Meal Plan Monday: Feeding Teenagers is Hard

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A few weeks in and I’m still attempting to feed my teenagers. I say attempting because they are not super enthusiastic about our plant-based eating. I take my hat off to all of you who have successfully transitioned your teenagers (or unwilling husbands) to a healthy diet. Since we only have 6 weeks with our “big kids” and they are not really on board there is only so much I can do.

I think a lot of it is a mental game with them. I have cooked a few not so healthy meals that they think are healthy so they don’t like them. Does that make sense? The older kids are definitely more open to healthy eating than the youngest of the teenagers. I used to make spaghetti with ground beef in a red sauce (often I’d add veggies too); I made a delicious meal of organic pasta and red sauce with mushrooms, onions, and diced tomatoes. I don’t care what they say it was delish!

Some of the time I try to cater to their taste too much then I find myself not eating as well as I should. I have decided to fuel my body with nutritious food that I enjoy and if they don’t want it they can probably find something they can eat. I have been buying a lot more cereal than normal and even some granola bars.

There have been some successes too. Today our oldest said they broccoli I steamed was the best he had ever had. Our daughter enjoyed some broccoli in a millet based casserole and she doesn’t usually like broccoli. I expect more of these instances along the way.

When we eat out we try to find places where we can all get something we like. That is tougher than it sounds especially when we are in a hurry and need to feed my gluten-free toddler. The places I like to eat are a little more expensive than I’m used too, of course I’m not used to feeding 7 people for each meal. We got take out from one of my favorite places, Pita Jungle, one evening and the big kids didn’t like it. Lucky for me my daughter ordered the Spicy Black Bean Burger which I love! One son ordered nachos so we had to toss them because they had cheese and I don’t touch that stuff. We have also gone to Chipotle which worked out well because I got a meatless meal and they were able to order what they wanted.

I hope I don’t sound like a whiner because I am really HAPPY that they are here. I just want to be real with you all because I’ve had several people write to me about the difficulty they have feeding their kids healthy food. You are not alone my friends, you are not alone.

Meal Plan

Breakfast will be cereal (I refuse to buy cow’s milk), oatmeal, cream of wheat, or toast.

Lunch is often leftovers (I cook extra for this), an easy pasta dish, or sandwiches.

Snack is fruit, hummus and veggies, or other quick items that will tide us over until dinner.

Dinner is where I try to focus on more veggies and whole grains. This week we will have Pasta, a Rice and Veggie casserole, Lentils either as part of a bean burger or perhaps Mexican food and Chickpeas that I cooked this morning. I know of three busy nights already this weeks so I don’t have an official plan. I also have tomatoes, Portobello’s, and cauliflower that I need to use soon.

Do you have trouble keeping everyone happy in the food department?

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  1. Valerie Bassett says:


    I totally understand your frustrations. I deal with the same things with my teenagers. If my oldest son has an inkling it is healthy he hates it. Summer has been hard because they are not always home so I have not cooked a lot of meals. School starts in a week and I have asked all 3 of my older kids for some help on what they want for dinners and lunches. They have given me nothing, so we will see what happens. I will compromise on some things but like you I refuse to buy cow’s milk. I plan on making some granola bars and rice crispy treats for lunches too. Thank you for your transparency. I love your blog and it is always what I need to hear. Hang in there!

    Valerie Bassett

    P.S. I made a rockin chocolate cake with your chocolate mousse as frosting and my family loved it.

    • Thanks Valerie! I had just been thinking of you and was going to try to get in touch! I hope you are well!

      I’m happy that your family liked the chocolate cake and frosting! I bet it was such a rich dessert. Maybe I’ll do that for the next Demo.

      I am glad that I am not alone in this. We haven’t been cooking nearly enough this summer either. Thankfully I have several things in my fridge now that I think all but one of us will eat. I didn’t tell my 13 year old what was in the chocolate mousse until after he loved it, now he wont eat it. So weird!
      Blessings to you and yours my friend!

  2. I don’t have a lot of advice, because I struggle to get my husband and 3-year-old to embrace plant-based eating all the time. They enjoy it a couple of times a week but don’t really enjoy it if I make only meatless meals every day….we’re still cooking meat several times a week in our house, and my toddler loves her yogurt and cheese so those are on hand as well. Luckily, my toddler loves almond milk and my hubby doesn’t drink milk, so milk isn’t an issue for us. It’s a challenge but no matter what, they are both eating more fruits and vegetables than before, and that’s a move in the right direction for sure!

