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Advice for changing an older child to vegan/vegetarian?

Hi, I'm new (lurked for awhile), have been successfully vegan for about 9 months, then fell off the wagon and have pretty much felt like crap ever since.  :)  So I'm getting back on the horse.  My husband is okay with eating vegetarian/vegan, since he wants veggies for supper at night (he eats crap during the day, *sigh*).  My 10-year old son is the problem.  Hates most vegetables.  Won't touch tortillas.  Loves cheeseburgers.  On the good side, he also won't drink milk. 

I'm a realist, and I know that he's not going to be completely vegan, as he spends every other weekend with his ignorant father, but I would like to get him to eat more veggies, and more healthily.  Basically I want cooking to be a whole lot easier than it currently is -- I want him to eat what we're eating, so I don't go crazy.  :)  This is basically why I've had trouble staying vegan, because I work full time, we're fixing up our house & yard, and I don't have a lot of time and energy to think about cooking 2 different suppers every night.

I just want to introduce some things gradually, and am totally okay with tricking him into eating veggies.  He does like fresh spinach and canned baby peas, and doesn't like meat in his spaghetti or lasagna.  Except for the aforementioned cheeseburgers, I don't think it would be difficult for him to be vegetarian, but I want to make sure his diet is nutritionally sound.  Would love for him to start eating beans, then I wouldn't worry at all.

Any books, advice, or references are welcome.  I'm scouting the recipes for stuff that he might like -- it's so great to have this awesome resource!

Jealous of my vegan cousin who will be raising her baby vegan,

Jen (GuardianMom)

I think it's great you're trying to eat healthier and more compassionately! Do you think your son would be interested in helping you cook meals? I use that trick on my husband. If he helps wash and cut and cook the veggies he's more apt to taste them than if I just plop a bowl of limp bok choy in front of him!

There's a good book by Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) called Chew On This that is geared towards kids and tell  some of the unpleasant truths about fast food and how dirty that crap is. A lot of parents want to tiptoe around the truth, but it IS the truth, so if you're not opposed to exposing him to that sort of thing, it might help him take a better look at the food he's eating.

Would he be up for going with you to a farmers market? Maybe seeing some new veggies and picking them out himself might spark his curiosity. You guys could google recipes together and pick out something he'd like to try.

I definitely recommend trying some of the veggie burgers out there! If he sees he an have his favorite foods and still eat healthier maybe he'll be more open to trying some new things. There's SO much stuff out there that mimics old animaly favorites. Every bit of animal "food" that's eliminated the better. There's nothing sound about cholesterol!

I hope you find success in getting him to explore more veggie recipes!


JenDiggety has some great ideas. Love the former's market one. My daughter loves to go there, and usually wants to eat things right away, as soon as I pay for it. Also, if you have the time, space, or inclination, it would be fun to grow some veggies. Most kids will eat anything straight from the ground. Peas are easy to grow, so are tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots.

She's also right about the veggie burgers. I know lots of people that eat my burgers when we have a cookout at work or something. Boca burgers basically taste like a fast-food burger. Slap a piece of tofutti cheese on it, and he should be happily oblivious to the fact that it's vegan.

I think a lot of people with "picky" kids just give up. Once your child says, "gross, I hate X" they just never try to give them that food again. Some days my daughter will beg for avocado slices, or lettuce on her sandwich, other days she picks them off in disgust. I think the trick is to keep offering it. So, if he won't eat beans, maybe once or twice a week, try a new bean thing. Like maybe a tamale pie, or chile w/ beans and fake meat, or refried beans as the bottom layer of a tostada, hummus or a cannelini bean dip, black bean and corn salad at a cookout, or steamed edamame w/ salt. There are so many kinds of beans, and so many ways to prepare them, he's bound to like one of them sometime. It took my husband 25 years to like asparagus, so don't give up.

I think you are doing a great thing, thinking of your health and the health of your family. The example you are setting for your don shouldn't be discounted, even if he is slow to accept the food. Good job, mom.


