Four steps to a healthy vegetarian meal

Menu planning guidelines for long day care recommend that vegetarian meals are provided at least once per fortnight for variety. But, vegetarian meals don’t have to just be meals without meat!

Balanced vegetarian meals are suitable for all children (not just vegetarian children) and can promote food variety.

Follow these four steps to create healthy and balanced vegetarian meals that provide children with the protein and iron they need, that is otherwise provided by meat, poultry or fish.


1. Start with a high protein vegetarian food

Some examples of high protein vegetarian foods are:

  • Legumes ie, dried or canned kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, baked beans
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese
  • Textured Vegetable Protein
  • Nuts

Examples of protein foods


2. Include a food with iron

Legumes, tofu and eggs (above) are also sources of iron.

Other sources of iron are:

  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Broccoli

These are also high in vitamin C!

Spinach, peas, broccoli


3. Include a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from the meal. Some examples of fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C include:

  • Capsicum
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Frozen mixed vegetables
  • Potato
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Raw tomato
  • Berries
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Orange/Mandarin
  • Sweet potato
  • Pineapple

Examples of foods with vitamin C


4. Include a variety of other vegetables

Add colour to your plate by adding a variety of vegetables such as:

  • Carrot
  • Pumpkin
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Onions
  • Cucumber
  • Mushrooms

Examples of vegetables


Healthy vegetarian meal ideas

Vegetable stir fry with egg and tofuTo make a healthy vegetarian meal, use generous amounts of foods containing protein (1), iron (2) and vitamin C (3), and then add a variety of other vegetables (4).

Balance these meal ideas with suitable snacks to ensure that the daily menu offers enough food from each of the food groups each day (see Menu planning guidelines for long day care for more information).

Here are some ideas for healthy, balanced and delicious vegetarian meals that kids will love:


1. Protein food

2. Iron food

3. Vitamin C food

4. Other vegetables

Pea and potato frittata with wholemeal pita bread

Egg and cheese


Peas and potato

Lettuce and tomato

Vegetable stir fry with egg and tofu with noodles

Egg and tofu

Broccoli and tofu

Broccoli, capsicum, cabbage

Corn, onion

Sweet potato and chickpea patties with Turkish bread



Sweet potato

Lettuce, tomato, avocado

Vegetarian lentil bolognese




Canned tomato, celery, carrot

Stripy egg slice with wholemeal bread




Onion, grated carrot

Egg and baked bean bread cups with lettuce and tomato salad

Egg, baked beans

Eggs, baked beans



Falafel balls with tzatziki dip, Greek salad and Turkish bread

Chickpeas, egg

Chickpeas, egg

Raw tomato

Lettuce, cucumber

Vegetarian chilli con carne

Chickpeas and red kidney beans

Chickpeas and red kidney beans


Onion, carrot, celery, tomato

Lentil dahl with rice and yoghurt

Lentils, yoghurt

Lentils, spinach

Sweet potato


Minestrone soup

A mix of legumes

A mix of legumes

Green beans, zucchini


Vegetable frittata



Mixed vegetables


Vegetarian fried rice

Tofu and egg

Tofu and egg

Peas, capsicum

Corn, carrot, onion

Vegetarian lasagne

Lentils, ricotta cheese




Vegetable hotpot with couscous



Zucchini, cauliflower

Onion, carrot, canned tomato



Many vegetarian recipes offer less than one serve of meat alternative per child. If there are vegetarian recipes on your menu that do not provide each child with a full serve of meat alternative, you must include additional meat alternatives as a side dish or as a snack at another time during the day.


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