By Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
Your grandchildren are coming to visit for a while. Lucky you! But when their mom sends an e-mail reminding you that they don’t eat meat, anxiety sets in. So, tuck the corndogs in the freezer, abandon coupons for discounts on hot wings, and brainstorm on how you’ll feed the little ones during their stay.
WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT?
Begin with a healthy breakfast.
Bye, bye sausage and bacon, hello omelet. Your grandchildren can each choose how they want their omelet filled and can help slice, dice and prepare their favorite vegetables and cheese. What a satisfying protein source to start their day and yours!
Cold or hot cereal topped with fresh or dried fruit will put a smile on their faces. Or try serving granola; there are many varieties in the supermarket or health food stores. Select a type with ingredients that your grandchildren prefer. Serve yogurt, a very popular breakfast delight.
Enjoy lots of lunch choices.
Prepared cold or melted, a cheese sandwich filled with veggies such as tomatoes, or alfalfa sprouts is popular among children of all ages. Or prepare a peanut butter sandwich with thinly sliced bananas instead of sugary jam. Encourage your grandchildren to assist you with meal preparation and they’re more likely to be served a meal they’ll enjoy.
Soup, canned or homemade, can be part of a hearty, nourishing lunch that you can enjoy with your grandchildren. Add alphabet noodles to make soup more fun to eat. Gazpacho, a cold tomato-based vegetable soup is a treat on hot summer days. To keep peace with their parents, be sure that the soup broth is vegetable-based, as many are not. Read the label before purchasing.
Let your grandchildren help find innovative ways to serve fruit by creating a fruit salad with you. Make it fancy with toppings like shredded coconut, cinnamon, raisins, or cranberries. Have them create different food combinations.
Don’t lack for snack ideas.
Trail mix, store-bought or homemade is popular amongst older grandchildren. Be careful with the younger grandchildren for risk of choking on the small seeds and nuts. A fun activity with your grandchildren is to make your own trail mix from scratch. It’s amazingly simple. Combine ingredients that your grandkids select. No cooking is required.
Serve a super supper to your vegetarian grandchildren.
Perhaps you enjoy cooking and preparing interesting casseroles. That’s wonderful when your adult friends are coming to dinner. But with most grandchildren, when it comes to gourmet cuisine, less is definitely more. Pasta main courses are favorites among grandchildren of all ages. Serve different shapes and sizes of pasta, such as orzo. Skip the meatballs and top with cheese, for example, mozzarella or cheddar.
Vegetarian chili is yummy as a winter meal or year-round. Add a variety of beans such as kidney beans or pinto, and spice minimally for children. Tofu and other soy foods can be used in chili or as main courses if your grandchildren like those foods. Check the freezer section of your supermarket to see what vegetarian burgers are available.
Feeding your grandchildren who are on a vegan diet is a greater challenge, because not only is meat excluded from their diets but also dairy products. Many healthy and tasty recipes can be found online. But your best option in pleasing the taste buds of your vegan grandchildren is to ask their parents for menu ideas, and also ask your grandchildren.
A vegetarian or vegan diet can be a very healthy option for your grandchildren, and even for you. Serve a balance of nutritious foods. Include your grandchildren in meal preparation.
Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two vegetarians. She lives in a Midwestern college town. She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past. Learn more about her at http://debrakarplus.blogspot.com.