So I've become vegetarian... but he hasn't.

Not sure if this is a common scenario, but over the past 6 months I have slowly been becoming a vegetarian - still rely on a little bit of fish and cheese (worried about not getting enough iron), but ideally will be going lacto/ovo in time. However, have recently moved in with my boyfriend, who while very supportive, will not be giving up the meat. Has anyone else dealt with cooking for two different diets like this? In particular, he’s Italian, so his idea of cooking vege is pasta with a tomato sauce, and as we take it in turns to cook, means I get this several times a week. Looking for some compromise ideas here!

Any hints as to how to wean myself off the fish? This has been a good compromise food for the two of us, but as it’s for moral reasons that I’m doing this, the excuse of a less complex nervous system is a little thin.

Also, as I’m new to this, is there anything in particular I need to take into consideration especially with regard to iron? I eat lots of wholegrains and vegetables, but just feel I have a little less energy than I did 6 months ago.

I know one girl who isn’t exactly a vegetarian, but tries hard to avoid meat. However, due to anemia, she forces herself to eat a steak once a month and also eats a ton of spinach, for the iron.

Most of the vegetarian friends I’ve known have had families or roommates or significant others who aren’t vegetarians. Heck, most of them have held jobs at steakhouses in the past. Luckily, none of them have been militant, so they always make it work as long as everyone is respectful of each other’s dietary concerns. You’ll want to eat a lot of nuts and peanut butter and eggs and beans for the protein, like it or not.

I did this for two years, mostly because of the way I feel about animals. The cooking wasn’t a big problem. I did interesting veggie things and he had a bit of grilled meat with it, and had a better diet as well. He ended up vegetarian about 30% of the time, just because he liked the food. We still both have a huge bias to lots of veg.

BUT … I couldn’t beat the iron thing. I tried, ate the recommended stuff, and eventually gave up because of iron deficiency. By the end, even iron tablets weren’t enough. I knew when I needed iron injections, the time had come to give up. Long term iron supplements have all sorts of problems. I still don’t like red meat much, but eat it at least three times a week. I guess different people have different metabolisms as some people are vegetarian without this problem. Hopefully some of them can give you the advice you need. But don’t wait too long to have your iron checked. Mine went way down before I realised what was happening.


I think *why * you’re a vegetarian will dictate how it works out. If you’re doing it more for an animal rights reason than for a dietary reason, I’d think you wouldn’t be preparing meat anymore (like my sister-in-law). However, if it’s just dietary, adding one or two items to a meal shouldn’t be a big deal. As long as he pulls his weight with respect to your dietary wishes, tossing him a steak or a burger shouldn’t be a big deal.

My son’s girlfriend is a vegetarian. She came to my birthday party a couple weeks ago and we were doing picnic food. The only thing I had to do differently for her was provide vegetarian baked beans. No biggie. I just opened a can and added a little of the secret ingredients.

I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, but eventually gave it up. One of the major reasons was that my husband and kids weren’t very eager to go along. I have a new husband now, but the same problem. It’s very difficult to feed them all while adhering to the kind of diet I’d like to eat.

Another reason I went back to meat eating was that I couldn’t maintain a healthy weight. So that may be something to keep an eye on.

Good luck, Girl From Mars!

I was mostly raised ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian, then was a strict vegetarian for ten years - almost completely vegan for about 6 months. The iron thing definitely depends on the person. I never had any problems with iron deficiencies. Do some cooking in cast-iron pans, eat a lot of spinach and you should be fine, but you should still check with your doctor (especially if your periods tend to be heavy). As far as I know, fish doesn’t supply any iron to the diet, but I could be wrong.

To maintain weight & health, don’t make the mistake of replacing meat with large amounts of cheese, fluffy breads, or other fatty/high glycemic foods. Make sure to maintain a good balance of many different types of vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich legumes.

There are a million vegetarian cookbooks out there. Explore them, experiment, and find dishes that you both like. Encourage your BF to go outside his comfort zone a little on his food choices. Most guys just don’t know how delicious something can be until they are forced to try it.

I’d recommend Dr. Andrew Weil’s “Eating Well for Optimum Health.” It includes a pretty scientific explanation of how food works in our bodies, and provides analysis of several different cuisines. It also includes a lot of yummy recipes, most of them vegetarian.

Good luck.

Learn how to cook good vegetarian meals.

I find that Indian food is about the only kind of cooking that satisfies me without meat.

