April 12, 2013

Dear Frannie Friday--Going Vegetarian Family Meal Tips

As anyone who's read this blog for any duration for the last three weeks can attest, Patrick and I have decided to go vegetarian.  We are no longer eating or buying meat.  Of course, we have the three kiddos (12, 8 and almost 6) who eat at the house too (obvi), so it's been an adjustment.  Sometimes a struggle.  So if you're thinking of doing so, here are some tips for you:

1.  Go At Your Own Pace

The best way, if you want to go vegetarian or even just eat healthier, is to eeeeeeeease in.  You can start simply.  You don't have to dive all in at once.  If you are nervous about your kids' reaction (or spouse's) to the new meal plan, you can always start with baby steps.  Institute a Meatless Monday or choose a few easy dishes to start with.  You don't have to be a guru right away.    

2.  Think Like a Kid

The best approach to introduce your family to vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, organic, healthier, whathaveyou diet is to remember that this might be scary territory to those who aren't familiar.  Just because you're on board to give up something or try something new doesn't mean everyone else will be (though it is much easier with a willing participant, I must say).  Try to make it more adaptable and comforting to start with a classic dish you know everyone likes and build on that.  One of our first vegetarian dishes I made was Nectarine Pizza.  It was different, but pizza is something my family is used to and likes, so it was a good starting point.  You could also try variations of mac 'n cheese or vegetarian chili!

3.  Institute the "No Thank You Bite" Rule

The point of this decision for most people that do it is to be healthier.  But it won't do you or your family much good if they are not eating what you cook and going hungry.  And, let's be honest, when you're used to eating a certain way, new food can look intimidating, especially if it contains visual ingredients you're not familiar with.  But do make them try what we call a "no thank you bite".  They have to at least give it a decent effort.  There have been many times my kids didn't want to try something, had a bite and ended up finishing it.  Also, make sure to keep lots of fresh fruits and healthy snacks around and invite them to those at your discretion.  I personally always let my kids snack on fruits or veggies or nuts at their leisure so if they don't finish their dinner, I know they have had plenty of other stuff that's good for them in the interim.

4.  But Expect Some Backlash

Plain and simple: your family won't like everything that you decide to experiment with.  Some people just don't like eggplant.  Or certain textures or spices.  As long as no one is rude about it, don't take it to heart.  And don't get discouraged if some of your efforts aren't homeruns.  It will help you realize what you can and can't "get away with" and in the end, you'll find a bunch of good ones. 

5.  Give Yourself Extra Time

It is no lie when I tell you that I feel like I was wingin' it before we started the organic vegetarian thang.  I made dinner every night, yes.  And most of it was more or less "homemade", but we did have some hamburger helper moments or sloppy joes or something super quick 'n easy.  Everything takes more time when you go with a healthier diet.  Shopping is more strenuous reading labels and picking out produce.  There are a multitude of extra dishes when you are fixing things from scratch.  The act of cooking dinner is slower at first while you are learning recipes and chopping more veggies and such.  But it can be done.  It just takes some prioritization and energy. 

6.  Get Organized

A spreadsheet or booklet of recipes, planning out a menu, checking your cabinets before you hit the stores and checking coupons and specials is invaluable when you are changing your and your family's diet.  Finding out where your local health food stores and farmer's markets are is a must.  Since you are likely to not have many of the ingredients already on hand, you will want to have a structured menu plan and corresponding list for the grocery store.  It is no joke that eating healthier costs more, so read fliers about specials on veggies and fruits.  Make sure you budget in more for grocery shopping per month when making the switch.  Knowing what is in season and recipes that work with those fruits and veggies is very helpful.

This was an extensive list, but I hope it helps!  You'll be amazed at the benefits and changes you see from going organic or vegetarian or even local.  

Do you have a question for Dear Frannie Friday?  Feel free to shoot me an email at franniepantz@hotmail.com

Denim Skirt-thrifted; Light Purple Gingham Oxford Shirt-thrifted; Light Purple Cardigan with Ruffle Detail-gifted by Lynne; Mesh Floral Socks-thrifted (NWT); Saddle Oxfords-Payless; Bracelets-DIY and gifted; Watch-gifted; Earrings-gifted from Patrick from Qatar

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