When your vegetarian child is a fussy eater

When your vegetarian child is a fussy eater

I can’t tell you how my heart sank when my fussy eater turned vegetarian.

When Flea announced that she was becoming a veggie we all laughed.  That’s because while Flea has a very healthy diet, the “vegetable” part of it consists primarily of carrots, peas and cucumber.

When you look at one of those government-sponsored Eatwell plates that we’re all supposed to eat every day, Flea definitely eats things from all sections of the plate. But she’s very selective about how many items from each section she’s prepared to let pass her lips.

Fruit and vegetables? Sure! But the only acceptable fruits are grapes and apples. Vegetables that are allowed are mostly carrot, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli. Salad vegetables are all a no, except cucumber. Yes to pasta and rice, no to potatoes in any form. I got Flea to taste my jacket potato last week and she looked at me with tearful eyes and said, “Why would you put that in my mouth?” 

My Vegetarian Fussy Eater

Don’t get me wrong. The vegetarian options at Flea’s school are superb. There’s a fab range of veggie meals, and a superfood and sprinkles bar. This means you can top up your lunch with some goji berries and pumpkin seeds.

Ironically, this is exactly the problem. The menu is full of the sort of flavourful, well-balanced nutrition that my daughter considers an insult to her taste buds. A lot of the usual vegetarian options are on Flea’s “no thanks” list.

Foods my daughter will not eat (a short list):

  • potatoes in any form, including sweet potatoes
  • most salad including tomatoes, onions, lettuce, spinach
  • ketchup, mayo, mustard or most sauces
  • soup (except Heinz Tomato)
  • any vegetables outside her preferred 5
  • mushrooms
  • beans and pulses
  • Herbs (they taste “too spicy”)
  • No nuts or seeds

If you too have a fussy eater who is now vegetarian, here are 9 meal ideas that saved my vegetarian bacon when it came to feeding my fussy veggie child.


Many a lunchtime was saved by a quesadilla. Basically, two flour tortillas sandwiched together with cheese, then fried in a dry pan for 3 minutes each side. I can usually sneak in some extra nutrition by adding some finely sliced sweet orange or yellow pepper, or sometimes I’ll add in sweetcorn and finely diced onion. Also, this goes very well with tomato soup.

Veggie Noodles

Flea is great with noodles, and often I’ll make lunch with a nest of quick cook noodles, and then add in a ready-frozen mix of vegetables (usually the sort with carrot, peas and sweetcorn) and dress with soy sauce or Korean barbecue sauce. If I want to add some protein to this dish, I use the straight-to-wok crispy Tofu, or some Quorn pieces.

Pasta and Pesto

This has been my go-to meal for Flea since she was tiny and we aren’t changing yet. I used to serve it with peas, in hopes she would eat some veggies with her lunch. Often, the peas were left. These days, I cook up broccoli and peas and then blitz them in the Nutribullet. This means that I can mix it into the pesto sauce and Flea is none the wiser.

Bao Buns

Like lots of kids her age, Flea is a big fan of Asian food and bao buns are a huge favourite. You can find vegetarian bao buns in the freezer section at most supermarkets, and they can be steamed in the microwave for just 1 minute. They’re a great option for vegetarian fussy eaters. I’ll sometimes serve with wholemeal rice cooked with peas and dressed with a little soy sauce.

vegetarian meal ideas for kids


I absolutely LOVE the Northern Dough Company frozen pizza dough, and we use it for pizza usually once a week. Just defrost the dough overnight, then roll it out. For toppings, I tend to use tomato sauce (with onion and garlic) with ripped mozzarella cheese. If Flea is feeling adventurous I might add on some pepper slices and some sweetcorn.


I love fajitas an an option for fussy eaters because it’s a low-pressure meal. Just put your tortillas on the table with a selection of toppings and let your child choose what they want to try. We use Quorn for vegetarian fajitas, along with avocado, salsa (which Flea won’t eat), cheese and sour cream. I will sometimes try and blend some extra onion and carrot into the fajita sauce to bump up the nutritional value.

Mac and Cheese

My daughter is a fussy eater but she adores cheese. One of our favourite Friday night dinners is a hearty Mac and Cheese made with added cauliflower and broccoli. It’s basically a blend of mac and cheese and cauliflower cheese, but it means Flea wolfs down a whole meal AND I’m happy she’s eaten some vegetables.


Another noodle dish that’s good for picky eaters is a ramen bowl. If we have this for dinner, I’ll make up a basic vegetarian ramen broth with noodles and tofu. I then provide a bowl of finely sliced carrot, cabbage, spring onions, snow peas and chilli and Flea likes to pick out her veggies to add to her meal. I’ll often add an egg to the ramen for extra nutrition, and because it tastes great! It’s a meal that looks fancy but takes 5 minutes to make. We get pre-made ramen broth at the supermarket and packs of pre-chopped stir fry veggies, so it’s dead easy.


