Assembly Meals to Satisfy All Eating Styles
Make Meat Eaters, Vegetarians Happier with these Meal Planning Tips
Struggling to figure out menu plans that serve both vegetarians and meat eaters? Trying to navigate picky eating or a member of the family with a food intolerance? Learning how to incorporate different eating styles into one family meal, to save you time, money and grief at the table is no easy task.
We all want to encourage our families to be unique and support our differences. That’s what makes life interesting and fun! When it comes to eating styles, however, it can make assembling meals and cooking a nightmare.
Meals for All Eating Styles
Do you find that you are cooking multiple meals each week to support different eating choices or picky eaters within your household? Let’s discuss some strategies to help prevent extra time and money spent on food prep and to make meal time more enjoyable for everyone, whether you are a vegetarian or ‘meatitarian’, gluten-free, or prefer to eat another way than those around you.
There are many meals that can be made in parts, I like to call them deconstructed meals or assembly meals, so that certain elements can be shared by everyone and other elements are specific to each eating style. A vegetarian can leave the meat off a burrito, and a celiac can assemble a burrito bowl with no flour tortilla. Another option is to consider meals that can be split at certain steps so that they meet each eating style preference. It might mean a few more dishes or pots, but you end up with a meal everyone around the table will enjoy.
Tips to allow for multiple eating styles in the same home
Whether you are vegetarian, ‘meatitarian’, have a food intolerance or restriction here are some steps to help make meal planning easier:
Choose meals that can be ‘assembled’ together after they are cooked:
- Meals such as tacos or vermicelli meat, tofu or seafood noodle bowls
- Food items are placed into different bowls on the table/counter
- When preparing these meals each person can pick and choose which items they want in their bowls or plate
- Ensure there are lots of different options available to pick from
Choose recipes that have distinct steps that can allow for separation of part of the meal:
- Meals such as shepherd’s pie or pasta sauce
- When making these meals you can cook all the vegetables first then when it calls to brown the meat you can split the recipe into 2 pans, one to allow for the meat to be added and the other to be meatless with lentils
- Other than the protein source the meal can be made with the same ingredients and placed into 2 different baking dishes
Choose recipes that can be made in 2 pans with similar ingredients except for the ‘protein’ or ‘noodle’ for vegetarian or gluten-free eating:
- Meals such as mac and cheese with gluten-free pasta and regular pasta or fried rice and Pad Thai, one with egg and meat and another with tofu
- You can prep and prepare the same meal with mostly the same ingredients but in 2 different pots or pans
Choose meals that come in distinct parts:
- Meals such as burgers (beef and veggie) or the traditional meat, potatoes and vegetable style meals
- That way each portion that needs to be individualized for each eating style can be kept separate while the rest of the meal is shared with everyone else saving on preparation and ingredients
Choose to eat everyone’s food preference (if able) once a week so everyone can feel included:
- Choose foods like vegetarian lasagna where beans and lentils can be included with other flavors or chili where they are already present
- Get creative with recipes to make them fun and different like creating different kinds of tacos (black bean) or roasted chick pea gryos
- Learn to cook things like tofu and fish, often when people don’t like something it’s because they don’t know how to prepare it
When a family eats at the same table, with similar foods, and less hassle to get there, we are all more likely to enjoy the meal time together and eat healthier foods because of it.
What are your favorite meals to make in a household that is serving both meat eaters and vegetarians or other eating styles? Let us know in the comments!
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Registered Dietitian & Online Nutritionist - Weight Concerns, Women’s Health, Diabetes & Meal Planning
The first thing you will notice about Shauna is her contagious optimism, energetic personality and zest. Shauna loves teaching and has a heart full of compassion and empathy for helping clients work through health concerns. Shauna specializes in healthy cooking, diabetes, cardiovascular health, weight concerns and womens health. Read more