With a set routine, Meatless Monday can become that special day for your kids.
Vegetarian meals your kids will love
Now that we’ve gone over the reasons for incorporating Meatless Mondays into your routine and ways to make Meatless Mondays more enjoyable, it is time to go over some kid-friendly meals that your kiddos will love!
Tofu Nuggets: if you have a chicken nugget lover, tofu nuggets are a good alternative. These nuggets are crispy and breaded (and can even be deep-fried). For this recipe, you’ll purchase tofu squares, dip them into batter, bread them in panko, and then stick them on a cooking sheet to bake. It’s an easy recipe to have your children help with. The finished product can be eaten in several different ways. Children that love dipping can eat them with their favorite sauce. Or, if you want to incorporate some veggies, you can serve them as a topping on a garden salad.
Veggie Quesadillas: This is a fun meal option because your children can decide what veggies go into their quesadillas. Offer various veggie options such as spinach, avocado, grape tomatoes, sliced peppers, or broccoli. Allow your child to pick out whatever combination they want, add some cheese, and get cooking! Serving these with a salsa on the side can also help make them more popular with kids that like to dip. If you’re feeling especially experimental, skip the cheese binding and use something such as mashed avocado or mashed black beans. This concept is also easy to adapt to tacos if your kids would prefer them over quesadillas.
Pasta salad: Pasta is a favorite for most children and is easy to incorporate into Meatless Monday. You’ll just need to skip the meat sauce. To make pasta more fun and nutritional, mix some colorful veggies into your child’s favorite type of noodle! Let your child go shopping with you to pick up whatever veggies are in season, cook the noodles according to directions, and mix chunks of veggies into the noodles. You can also add herbs and cheeses to taste. Most types of pasta salads can be eaten cold or hot. On those warm summer nights, let your pasta salad chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before serving to your kids.
Cauliflower crust pizza: Regular pizza is an easy meal to serve on Meatless Monday because there are so many pizza toppings out there that aren’t meat. But if you want to incorporate even more veggies into your pizza, serve cauliflower crust pizza. Instead of using flour to create the crust, you’ll grate steamed cauliflower and then mix it together with egg, mozzarella cheese, parmesan, and lemon zest. This will form a dough-like substance that you’ll shape into a thin crust and then bake. After it’s golden brown, you’ll top it like you would a regular pizza and put it back into the oven until everything melts together. For an extra special treat, use alfredo sauce instead of traditional tomato sauce. Your kids won’t even be able to taste the cauliflower!
Homemade tomato soup: Tomato soup paired with a grilled cheese or gluten-free mac and cheese can be a great kid-friendly Meatless Monday meal on cold winter nights. But if you want to avoid canned tomato soup because of all the sodium, make your own homemade tomato soup. Homemade tomato soup is often creamier than canned tomato soup and is made with fresh tomatoes and carrots. Most homemade tomato soup recipes can be made either in a stockpot or in an Instant Pot. With the stockpot method, you’ll mix chopped tomatoes, onions, and carrots with minced garlic and vegetable stock in a pot and cook the mixture before putting it into a blender. With the Instant Pot, you’ll add all your ingredients to the pot and then use the soup setting. With either method, you’ll add milk or cream to taste.
Participating in Meatless Mondays improves the overall health of your family, but Mondays shouldn’t be something your kiddos dread. Focus on making the experience a positive one for them and find recipes they love!