Many families are adding meatless meals into their dinner plan because of the health benefits, including lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. While Meatless Mondays is a popular trend
in households, it can be hard to get kids to eat regular meals (especially with picky eaters!) much less new foods.
We spoke to food journalist and mother of two Sarah Elton about how small changes—and making it fun for your children—can help incorporate more meatless options in your family meals.
Elton is the author of Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat”and Starting from Scratch:What You Should Know
About Food And Cooking— two books for young readers that explain vegetarianism and the basics of healthy food and cooking. She shared some tips on how to reduce meat consumption and make cooking healthy meals fun.
Why should families consider reducing their meat intake?
We live in a time when we can see how the changing climate is affecting people’s lives, so I like to do what I can to make choices that reduce how much greenhouse gas emissions my family and I contribute. One choice we make is to eat less meat. The good news is that when we eat less meat we save money— beans and lentils cost way less! And we have a varied diet filled with vegetables and legumes, which is healthy.
What tips do you have for parents that want to encourage their kids to eat healthier?
Sometimes it’s hard for parents to get kids to try new foods—I know because we’ve had our fair share of picky eating moments. My daughter refused to eat the bean dishes I make on a weekly basis for years—years! I’d ask that she have one bite, which she nibbled reluctantly. Finally, this year she started eating the bean dishes and actually likes them. My take away is don’t be discouraged by picky eating. Kids change. Talking about why you are eating the foods you choose and how they support your own health and health of the planet is a good way to explain why there is a certain dish for dinner tonight.
How can parents empower their children to become more involved in their food choices/food preparation?
I suggest getting kids involved in everything. Sit down together and make a shopping list of healthy foods you want to eat in the coming days. Meal planning before you go shopping helps you buy the ingredients that are in season and that you’ll need for the week.
How can kids make a difference?
Kids can make a real difference by suggesting to their families that they eat something other than meat on Mondays. If you and your family really love to eat meat and don’t want to cut it out entirely, you can still know you are making a difference by eating less. You can make all sorts of yummy meals that don’t include meat but are still delicious and nutritious. I like to replace meat with beans and lentils when I make dishes like veggie burgers, tacos, pastas (try chickpeas instead of ground beef ) stews and soups.
What strategies do you suggest for families to reduce their meat intake?
Meatless Monday is a great start as it turns something that seems daunting (giving up meat) into a fun theme day. I also suggest exploring breakfasts or lunches that don’t involve meat. If you normally have bacon with your breakfast, perhaps you could fry up some apples to go with your pancakes or have a side of sweet potato with your eggs.
Check out this yummy Lentil Soup recipe and try it at home with your family this Monday:
- 1 cup (250 mL) dried red lentils
- 1 medium onion
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 2 medium potatoes
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
- 6 cups (1.5 L) water or vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pour lentils onto a plate and pick out any tiny
stones. Put lentils in a strainer and rinse them.
- Peel onion, garlic, carrots and potatoes. Chop
onion, then garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat.
Add the onion, stirring until brown—about 5
minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute
before adding the celery, carrots, and potatoes.
- Add the water or stock and the bay leaves.
Add the lentils and stir. Then bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about
30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add salt and
pepper to taste.
- Remove bay leaves and serve.
Check out more family-friendly recipes at PTAOurChildren.
Nara Sandberg is the marketing & partnerships coordinator at The Monday Campaigns.