Meat-Free Meals for Children

It is often a struggle trying to work out what to dish up on a weekday evening with little time and demanding children. It feels even more stressful when we’re trying to take the health of ourselves and the planet into consideration.

I generally plan 3 meat and 4 non-meat dinners a week and here’s why:

  • Naturally we eat more vegetables, nuts and fish when there is no meat in a dish. This helps to balance our diet and reach our 5-a-day.
  • The planet needs us to eat less meat. Even the Telegraph agrees.
  • When we do buy meat, we buy from a local butcher. It is more expensive and eating it less keeps the cost down.
  • Diet is habit and I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that every main meal must include meat.

So here are some ideas for easy meat free meals for children:

  1. Homemade Pizza: either buy ready made bases, or a packet bread mix to make your own. Spread with passata, or tinned tomatoes simmered with onions and garlic for 30mins – I make this with 3 tins of toms and 3 onions at a time and freeze the extra. Persuade the kids to help top with any veg they’ll eat. We normally use tinned sweetcorn, chopped up peppers, mushroom. All topped with plain and simple cheddar. Bake for 15 mins at 220 degrees. Don’t forget to grease the baking tray.
  2. Cheesy Veg: Cook pasta and steam the veg in a metal seive on top of the pasta pan. You can use whatever veg your children eat – broccoli, carrots, peas, cabbage, celery. All work well. Or you can microwave the veg. Make or buy white sauce. If you’ve microwaved the veg, use the water which will have nutrients in it for the white sauce. If you can, sneak in a tin of cannelini beans to up the protein. Mix the veg, pasta and sauce together and top with cheese. Grill on a medium grill for 15 minutes.
  3. Lentil Bolognese: fry an onion and crushed garlic clove, then add diced carrots, courgette, peppers, mushrooms, celery, runner beans, whatever your kids will eat. If you’re up against it with fussy eaters, try grating in some carrot or courgette. Trust me, they won’t notice it. Add a mug of red lentils, a bay leaf, tin of tomatoes, oregano, squirt of tomato puree and enough veg stock to cover everything. Simmer until the lentils are tender and watch for it drying out. Just add water if it does. Serve with rice or pasta or jacket potatoes.
  4. Tuna a la King: not sure about the King, but my Mum called it that, so here goes. Fry celery or onion and green peppers in enough butter to stop them sticking. Add a tablespoon of flour and cook for another minute. Slowly add around 300ml of warmed milk – I normally put the measuring jug of milk in the microwave to warm it. The sauce will need stirring as it thickens. Add a tin of tuna and some frozen peas. Serve with rice or pasta.
  5. Pesto and Pasta with Cashew nuts: I’ve left the easiest to last. We can all do shop bought pesto and pasta, but you can quickly add extra nutrition with roasted nuts. We put a bowl of nuts into the microwave for 3 mins. They need keeping an eye on, but they will roast nicely. Disappear in seconds.

Enjoy. These are more guides than recipes, so if you need any more detail, just ask in the comments.

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