How to Plan a Healthy Vegetarian Menu for the Family
Approximately ten percent of the Spanish population follows a vegetarian diet, according to a survey carried out by Lantern. The main reasons are health and awareness of the environmental impact of the food chain. For this reason, we want to show you how to plan a healthy vegetarian menu for your family.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “A properly planned vegetarian diet is appropriate at any stage of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and athletes.”
The step-by-step on planning a healthy vegetarian menu for the family
First of all, it’s important to know what foods are part of a vegetarian menu. This includes foods of plant origin and includes the consumption of eggs and dairy products. All other foods of animal origin, such as meat and fish, are excluded.
We must remember that the only nutrient that we must supplement is vitamin B12, which is responsible for the formation of red blood cells and helps the central nervous system function properly. So, the weekly dose is 2,000 µg in adults and over 14 years, 400 µg in infants four to eleven months, 750 µg from one to three years, 1,000 µg up to eight years and 1,500 µg between nine and thirteen years of age.
Healthy vegetarian Harvard plate
Taking into account the Harvard University recommendations, a vegetarian diet includes:
- A couple of daily servings of greens and vegetables. They’re the basis and it’s advised that they occupy half of the plate.
- Vegetable proteins. This refers to legumes and their derivatives, such as tofu, seitan and tempeh. We recommend including them in all main meals and alternating them with eggs. However, take into account that seitan is a source of gluten, a protein whose nutritional value is scarce, so it’s preferable to consume it very occasionally.
- Eggs. The advisable daily intake is one to two units, three to four times per week, even if this is exceeded the frequency doesn’t presume any risk, except in people with diabetes. Even if it’s a source of cholesterol, it’s hardly absorbed due to the large amount of lecithin contained in the egg white. Moreover, there’s no relationship between cholesterol consumption and cardiovascular risk.
- Fruits. Eat them as a dessert or between meals. It depends on whether you feel hungry or poorly due to some intolerance. Its recommended consumption is two to three daily servings. A portion is equivalent to one medium piece or two small units, such as apricots, or a handful, in the case of red fruits or grapes.
- Dairy products. The portions are one glass of milk, two natural yogurts, and two slices of cheese. Soy and almond yogurt are available as alternatives. However, as with any food, they’re not essential.
- Plant milk. They serve as substitutes for dairy products. However, soy beverage is the only one whose nutritional composition is similar to milk. The rest depend on the raw material (oats, rice, nuts or seeds). They also differ in taste. As an advantage, they’re usually enriched in calcium and vitamin D. Also, when buying them, make sure they don’t contain added sugars.
- Nuts and seeds. They’re the ideal complement of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidant minerals, as well as healthy fats. A handful of 20-30 g a day, is enough.
- Virgin olive oil. It’s used for cooking and for seasoning dishes.
Distribution of food groups during the week
The next step is to plan the menu following the recommendations detailed below:
- Vegetables: daily and in the two main meals, 150-250 g, depending on age and individual appetite.
- Legumes: six to seven times a week. The amount per serving is 150-200 g of whole and cooked legumes, 125 g of tofu or tempeh, and 80-100 g of texturized soybeans (palm).
- Eggs: a unit or two each day, at least three to four times a week.
- Rice, pasta, quinoa and potato alternated.
It’s only a matter of creating a table in a Word or Excel document with the days of the week.
Take into account the tastes of the entire family
Once you have the menu pattern, convert the combination into dishes, taking into account the tastes of your partner and children. This will minimize arguments and you’ll learn to compromise together. In addition, you’ll all be responsible and contribute with ideas. You’ll also dare to try new dishes and use new cooking methods.
Among the cooking techniques, we recommend steaming, boiling, grilling, baking, and sautéing with a little oil, as well as raw in salads and in hot or cold soups and creams.
An example of a weekly menu is the following:
- Monday: spinach salad, carrot, avocado, chickpeas and nuts.
- Tuesday: rice with artichokes, mushrooms and spiced textured soybeans.
- Wednesday: gazpacho and potato omelet.
- Thursday: spaghetti with textured soy bolognese and bean and vegetable burger.
- Friday: tofu scrambled eggs and green asparagus with turmeric.
- Saturday: grilled vegetables and seitan meatballs with tomato sauce and peas.
- Sunday: vegetable ratatouille with rice and poached egg.
Finally, make a shopping list with all the ingredients you need, and organize the week to prepare the meals.
How to plan a healthy vegetarian menu for the family
To sum up, it’s a matter of knowing the frequency of food consumption and that all members of the family participate. This will make it easier for you to organize your shopping and cooking, and even to adapt the recipes to your culinary level. So, what are you waiting for?It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- La razón (2019). España se coloca entre los 10 países más vegetarianos del mundo. [Consultado el 9 de junio de 2020] Disponible en: https://www.larazon.es/familia/espana-se-coloca-entre-los-10-paises-mas-vegetarianos-del-mundo-LG24555187/
- ADA (Asociación Americana de Nutrición) (2009) Position of the American Dietetic Association:Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc, 109(7): 1266-82.
- Lucía Martinez. (2018) Vegetarianos concienciados. España: Editorial Paidós, 1ª edición.
- Egg Consumption, Cardiovascular Diseases and Type 2 Diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr, 72(1): 44-56.
- Unión Vegetariana Española. Pirámide Vegetariana.