Monday, March 19, 2012

Married to a Meat Eater

I started eating a vegan diet at age 18, shortly after graduating from high school.  My father is an avid hunter and meat always played a predominant role in our meals, so it took me several years to become accustomed to making well-balances and filling vegetarian meals without having to consult a cookbook.  When I married my husband at age 23, I had to once again adjust my cooking style, because I married a meat eater. I that I would essentially have to make two separate meals, one for him and one for me, each night.  While my husband is often happy to eat meatless meals (and I do eat seafood, so I wasn’t completely vegan), I acknowledge that it is my choice not to eat meat, not his. The first few months were rough, but I now have a repertoire of meals that can easily be made with and without meat.  When we decided to start trying to conceive, I added dairy and eggs back into my diet, which has made even more meal options available to us. Nutritionists know of other ways to create meals with or without meat:

If you are in a “mixed diet” marriage or relationship, are having guests over that are vegetarian (or you are the vegetarian and you know they will expect meat), or are in need of meals that can easily be made with or without meat for any other reason (your child’s a picky eater?), here are some of the meals we regularly make in our household:

Vegan options:
Stir fry - Cook the vegatable stir fry and meat separately (tofu too if you wish), once everything is cooked, separate the stir fry in two, add chicken to one (and tofu to the other, if you want).

Curry - same as the stir fry; mix in cooked meat (and tofu) at the end.

Burritos/tacos/tostadas - Most Mexican food can easily be made with or without meat.  Make beans for the vegetarian, shredded chicken, ground or shredded beef, steak, etc. for the meat eater.  And all the other toppings of course.  This can easily be vegan without cheese and sour cream.

Pasta dishes - Cook some sauce with meatballs, some without.  (Or make two sauces, one with meat, one without).  It’s vegan with tomato or pesto sauces (if you aren’t making them yourself, be sure to check that there are no dairy products in them), lacto-vegetarian with alfredo or other creamy sauces.

Lacto Vegetarian options:
Enchiladas - this is one of my husband’s favorite meals, and he actually thinks it’s just as good with or without meat.  I always make enchiladas on each separate plate, his (sometimes) get chicken in them, mine just cheese and onion. 

Pizza - make homemade pizzas (one with meat and one without), can also be vegan if you make it without cheese (if there is great sauce and lots of vegetables, cheese isn’t as necessary as you would think).

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian options
Quiche - Make enough to fill two pie shells; add cubes of ham or another meat to one, leave the other meatless.  (My favorite quiche is this spinach goat cheese quiche.)

A few extra tips for making meals for a vegetarian (or someone else with a dietary restriction like celiac, lactose intolerance or a religious dietary restriction): 
  • Make sure you know what foods they eat (do they eat dairy or not, do they eat seafood, etc.). 
  • Try not to make a completely separate meal for them unless it is absolutely necessary. It can make them uncomfortable that their diet is creating an extra burden for you (at least in my experience and that of some of my friends with special diets).
  • Don't forget to think about all areas of the menu (it's especially easy to forget about dessert when considering a special diet - obviously dessert doesn't [usually] contain meat, but it does often contain eggs, dairy, wheat, and other foods that people commonly avoid or are allergic to).
  • Along the same line as the previous suggestion, don't make a big deal about their diet, announcing it loudly to other guests or saying things like, "I just never know what to make for you."
  • If in doubt, let them know what you plan to make and ask if they have ideas of how to make it fit their diet.  They are used to having to accommodate themselves in all kinds of situations, so they most likely will have some suggestions.  This works best if you could give them a few options.

Do you have any dietary restrictions or often cook for someone who does?  How do you accommodate cooking for different diets?  What meals have worked best for you?  Do you have any other tips for cooking for people with dietary restrictions?


  1. I bet as Lucia gets older it will get more interesting. I can remember being such a picky eater. Going away to college made my pickyness 10x better. But for years I didn't like sauce on my pasta and my mom would leave some plain for me. 

    I love how you're able to make the same meals meatless and meaty so it's not like your making 10 different things every week because I can see how that could get old real fast. 

    I once heard on the radio how children would rule the house in food choices because they were such picky eaters. Parents were literally making a totally separate meal for them. I thought that was crazy. I could see if the parents were on some crazy diet but to make a totally different thing is a little extreme. 

  2. How did you decide to follow a vegetarian diet? I've always wanted to try it, but like you grew up eating meat every meal and my husband is also a meat eater. Easy steps for beginners or those interested in trying to become vegetarian?

  3. Catholic Cookie JarMarch 19, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    You're so sweet for cooking mixed meals so your husband can eat meat!  I typically just prepare meatless meals for dinner unless there is meat already cooked to throw in.  When the two of us cook together we definitely do the above mentioned things, especially pasta, Mexican food, quiche, and stir fry because he prepares the meat for them.  We also do veggie and meat burgers and omelets with and without meat.  When we go home, my mom makes me eggplant paremesan when the family eats chicken parmesan, and she makes one veggie lasagna and one meat lasagna since they have pretty much the same preparation.  

    I always feel so bad when people prepare me a completely separate meal! I really don't mind eating the sides for dinner when I am over at someone's house or at an event.  

  4. Great post. I am a vegetarian and my husband isn't, so we are in the same situation. It seems that we have negotiated the situation about the same way as you guys.

  5. You give me too much credit! I don't usually cook the meat, my husband does it and I just mix it in!  We usually have 3-4 meatless dinners a week too.

  6. I'm vegetarian too! 
    Good post, especially the part about cooking for a vegetarian (or anyone with a diet restriction).

    I have been veg since I was 18 also. My husband is not a vegetarian, but is willing to eat vegetarian stuff. We don't cook separate meals. Him cooking meat separately and mixing it into his wouldn't bother me. He doesn't bother to cook meat only for himself.

    I had already been veg for years when we met, and it sounds like you were too? But I wonder how difficult it would be if one spouse became veg and the other wasn't... that sounds like a more tricky situation. [Here's an anecdote for you: the first meal we cooked together when
    dating (we cooked at one of our houses more than ate out) involved tofu.

    My husband has actually suggested that he would be willing to become "pescatarian" if I did. That would be a funny compromise, but practically, I have very little desire for fish.

    -Elizabeth at


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