My daughter is a vegetarian. My husband and I aren’t.

But I know families where the reverse is true: the parents are vegetarians and the kids aren’t. (Sorry Melissa, it took me so long to answer your question.)

So what can you do to feed the family and avoid becoming a short-order chef? 

As usual, my answer involves some tidbits about the food and some tidbits about the lessons.

First the food:

1) Cook to the largest common denominator. In my home, this means  we eat a lot of vegetarian meals. (This works for me because I’m a near-vegetarian. It works less-well for my husband who prefers to eat a lot of burgers!)

2) Occasionally make meals that please just one or two eaters. In my home this means I occasionally serve chicken, fish and burgers. But when you do…

3) Make sure there is always at least one thing on the table that everyone will eat. When I serve meat, I also serve a few extra vegetarian side dishes. (Nothing elaborate…just some extra peas and/or potatoes.)

4) Use a healthy dessert, such as fruit, as a backup. Read Healthy Desserts for Kids.

Now, the lessons.

Five lessons everyone needs to learn to make this system work:

  1. Dinner doesn’t always have to be your favorite. And related to this…
  2. Everyone has to eat a clunker now and then.
  3. While it’s awesome when meals are delicious, sometimes they are just sustenance.
  4. As long as there is something on the table that you can eat, then go ahead and eat it!
  5. Learn to cook. Then, don’t just make your meal. Share the burden of providing the family meal.

Some families encourage the “odd-eater-out” to cook a separate meal. I don’t advocate this.

The “odd-eater-out” has plenty of opportunities to eat their “odd” way. My husband, for instance, eats a lot of burgers at lunch, or when we eat out. Even children, who don’t have the same ready access to restaurants as my husband, have plenty of opportunities during the day to eat entirely “their way.”

The communal meal is about a lot more than the food

Especially for children. And the lesson of serving one meal that kinda, sorta, accommodates everyone is the right lesson for life. It teaches flexibility, community, compassion, caring…

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~