Being a vegetarian wife and mom in a non-vegetarian family doesn’t have to be difficult and does not require cooking separate meals for everyone. These tips will help you to navigate life as a vegetarian/pescatarian when your family and friends have mixed meat preferences.
Guest post by Tricia Tiedemann. Tricia is my beautiful daughter. She is a wife, a mom to our first grandbaby and a freelance copywriter and marketing specialist. She has also been a pescetarian (no meat except fish) for over 10 years. I asked her to share some tips for cooking for non-meat and meat eaters without spending her whole life in the kitchen!
When I was a little kid, I told my mom I wanted to be a vegetarian. She told me that while I was living under her roof, I would eat what she made. (I’m sure I didn’t say it quite like that! I think I probably said, “Honey let’s think about this. It would be hard for mommy to cook separate meals for you. For now, you need to eat what everyone else is eating. Let’s talk about this when you get a little older.” LOL! – Tammy)
So as soon as I turned 16 and got my first job, I cut out red meat. White meat followed soon after. I’ve been navigating the no meat life for over ten years now, but my husband is definitely not a vegetarian. I wanted to share some of the questions I get asked about vegetarianism and also give some tips on cooking for a family or group of people with mixed meat preferences.
1. But what about protein??
This is the number one most asked question when people find out I don’t eat meat. My mom touches more on that in her post about being a flexitarian, but there are many, many other protein sources besides meat. Beans, lentils, nuts, quinoa, Greek yogurt, peas, spinach, eggs, chia seeds, and edamame are all favorites in our house. And I DO eat fish which is another great source of lean protein, healthy fats and your omega 3s. You do not need meat to get protein OR iron.
I’ve been asked for years if I would start eating meat if I got pregnant, and I always answered, “yes, if it’s necessary for the health of me and the baby.” I just had the easiest, healthiest and happiest pregnancy I could have possibly imagined. I didn’t change a single thing about my regular diet.
2. But what about your husband??
I accept that most people won’t choose to cut out meat. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t get grossed out by it nor do I judge it. I made a personal choice for myself, and it’s not up to me to tell everyone else how to eat. I just offer what I know! That means I’m flexible about cooking meat for my husband.
If you are the only vegetarian in your family, the first step is to find common ground. What flavors does everyone like? What types of cuisine are family favorites? My husband and I both love whole foods, fresh herbs, bold flavors, and good spice. Asian, Mexican and Italian dishes are some of the easiest to customize for both of us.
3. So How Do You Cook Without Making Two Meals?
Fajitas, tacos, taco bowls, Asian rice bowls, stuffed peppers, and pasta are on our menu often. We also have fish at least once if not twice a week. It does help that my husband loves veggies. It would be more challenging if he happened to be pickier, but I can cook without meat 3 times a week and it doesn’t bother him.
When I make fajitas or tacos we either use fish, or I make him fajita steak. When we do Asian dishes, I get portabella mushrooms for me and pork for him. For stuffed peppers, I make half with ground beef and half without, and for pasta, I can make meatballs he can add or I will separate the sauce and add meat to his.
I also have no problem making him a steak or a pork chop with roasted veggies. I usually will use the same spices and marinade on a big mushroom cap for me.
My baby boy just turned six months and we have started “baby led weaning.” Which basically just means we skipped purees and went straight to letting him feed himself. With a few modifications, we offer whatever we are eating. I have no intention of forcing vegetarianism on my kids. I will always offer meat if they want it. My philosophy is to offer balanced, nutritional meals made from whole foods.
4. But What About Entertaining?
I approach having people over for dinner exactly the same way I approach cooking for my family. At our most recent get-together, I made Caprese salad, toasted french bread and made two dishes of baked Ziti. One had spicy Italian sausage added and the other one didn’t. Super simple.
When friends have us over for dinner, they make no fuss about accommodating me. We actually went over to a huge housewarming party for the owner of the company my husband and I work for with a good 30 people, and our sweet coworker who was helping with the cooking made sure to leave out a serving of the pasta and Alfredo sauce for me before the meat got added.
I think I have brought my own veggie burgers to a cookout once or twice, and we usually bring some sort of vegetarian side to potlucks so we know I have something to eat! It’s actually much harder to stick to “clean” eating when we are out than it is to navigate meat.
5. So What Do You Eat?
“So do you just eat salad?” I’m always surprised by often people ask me this. It seems so odd to me that people wonder how I survive without eating meat because it just seems second nature to me now.
Our menu this week is tuna steaks with roasted beet salad, tomato risotto with roasted vegetables, fajitas (beef for my husband and veggies for me), salmon with sweet potatoes and asparagus, and pasta with savory pumpkin sauce (I will make meatballs for my husband and the baby).
I never feel deprived or limited! There are serious benefits to reducing meat consumption, but I understand how overwhelming it can seem. Especially when you are trying to plan for a family. I promise it is possible to make it work if it’s something you want to try, and I hope those tips will help!
Thanks so much for your amazing tips Tricia!
Do you adapt meals for members of your family? Do you have any tips not included in this post? Please share in the comment section below. Please let us know if you have any questions.