Teenage vegetarian meal ideas

Pad ThaiIf your teenager (or younger child) announces they're becoming vegetarian and you're a family of committed carnivores, you can be forgiven for a moment of heartsink on the meal-planning front. 

But is it really that big a deal? After all, few families eat meat every day - it's too expensive and goes against health advice. 

Why not take this as a good opportunity to expand your family's vegetarian range? We've got meal ideas from Mumsnetters and from the Vegetarian Society to make it easier.

Image: Shutterstock

What teenage vegetarians need to eat

To ensure your still-growing teenager gets adequate nutrition from a vegetarian diet, the NHS says that their diet should include at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, meals based on starchy foods, some milk and dairy, and some protein. And a varied diet is key, not just eating the same things over and over again.

  • Sources of vegetarian protein: eggs, beans, lentils, soya, nuts, Quorn, tofu, peanuts, milk, cheese, yoghurt.
  • Sources of essential fats (omegas): nuts and seeds eg walnut, hemp, rapeseed, flaxseed and omega-enriched eggs.
  • Sources of iron: watercress, broccoli, spring greens, okra, chick peas, dried fruit, bran flakes, tofu, muesli, wholemeal bread, pumpkin seeds, avocado, baked beans, boiled egg, brown rice.
  • Encourage your son or daughter to eat or drink something high in vitamin C at the same time as eating iron-rich foods, as this can triple the amount of iron their body absorbs.
  • Sources of vitamin B12: fortified yeast extract (Marmite), eggs, milk, cheese, fortified breakfast cereals, margarine.

Mumsnetters' meal ideas for teenage vegetarians

  • Jacket potatoes with beans and cheese or salad; veggie chilli/nachos/burritos/fajitas; lasagne made with roast veg; pasta bake or tortellini with pesto and spinach; veggie sausages with mash & peas; risotto; rice & stir-fry; curry; stew made with pasta/lentils/dumplings/chickpeas; roast veg with goats cheese or halloumi and couscous. steamedtreaclesponge
  • Veggie sausages are a good substitute if you are having meat. Omelette and chips. Chickpea curry is very quick and easy if you're having meat curry. Pasta, obviously. Baked beans, baked potato and cheese. Pizza. Aboutlastnight
  • Stir-fry is pretty easy to split. Add tofu to your teen's portion for extra protein. Same for paella, risotto etc. Doraemon
  • Curry, stir-fry, pizza and pasta dishes are all easy, and protein can be added for veggies by way of nuts and seeds, tofu, cheese, eggs or soya/Quorn. Just remember to shove lots of green veggies in. NotGeoffVader

And if your teen turning veggie creates extra kitchen labour, make sure they pitch in. It could fast-forward their culinary competence if they weren't keen on cooking before.

The Vegetarian Society has kindly allowed us to reproduce a couple of the recipes and pictures from its Parent and Teenager Guide to Vegetarianism for added inspiration. Its site has a section aimed at Young Veggies with oodles of useful info. 

Vegetarian Bolognese sauce for pasta

Prep time: 10 mins. Cooking time: 20 mins. Serves 4.


Vegetarian Bolognese sauce

  • 400g pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, fettucini etc)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 50g dried soya mince or 100g frozen veggie mince
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp mixed dried herbs
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • Grated vegetarian or vegan cheese (optional)


  1. Cook the pasta in the large saucepan according to packet instructions, drain in colander, flush with cold water, then set aside.
  2. If using dried soya mince, soak in boiling water for 5 minutes, or according to packet instructions, then drain.
  3. Heat the oil in the frying pag on medium heat, fry onions, garlic, mince and pepper for 5 minutes until soft.
  4. Add mixed herbs, sugar, vinegar and pepper to the mince mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Taste and adjust the flavour as necessary with extra herbs and seasoning.
  7. Reheat the pasta in the colander by pouring boiling water over it.
  8. Return the pasta to the large saucepan and toss it with the sauce. Alternatively, spoon the pasta onto plates and top with sauce.
  9. Garnish with grated cheese (optional).

Mexi Baked Tortilla

Prep: 15 mins. Cooking time: 15 mins. Serves 4.

Mexi Bake TortillaIngredients

  • 2 tins red kidney beans, drained
  • Squeeze lime juice (to taste)
  • 5-6 tsp chilli sauce
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Quarter block cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 large tortilla wraps
  • 1 pot sour cream or guacamole


  1. Heat oven to Gas 6/200C.
  2. In a large bowl roughly mash the beans, lime juice and chilli sauce. Then add the spring onion and garlic.
  3. Use two wraps to make each Mexi Baked Tortilla. Spread half the mixture onto one wrap, keeping a border around the edge, then sprinkle the cheese over and cover with the second wrap.
  4. Repeat using remaining wraps and mixture.
  5. Place side by side on a baking tray and cover loosely with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream or guacamole.

You could also try using jalapeno peppers instead of chilli sauce, or adding fresh herbs such as coriander.

© The Vegetarian Society. Visit www.vegsoc.org for more delicious recipes.


Last updated: almost 3 years ago