Elizabeth said she wanted to try eating a vegetarian diet for a week, and she did so, and then she said she wanted to try a second week. So here I am with things like TVP and MorningStar hot dogs in my shopping cart: one week of winging it seemed like it wouldn’t hurt her, but now I think I need to pay more attention and come up with substitute meals other than peanut-butter sandwiches.
I was a little dismayed to see that the faux hot dogs are made of almost nothing except wheat and “corn syrup solids,” which seems…non-ideal, nutritionally-speaking. I guess I was assuming they’d be made of tofu or something, and I should have checked. It was the only option at our grocery store, though, and Elizabeth said the hardest thing to give up was Friday night hot dogs, so I probably would have bought them anyway. There’s a health-food store in town; I’ll see if they have better options.
I feel like I don’t even know really where to start. I’ve never tried to eat a vegetarian diet myself, or had to cook for someone who was on one. I did go through a brief and non-strict Diet for a Small Planet stage in my very early twenties (like, age 20 and 21), because my first husband was into that kind of thing, so I remember there is a bunch of stuff about combining incomplete proteins, but I don’t remember how to do it. Also, I am pretty sure I remember reading a number of years ago that protein-combining was not as important as previously believed? But I don’t remember the source, or whether it was a reliable one.
I remember BEANS playing a big role, and Elizabeth does not yet like beans. She is also not fond of eggs. But I’ve told her she might need to learn to eat beans and eggs as well as some new things, and she is agreeable to that, so I’m going to start experimenting. She does like cheese and milk and yogurt.
Some meals are easy to replace. She can have her pizza with no pepperoni. At Thanksgiving, she can eat potatoes and vegetables and stuffing and cranberry sauce; she never ate the turkey anyway. I’m going to experiment with the TVP in tacos, or she can learn to like burritos made with beans, rice, and cheese. I’m going to see if there are some veggie burgers that are better nutritionally than the veggie hot dogs. But she and I were shopping on Sunday and we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch and…oops, I forgot she wasn’t eating meat. I got her a baked potato and a Caesar side salad, but it seemed a bit sad to both of us, and she said it completely removed the Treat element of eating out. I got her a cookie afterward, out of food pity.
I don’t know what to make for her if I’m making chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes and broccoli for everyone else. I need something kind of easy that can be cooking alongside, so that she can have whatever it is, plus mashed potatoes and broccoli, without me feeling like I’m making two entire meals.
I’d like to find some things that are not just vegetarian versions of other things. That is, I’d rather make her something that doesn’t have meat in it to begin with, instead of substituting in a lot of Faux Meats.
I know there are tons of resources out there, but right now it’s overwhelming. I don’t want a book of two hundred recipes, all containing items I’ve never cooked with before, all of which look like meals for a grown adult with adventurous palate rather than for a picky child; I don’t want a website with ten years’ of archives and a lot of talk about how bad it is to eat meat. I want, like, one recipe that someone’s teenage vegetarian daughter really liked. Or, like, one recommendation for a vegetarian item from the frozen-foods section. (I mean like one or two items per commenter. We don’t have to stop talking after the first comment.)
Edited to add two things I forgot to say:
1. She’s not eating fish.
2. She’s allergic to tree nuts (though not to almonds).