This was going to be a response to ‘s thoughtful post about feeding her family less meat, but enough people have asked me about this sort of thing that I thought I’d post it to my own journal.

I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian, and have been most of my life. I was raised vegetarian until my parents divorced, ate meat for four years when we lived with my grandparents and then stopped once I was old enough to cook for myself and never started again. I’m raising two kids in a vegetarian household now.

I’m not advocating vegetarianism for anyone; for me it’s a deeply personal choice. I do advocate a lower-impact diet for people where they can stomach it, but I would never tell someone to be fully veg unless they wanted to be. Enough people have asked me how to feed a family with only plants (or mostly plants) that I’m taking a stab at writing down what we do.

We’ve never (knock wood) had any food problems with our kids. As a general rule, I try not to keep junk around the house. I don’t buy crap I don’t want myself or my kids to eat, so whenever anyone is hungry, they are allowed to eat pretty much anything they want. They don’t get to dictate what I prepare though.

Either or myself prepares a meal and invites everyone to the table. Everyone sits down, we say a blessing, and we eat together. The little ones finish quickly and run around the table beating drums or playing piano while the adults try to talk, but other than that it mostly works.

If anyone does not like what they discover on their plate they either don’t eat much that night or ask permission to prepare their own alternative food (like a PB&J sandwich). Permission is always granted, food is never forced, though desserts are not given to children who do not eat dinner.

As a result, my kids sometimes go on weird food streaks that would horrify many parents – Rio currently seems to be living on a diet of whole wheat blueberry pancakes and burritos. Her sister is subsisting entirely on breastmilk, black beans and frozen blueberries.

They are both tall for their ages, slender, have gorgeous hair, teeth and skin, and are smarter than me. As long as they are both growing at a decent pace and not anemic, I am not worried. I will fret about their diets when my doctor tells me to and not before.

Typical breakfasts:
-burritos with eggs and black beans and cheese*
-granola with nuts and dried fruit, soaked in yoghurt and/or milk*
-blueberry pancakes with walnuts and maple syrup, possibly with an egg on the side*
-flax or hemp cereal with skim milk and a glass of OJ (this is my staple)

Typical lunches:
-mac&ch with soy or quorn nuggets*
– noodle soup with tofu chunks, high-protein egg noodles, carrots, pease and corn*
– PB&J
– hummus sandwiches and veggies (peppers, tomatoes, carrots and the like)
– leftovers from dinner

Typical dinners:
– burritos with beans, rice and assorted toppings
– chili or stew
– stir-fry tofu and vegetables
– veggie burgers and salads
– Indian curries with lentils and rice
– pasta with quorn or soy nuggets
– Casserole or pot pie
– homemade pizza

Typical snacks:
– granola bars
– apples and nut butter
– yogurt, granola and fruit
– hard-boiled eggs
– orange slices and multi-grain cheerios

The $6 answer to the $60,000 question: Where do we get our protein? is a bigger fan of the fake meats than I, and he tends to mix up the seitan and the tofu and the quorn and the garden burgers to get an eclectic mix of protein sources. He also makes a protein shake every morning, using a spirulina based protein powder. Me, I like grains and beans and legumes of all sorts. In addition to obvious things like beans and rice and hummus and tofu, I use a lot of non-mainstream, high-protein stuff, like different varieties of lentils, quinoa, couscous, etc. I also choose toward protein in all my foods – I buy high-protein bread and high-protein cereal and even high-protein pretzels.

I use only whole grains in my cooking and baking, and as much fresh vegetables as I can afford. This makes for more protein and other vital nutrients in a lot of foods I used to think did not have much protein – they do, just not after they’ve been processed to death.

I’ve recently gone mostly vegan, and I am eating a lot of dark greens and taking supplements for my calcium and iron. In the past I’ve tended to have one dairy heavy meal a day, like omelettes for breakfast or grilled cheese for dinner. The dairy I do eat is organic, and I’m working on getting it local as well. Organics matter for footprint as well as personal health because they don’t use petro-chemicals in their production.

1. Everyone in my household (except the baby) takes a multi-vitamin every day. There are a lot of good brands out there. We happen to like