Jessica Siegel's Healthy Family Blog - Gelson's


More Meatless Mondays


On Monday afternoon of this week, I had a mom and her sixth-grade son enthusiastically approach me.  The son is lacto-ovo vegetarian, which meant that he didn’t eat meat, poultry, or fish, but did include dairy and eggs in his vegetarian diet.  His mom was concerned that he wasn’t getting enough protein in his diet.  His mom also expressed her frustration in not knowing what to cook for dinner for her meat-loving family and vegetarian son.

I sat them both down and asked the boy a few questions:
Q: Why don’t you eat meat?
A: Because I feel bad for the animals.
Q: Do you eat eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, lentils, nuts, and nut butters?
A: Yes!
Q: Do you feel hungry and unsatisfied quickly after you eat?
A: Yes.
I explained that you could absolutely get enough protein and feel satisfied on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, as long as you are what I call a “responsible vegetarian.”  (Whenever I talk to teens and pre-teens about their choice to follow a vegetarian diet I say that that’s a very adult choice to make and they need to be able to show that they will eat responsibly and include important proteins and vegetables, since French fries and plenty of empty-calorie foods are vegetarian.)  The key to getting enough protein and satisfaction from each meal is to plan balanced meals that include protein, produce, healthful fat, and a minimally processed starch such as quinoa, brown rice, flourless sprouted bread, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, or baby potatoes.  Furthermore, eating more plant-based meals and fewer meat-centered meals is healthier for the whole family.  I encouraged them to try more inclusive menu planning and more meatless meals instead of short-order cooking.  For example, they could have Lentil Soup or Split Pea Soup as their main protein for dinner or they could have it with chicken and vegetables and the son could just not eat the chicken.  They were both on board with these ideas.  I gave them recipes for egg salad sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, Black Bean Quesadillas  and Spinach and Cheese Mini Quiches.  I also recommended they try breakfast for dinner like my family had just done (yes, Big J ate scrambled eggs and told me I was “the most amazing egg cooker ever!”).

Then I walked with them through the store and pointed out some of the good vegetarian proteins that I like:  Straus Family Creamery whole Greek yogurt, Applegate organic Munster cheese, Organic Valley whole Grassmilk, Gelson’s Finest organic omega-3 eggs, Natural Directions organic lentils and split peas, Maisie Jane’s almond butter, Seapoint Farms dry roasted edamame and frozen edamame, Back to Nature cashew almond pistachio mix, and S&W organic canned beans.

The very next afternoon, I saw the mom and her daughter in the store.  She reported that her son had already made the lentil soup and mini quiches and had loved them.  The whole family had lentil soup for dinner and he packed the quiches for his lunch.  I was thrilled and gratified to work with such an enthusiastic and adventurous family and I know that they will all be successful in making healthful changes because they are supporting each other and because they went home and got started with their modified eating plan right away.  

Eating a more plant-based diet with at least two meatless meals a day is a healthful goal for all families.  My family tries to do it by eating a vegetarian breakfast, usually a vegetarian lunch where cheese, eggs, beans or nut butter is our protein, and then a dinner that may or may not include poultry, fish, or red meat.  It can not only be more nutritious to eat this way, but it also promotes heart health and a healthier weight, as well as reduced cancer risk.  I encourage you to try to have more meatless meals with your family, too.