    If you want a new idea for the cauliflower: I did see a recipe that I added to my pinterest the other day – it’s a recipe for cauliflower buffalo wings (but I googled it and a bunch of other recipes come up that are similar, so you may want to look at a few) check it out here: Buffalo wings are a “familiar” teen food, so maybe they would like it? I definitely plan to try making this one day, if you try it, please let me know how it turns out!

    • When I transitioned my 3 year old way from meat and dairy he put up a little bit of a fight. It didn’t last long. Now if he has cows milk it upsets his stomach. He has tried yougurt and didn’t like it. It was his favorite thing to eat before going plant-based.

      I think it is great that your family is eating more fruit and veggies, as a kid I rarely had either. It has taken effort to develop a taste for them.

      I’ve never heard of buffalo wing cauliflower but my son does like buffalo wings. I think the texture might throw him off. Maybe if I make it in bite sized pieces and topped a potato with it. Then he wouldn’t expect it to be the same. If I make it I’ll let you know.

  3. It is really hard! My stepsons stay with us every Thursday, Friday, and every other Saturday. One of them will eat just about anything, but the other would eat only sugar and meat if he could. It’s difficult finding things everybody enjoys, and I work really hard at meals that get snubbed or complained about. It’s really disheartening. But, sometimes, they’ll like something, and I might even get a “thank you.” I don’t like having so much emotion invested in pleasing them because then it hurts my feelings when they don’t like the food. It adds a whole new level of complexity to trying to “blend” as a family. Food is a major difference between the households.

    I vacillate between just cooking what we like (and letting them make themselves a bowl of cereal afterward) and trying to cook things they’ll like, which often involves faux meats. When we go out to restaurants, they order the most cholesterol-laden, deep-fried, multi-meat items you could think of. They’ll also order soda without asking for permission, which is just shocking to me as a parent. So I’ve been prompting my husband to put some boundaries around restaurant food–like they can order meat but they also have to get vegetables and eat them.

    My husband and I spend a lot of time discussing this issue and trying to figure out meals. It’s especially difficult because they load up on junk food–and I do mean junk food–before they come over, so they have no appetite and their palate is geared toward 7-11. We know we can’t influence their mother to feed them real food. The more my husband brings it up, the more she digs in, and the more cookies and chips and hamburgers they subsist on.

    But we figure, we are exposing them to healthy eating, and they are trying some things they’d never try otherwise, and even if they don’t rave about tofu and greens like our younger kids do, they are slowly coming to adopt new eating habits. When they are older, they will have a frame of reference when people talk about healthy eating and the importance of eating veggies, and that’s a good thing.

    We’ve also started telling them, if they think something is really, truly gross we won’t force them to eat it, but if something is just bland, or they’re just not excited about it (like broccoli), they just have to eat it. If it’s not going to make them gag, they have to eat it.

    Good luck–you’re not alone–I would love to see what recipes they enjoy!

  4. We solved this issue by each child taking a meal day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). They get an allotted amount of money and must plan 3 HEALTHY plant based meals on their day, prepare and serve them. Knowing the work that goes into planning and preparing food, they do not criticize our hard efforts anymore. Also, making them garden with us and growing alot of our own food, that helps too. Hard work usually helps an appetite with minimal complaning.

  5. I can relate. Not so much with my own kids , but with their friends and our relatives. We eat veggie based most of the time… but not strickly vegan. I find I cater to them when I have to feed them and end up eating “plant -ish” when they are around to keep them happy. So out comes the veggie lasagna with cheese, etc…

    I had to laugh, recently my daughter had a friend stay overnight and she was astonished that her friend eats her cereal dry! I had to explain to her that her friend doesn’t like our milk. It never occured to her that our milk tastes funny. 🙂

  6. Pizza is a great plant based option that makes everyone happy. I do individual sizes and let everyone pick their own toppings. Give them lots of healthy toppings and there won’t be too many complaints about dinner. We do them n the BBQ!

    • It’s so hot here in Arizona that I dont turn on my oven this time of year. I could maybe put them on the grill. I’m not sure my teens would go for pizza without cheese. They aren’t fans of my faux cheese sauce. I love a good veggie pizza though! Peppers and onions are my favorite!

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