Getting your spouse and children on board for Meatless Monday can be a difficult task, especially if your family functions with a rotating door of different work, school and play schedules. But there are quick, healthy and easy ways to get everyone eating a bit more green at least one day a week.
While it might be easy to serve your child’s favorite boxed macaroni and cheese for dinner and call it a vegetarian success, you need to first think about the ingredients you are putting in front of your kids on Meatless Mondays. A mac and cheese meal is basically two things: carbs and fat. While pasta provides energy and is cholesterol free, and cheese is full of calcium, one cup of elbow shells contains 43.2 grams of carbohydrates and one half cup of melted cheese has 39 grams of fat. Children between the ages of 48 should only ingest 33-78 grams of fat per day. For children who are overweight or borderline diabetic, one cup macaroni dish is nearly 35% of the suggested intake of 130 total carbohydrates per day.
Here are a few ways to get kids into the routine of skipping meat and enjoying their vegetarian dinners that can help give them much needed vitamins:
- Do a blind taste test with meal-friendly vegetables and see which they prefer, then make that the primary vegetable used in Monday meals. If your child doesn’t like raw vegetables, saute a few mushrooms or roast broccoli or brussel sprouts to see if they prefer cooked, seasoned vegetables instead.
- Have them help prepare the meal. Kids love to help out, and if they become “Monday’s chef” they can take interest in what they are helping create.
- Think about ingredients that taste much like the real deal that won’t send up your child’s red alert system. Mushrooms can be a great meat substitute, and mashed, roasted cauliflower can taste like mashed potatoes.
- Make sure the adults participating in Meatless Monday are setting an example. If dad doesn’t like broccoli, and your child is unsure about the green stalk, don’t serve it. Focus on vegetables that the group can agree on and enjoy thoroughly.
- Try fondue styled eating. Pick a different place in the house to have a meal other than the table (that can tolerate a spill or two) and have a picnic with vegetables dipped in cheese sauce or another dip that makes eating fun.
- Add a pinch of sugar. Even to adults, carrots can taste better with a brown sugar topping.
- Remember there are meatless substitutes. You don’t have to give up on your child’s favorite pizza or tacos. There are soy alternatives in the freezer section that have the taste and texture of beef, chicken, turkey and bacon.
- Still can’t get them to eat their vegetables? Make a smoothie. A Green Monster Smoothie packs the nutrient punch of spinach, yogurt, banana and peanut butter, and doesn’t taste like vegetables.
Great inspiration for getting kid friendly meals on the table each week can be found at Kids Cook Meatless Mondays on Pinterest. To learn more about the Meatless Monday movement, check out the Meatless Monday home page.
Do you want to ask Colleen a question about healthy lifestyles? Email her.