Lastly, a shout out to the meatless meatball, which has saved many a week night dinner in our house. I find even the biggest fussy eater enjoys meatballs, and these can be cooked right from the freezer with a simple tomato sauce, lots of grated cheese and a pile of spaghetti or rice. To be fair, many of the meat alternatives now are really decent, and we’ve tried the vegetarian sausages and sausage rolls (Linda McCartney’s are Flea’s favourites) and the Meatless Meat Co mince and burgers are great for making cheeseburgers and spaghetti bolognese.


I know LOADS of my readers and fellow bloggers are vegetarian and raising veggie children, so help me out if you can – what do you feed a vegetarian child if they’re a fussy eater? Got any sure fire hits in your family?

11 thoughts on “When your vegetarian child is a fussy eater”

  1. I’m a recent addition to the veggie population and my diet consists largely of Quorn because I’m buggered if I can find the time to cook properly without giving Toby the space and time to shake his baby sister from here to next Monday. Fake sausages as toad in the hole with some nice gravy and peas, will Flea eat mushrooms? They hide spinach quite nicely within a bake or tart so are a tasty option too. Courgetti mixed in with spaghetti and coated in so much tomato sauce she won’t notice?! Good luck!

    1. This is very promising. Obviously, 50% of what you mention is on the “no” list (mushrooms, spinach, quiche/tarts, courgette) but it’s nice to know Quorn sausages aren’t awful – we already use the chicken pieces in fajitas, and the mince in bolognese. Fingers crossed!

  2. My DD has been vegetarian since she turned 7 over a year ago. She has an egg every day – either an omelet or as egg salad with mayo. She’ll sprinkle grated cheese on her pasta. For vegetables I’m lucky that she loves avocado so it’s cucumber, tomato and avocado salad with olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Often she’ll have two slices of cheese instead of a slice of cold meat as it were. She’ll also eat cheese on crackers. Other vegetables are cooked into a soup and liquidized to hide the evidence. She’ll eat this with lots of croutons. Vegetable consomme is acceptable with vermicelli in it. And she eats a cut up apple and a banana before bed while I’m reading to her. The other meal is at school where she eats the rice and whatever vegetable the dinner lady can persuade her to eat – I’m not sure what happens there. I have convinced her to eat a portion of salmon t the weekend but she won’t eat tuna unfortunately, or any other fish. It’s not very adventurous as I don’t have time to cook much but it’s not processed food and it does include protein and fruit/vegetables. Good luck.

  3. Mine have been vegetarian since birth and are fussy eaters, especially my 9 year old. With the vegetables I just blend them into sauces. For protein I put lentils in things that don’t usually have lentils in like chilli con carne because lentils are small and tasteless and they mostly don’t notice. I blend beans into things too. Be careful about iron intake – a glass of OJ with an iron rich food will aid absorption. Eggs and cheese are good for protein too. Eating out is more difficult. Good luck! It’ll probably just be a phase but obviously I think vegetarianism is great and that she is doing a wonderful thing.

  4. This is SO my year 7 girl too, except she won’t eat any fruit at all (but sssh, pretend I didn’t say that). However, we have it covered on the vegetarian front at school, because pretty much all she does eat there is Margherita pizza. Oh and the odd pretzel. Sorted. I’m definitely winning at this parenting thing, huh?! :/

  5. I did this to my Mum, I was a horrendously fussy eater. However much like my changes of diet these days, I never stuck to anything for long much to my Mum’s relief. These days I eat pretty much anything and everything, but I have been ‘blessed’ with two fussy eaters.

    My Mother calls it karma … I’m an awful cook and I have no advice I’m afraid except to hope that it’s a phase.

    Stevie x

  6. I decided that I was going vegetarian when I was 4 years old. My mum was pretty despairing of the whole thing too but we managed. I’m still veggie now and I’m not only fully nourished but utterly over-nourished. This is a word that has just come to me. I’m NOT fat, I’m over-nourished. Oh also though, I’m not unhealthy, I did a 50 mile ultramarathon last year and didn’t collapse or anything. Anyhow, she’ll be fine. If she gets that bored of the spaghetti, she’ll either start eating the decent veggie food or stop being veggie, she won’t live on spaghetti for the rest of her school days.

  7. Oh way to go Flea!!!!!

    Raised both mine as veggie and yes industrial quantities of Quorn and fortified cereals are my forte!
    Go you for embracing it. I was 11 when I went veggie and that was 35 years ago and I have hardly wasted away!

  8. I have raised 4 vegetarian children (did you know that?), two of them would eat anything, two of them would not and sound much like Flea in their approach to food – no one has died. They have all grown into strapping, expensive big people. Fortified cereals are good, eggs are power packs, Quorn and Linda McC have saved me on many an occasion and pasta is always a winner. Always happy to help if you need the advice of an old hand 🙂

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