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
- 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.
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.
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.
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?