Meatless Monday is a voluntary program designed to get people eating more plant-based meals by dedicating one day a week to vegetarian fare. However, if you really want this work in your house, there are a few rules to follow before trying this out on your family. You can’t just throw tofu into a stir fry when your husband and kids are used to beef or chicken (I know; I tried!). So, here’s my advice to make it work:
1. Don’t surprise and don’t disguise. Instead of announcing the meatless meal at the table, begin the week before by discussing the idea of incorporating Meatless Monday with your family. Be prepared as to why you think this is a good idea. (avoid oversimplifications like “it’s healthier” or criticisms such as “because you never eat your veggies!”) How about the effect on the environment? How about supporting local farmers?
2. Don’t dictate. Rather than you choosing the kale and lentil stew, let the kids decide what the first meal should be. If they say pasta and marinara sauce, go with it. The idea is to get them to WANT to do Meatless Monday. Do they keep asking for the same pasta dish every Monday? Fine-just slowly start adding a small amount shredded zucchini or diced mushrooms to the sauce. As the weeks go by, increase the veggies!
3. Don’t get angry. If it doesn’t work, say things like “This was a good experiment. Now I know you guys hate green peppers. Next time let’s try red peppers instead and see if your taste buds agree.” Keep things in perspective and remember that building healthy eating habits are developed over months and years and not overnight.
4. Don’t forget take-out! My kids devour the cauliflower made by our local Indian restaurant. Mexican, Indian, Japanese and Thai foods make excellent vegetarian dishes. As take-out is a real treat in our house, my kids tend to gobble up whatever comes out of those white cardboard containers.
5. Don’t forget to praise. Practice, practice, practice recognizing when your children do try a new food or make a healthy choice. And don’t forget to praise your husband too. Everyone likes to receive a compliment and feel good about themselves. And hopefully, he’ll return the favor!
I’d love to hear how it worked in your house. Share your Meatless Monday experiences with me in the Join the Conversation box below!