Hello, and great news for your attempting to open your older child's eyes. I am 38 years old, and if you knew me in the 80's even during my Greenpeace door to door days. LOL I still ate my meat and potatoes. That is what happens when your entire family eats either Italian foods or southern fried foods. I thought I was so eco aware. Then many years of health problems and weight problems after having kids. I started to change with the help of the internet age. I was vegetarian for many years, but still served meat to the family.

Now that my kids are ages 17,15, and 11 they have learned that mom's food is animal free. This site provides A LOT OF neat recipes to try. I always tell my teens why it is so important to ME. The one thing I will never do, is show them the videos of animals tortured and killed. To me that is the harshest way to get a kid to change. Then some are spiteful and refuse to SEE even when shown. I have mentioned the videos and said TRUST ME when I say if you saw the vids it would change you.

I keep trying to new recipes, and I discard the ones that didn't fair well. Naturally keeping the ones that the kids loved. Many kids honestly HATE vegetables. I remember being one of those picky kids. Who knew KALE would end up being one of my heavily used vegetables.

Also, as bad as it sounds start with junk food. LOL If they know they can still have their occasional junk food. It helps. Almond milk was a great turn around from cow's milk in our house. The kids don't even ask for it anymore.

Also for those of you that are busy people, try and make your food on Sunday or whatever "free" day you have. Then Freeze it all for the week. I tend to have to get up seriously early because of bus stops and kids. I make my Tofu scramble then and the youngest (11) eats that with me.  But, during the weekend with all the weekend chores and responsibilities I manage to squeeze in a lot of prep cook work.

Anyways, there are a ton of recipes on here that help win my kids a little every day. If something fails do not give up and let your kids know you will not give up. I explain to my kids about health and the body a lot and they are seeing it change me. So sometimes, you are the greatest bulletin  board.

Peace and Blessed Be!


    I have two boys - 12 and 4.  The four year old is easy, he pretty much eats what I give him.  His dad is omni, so Evan gets a pretty varied diet - tofu one night, chicken nuggets the next.  Mike, (his dad, my fiance) and I have agreed to give him options and not push one way or another.  I'm okay with that.  I'd rather he grow up knowing there are other choices out there and if he ever chooses a vegetarian or vegan diet when he's older, he does it because it's what he wants.  That being said, I would like nothing better than to remove all traces of animals from his diet, but with Mike and I making decisions together, there are compromises on both sides.
    The 12 year old, Trent, is a little different.  His eating habits were established when I was still eating meat, so he's quite used to it.  He doesn't eat as much meat / dairy as other kids his age, but is definite that he still likes it.  I always offer to let him help me cook, and he's pretty good to try new vegan dishes, but still would rather have steak.  He's his own person and I've raised him to make his own decisions, so short of keeping lots of great vegetarian / vegan food on hand, it's up to him.  He said once it was unfair of me to take away all the stuff he likes just because I don't like to anymore.  I got it.  Maybe someday he'll understand I was doing it for his health.
    Hmmm... I don't really have advice I guess, just a feeling of understanding.  At the end of the day when my boys grow up they'll be out in the world living their own lives and hopefully because I"ve been open-minded, they will be too. 


My 11 year old  son was a card carrying carnivore. He would take every opportunity to eat out or over at a friend's house just to get some meat because daddy doesn't cook meat. He has been vegetarian for over 3 months now and it was his own decision. He is sticking with it too with no coercion from me. And he has been challenged too. School is not real veg friendly and all his friends not only eat meat but eat very poorly.

Here is what changed him. . .

For most of his life he has only had vegetarian meals served at home and for the last 5 months only vegan. After I went vegan he wanted to know why so I educated him and his sister about the meat dairy and egg industries. They really never thought about where their food came from. He is by nature a smart and compassionate kid.

So I guess I don't have any practical advice. . . it just sort of happened with my son with the help of a little education on nutrition and the food industry.

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