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Help! My daughter's gone vegetarian

Karen GilmanHi, I am Karen Gilman and I am here to celebrate with you your daughter’s choice to ‘go vegetarian.’ You are here because you worry your daughter will not get the nutrients she needs or you are looking for tips on how to make healthy vegetarian meals. I can help put your mind at ease and give you the tools to support this vegetarian journey.

My daughter's a vegetarian... Now what?

Your daughter has declared she no longer wants to eat meat.  How is she going to get enough protein, calcium or iron? Can her growing body get enough of these nutrients and the calories its needs if she does not eat any meat?

Not to worry. She’ll be fine as long as she eats the right foods. I know only too well how challenging it can be to get kids to eat properly.  Boys, too, can be picky eaters, though they don’t face the same nutritional challenges as girls.

You don’t want her to become dependent on multivitamins to bridge the gap. Ensure she gets the nutrients she needs from the food she eats.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Let's get started!

Countdown To Camp

Countdown To Camp

With school winding down it is time to start getting ready for summer camp. I am airing out duffel and sleeping bags, washing towels and sheets and printing off packing lists. Does your daughter go to sleep-away camp? If so, you might be concerned that she won’t be able to follow a healthy vegetarian diet while she is away from home. I know I was worried when my daughter went away for the first time.

What will she eat if I don’t cook for her?

Will they have vegetarian options at camp?

What if she’s hungry?

Was I worrying unnecessarily? Surely, there are lots of kids at camp who are vegetarians.

Then I got the phone call from camp. My daughter was sick and wanted to come home. When the counselor put her on the phone and we had a chance to talk, I realized she wasn’t eating properly. She was hungry all the time. So, of course, she was tired and she got sick. Just what I was worried about. As much as I wanted to pick her up, bring her home and feed her a good meal, I didn’t. I wanted her to stay because I knew she would enjoy herself once she felt better.

I talked to the counselor and asked her to make sure my daughter was eating good quality vegetarian food. Cucumbers for lunch wouldn’t suffice.  I didn’t want the camp to have to make a special meal for her but I asked if they had chickpeas and tofu at camp? Could they make them available to my daughter at meal time? Could they also make sure she eats some peanut butter? (Hers is not a nut-free camp). All of these foods would help her get the good quality vegetarian protein she required. That’s all she really needed while she was away. It was just for a few weeks. I tried to forget about the calcium, iron, Vitamin D and all the other nutrients I try to make sure she gets when she is at home. I knew she was on vacation. She wanted to have fun. I could get her back on track once she she returned from camp.

If your vegetarian child is going to sleep away camp, here are a few questions to ask:

  1. Do they serve serves beans, legumes or tofu?
  2. What exactly are the vegetarian options? Just veggies or salad is not enough.
  3. Can you send non-perishable food with your child? I sent a few cans of chickpeas and peanut butter in subsequent summers. I also sent nuts and seeds.

You can also request a copy of the meal plan if you really want to know what your daughter will be eating. Or, you can wait until she gets home to hear all about it. One last thing as you send her off for a few weeks is to encourage her to speak up if she is hungry or can’t find something to eat.


Tonight’s Dinner

Tonight’s Dinner

When I decided to give up meat and chicken I had just moved out on my own. I was looking forward to cooking for myself so I picked up a copy of the infamous Moosewood Cookbook.  If you were a vegetarian in my day, Moosewood was THE authority on vegetarian cooking. What a treasure the cookbook was! I was so excited to try out all the new recipes and discover new foods.  Every week I made a list of the recipes I wanted to try, making comments on each page as to whether or not they were worth making again. To this day I still have a few favourites from this cookbook like the Gypsy Soup and Vegetable Stew.

Fast forward a few years, okay quite a few, and now I am cooking vegetarian meals for my family and I have to be more particular about what I choose. I pick up the Moosewood Cookbook once in a while but now with all the plant-based blogs online, it is so easy to find vegetarian recipes. I also enjoy taking cookbooks out of the library. I know it sounds antiquated but I like flipping through and reading the recipes. One of our favourite recipes is from My Darling Lemon Thyme. The Sweet and Sour Lemongrass Tempeh got thumbs up from my gang. However, in our house, not everyone likes tempeh so I usually make it with both tempeh and tofu. Though the recipe doesn’t call for any vegetables, I can’t resist adding something green like snow or snap peas or broccoli.

Sweet and Sour Lemongrass Tempeh


  • 2 tbsp tamarind puree or sauce
  • 2–3 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 300g packet tempeh, cut in half lengthways, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp muscovado or coconut sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
  • Sea salt and ground white pepper
  • Cooked rice and Thai basil leaves, to serve


Combine tamarind puree with 1/3 cup (80ml) water and stir until fully incorporated.

Heat 1–2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add tempeh (perhaps in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan) and fry for 2–3 minutes each side until golden. Transfer to a plate, wipe out the pan with paper towel and add remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Stir-fry onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass for 2–3 minutes until tender and golden.

Return tempeh to the pan along with the sugar, tamarind liquid and soy sauce. Cook, stirring, until liquid has reduced to a glaze and is coating the tempeh. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with rice, chilli and fresh herbs.



Why I love smoothies

Why I love smoothies

Mornings can be a crazy time with getting everyone up, fed and out the door on time. Smoothies are a great way to ensure everyone leaves the house with a healthy start to their day. Whether it be a picky eater, a vegetarian/vegan or anyone else with dietary restrictions, everyone loves smoothies.

When my daughter decided to become a vegetarian, I used our morning smoothie to get her to consume as many nutrients possible before she left for school.  I tried to make it prior to her getting out of bed so she wouldn’t see what I was putting in it. Though it didn’t quite matter as she managed to pick out all the tiny green pieces anyway. We experimented with a lot of different fruits, some veggies/herbs, fish oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds… you name it, I added it to our smoothies. Did she drink them? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your morning smoothie. Give them a try and you won’t have to worry about your kids leaving the house hungry and malnourished in the morning:

. Choose fruit you know everyone likes. I always recommend starting with berries- strawberries, raspberries or blueberries are all good options.

. Add some healthy fats, a tablespoon of coconut oil or avocado will do the trick. Depending on what type of smoothie your family likes a tablespoon of nut or seed butter will also work well. Theses will also add some protein.

. Add proteins like silken tofu or Greek yogurt (choose plant-based if your child is vegan) to get a smooth creamy texture.

. Instead of water, use soy milk to increase the protein content as it contains the most protein of all non-dairy beverages.

. Add a ripe banana, ripe pear or some pineapple to sweeten things up.

. Sneak in some greens like parsley or watercress as they have a mild flavour.

. Sprinkle in some chia or hemp seeds which will add protein, healthy fats and some Omega 3 fatty acids.

. Us frozen fruit if fresh it not available. It will also make the smoothie nice and cold without using ice.
Here is a tried and true recipe from our house, though quantities are approximate as I never really measure.

Mixed Fruit Smoothie


1/4 cup frozen mango

1/4 cup fresh pineapple

1/2 cup strawberries

1/2  ripe medium banana

1/2 tbsp chia or hemp seeds

Vanilla soy milk to desired consistency


Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.


What’s your favourite go-to smoothie?