Here's the situation—you are just about to slide a perfectly prepped roast beef into the oven when your child announces, "I don't want to eat meat anymore." You wonder how in the world you are going to make dinner in such a way that a) everyone is happy, b) everyone is receiving sufficient nutrition, and c) you are not going to turn into a short order cook.
It is possible to smoothly incorporate vegetarian options into a meat-eating household. I've been a vegetarian for many years, and I've been following a mainly vegan diet for the past two years. Neither my husband nor my children share my dietary philosophy—in fact, there is nothing better that the three of them like than big, juicy steaks on their plates, preferably with a side of bacon. And yet, I cook only one dinner for everyone.
Here are my tips to ensure that meat-eaters and vegetarians eat together in perfect harmony:
Open Your Mind. There are many countries in which meat does not figure significantly into day-to-day eating. Why not use this opportunity to explore new dishes and methods of cooking? Have your child help with the new meal preparation—you could both learn some new skills.
Think “On The Side.” My favourite movie is When Harry Met Sally, and I identify with Sally Allbright. “On the side is a very big thing for you," says Harry, and it certainly applies to my life in the kitchen. I prepare all meat on the side, in separate pans, and then the meat-eaters can add it to their otherwise-vegetarian meals. Think sauteed chicken on the side of a stir fry or pasta dish, or spaghetti with meatballs on the side.
Explore Protein Options. Dairy and eggs are excellent sources of protein, but don’t forget about beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which can be easily added to salads, pasta, stir fries, and other main dishes.
Have a "Create Your Own Meal" Night. I do this a few times a week. Create your own mini pizza! Create your own tortilla wrap! I set out the ingredients—sliced vegetables, meat, cheese, and beans—and everyone assembles their own pizza or wrap. The bonus is that my own work in the kitchen is minimized!
Include Vegetarian Options at Traditional Dinners. This is the tricky part—planning a meal, such as a turkey or roast beef dinner, in which the meat takes centre stage. In this case, I always prepare a few dishes that can be a complete vegetarian meal in and of themselves, but are also delicious sides for the meat-eaters.
Above all, take this opportunity to discover and enjoy new food experiences, and who knows, maybe you'll be making your next Monday a meatless one!