I suggest a book by Madhur Jaffrey.

My SO is a vegetarian who eats fish (pesca-vegetarian?). I am an omnivore. She has changed my diet, since we don’t keep any meat in the house and if I want a snack or to eat in while she’s not there, it’s going to be vegetarian. But when we’re out to eat, I get all the meat I want. It’s worked out pretty well, actually, except she never wants to go to one of the several excellent BBQ joints here in Memphis. IMH unsolicited O, you should consider keeping fish in your diet, both for health reasons and to help the relations with the boyfriend. And fake meat, like Boca burgers and especially the Morningstar Farms products, have made great strides in recent years. Try some veggie burgers, or fake chicken like their buffalo wings out on him.

For several years my older brother and I were vegetarians while Mom and Dad were not. Whenever we were in the same house, cooking duties rotated among the various family members. I’ve returned to eating meat now, but I try to limit it to one or two meals per week. Here are a few ideas:

When making a pizza, you can put different topping on different parts. Be careful about overlapping.

Homemade calzones. Here’s how it works. You make the dough, and set it aside to rise for an hour. In the mean time, you make the filling by combining ricotta, parmesan, lots of spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic. (You can also add parprika or pepper, if you prefer.) Roll out the dough and cut it into four equal portions. Fill two calzones, fold the dough over. Then add chopped ham or pepperoni to the filling and use that for the last two calzones. Be sure to remember which calzones have the meat and which don’t. (The recipe is in The New Moosewood Cookbook).

Tacos are good. You simply take the various ingredients and put them in bowls on the tables. Everybody assembles their own choices.

Here’s an unusual recommendation that works surprisingly well. Make veggie burgers and cook real bacon for the meat-eaters. I recommend portabella mushroom burgers or tomato-basil pizza burgers, both from Morningstar Farms.

If I may chime in again, I want to second the Morningstar Farms suggestion. I practically grew up on their line of products, and my parents (both vegetarians for more than 3 decades) still live on them. Even though I eat meat now, I buy fake meats from time to time as a healthier alternative. Personally, I’ve found Morningstar Farms to be consistently tastier than other brands, such as Boca Burgers, but enough other people love the Bocas to keep them in business. ymmv.

Other options:

  • Dried TVP (textured vegetable protein) granules. These are cooked into a ground-beef-like texture can add bulk to casseroles, taco meat and the like. Just be sure to add your own seasoning, as I don’t believe it has much, if any, inherent flavor.
  • Seitan (“mock duck”) is a form of wheat gluten which is so shockingly meat-like in texture you’d swear it was the real thing. Stay away if you have wheat allergies, though.
  • Tofu and tempeh - The highest nutritional value of any meat-alternatives. Look in your grocery store for packaged “baked tofu,” which is firmer and more flavorful than the standard version. Also it’s pre-cooked, so you can just slice it up for sandwiches or throw it in a stir-fry.

Don’t kid yourself: you’re not going to fool anyone with fake meat. The purpose is not to replace meat-dominated meals with fake-meat-dominated meals - put down the Tofurkey and back away slowly - but it allows you to broaden your vegetarian options by adding meat-like bulk and texture to meals that otherwise may seem insufficient with “just” vegetables. Don’t be looking to satisfy your SO’s steak cravings with slabs of tofu, it just ain’t gonna happen. But that stir-fry will be more satisfying with some mock duck or tofu in there.

Fake meats are a great way to transition from a meat-centric diet, just don’t get discouraged if you try one kind and don’t like it. There are lots of different brands out there, and you’ll come to learn which ones you like.

You mention a lack of energy. I wouldn’t blame the lack of meat, necessarily. We don’t need as much protein in our diet as popular opinion might imply, and indeed, too much protein is a bigger problem with most omnivorous Americans. All the protein you need can easily be provided by protein-rich vegetables, whole grains and legumes. And if you’re still eating eggs once in a while, really you have nothing to worry about (IANA Doctor, of course…)

If you’re feeling more tired, it could be that you’re compensating for the lack of meat with greater amounts of refined or high-glycemic carbohydrates. In fast-food terms, if you get an extra order of fries instead of your burger, you’re going to have a gigantic sugar crash. You don’t need to solve a math problem with every meal, but be careful that you include plenty of variety, including whole grains and protein-rich vegetables and legumes. Again, that Dr. Weil book is instructive (and encouraging) in these matters.

I have friends who are vegetarian for animal rights reasons and have no problem preparing meat for others. It can be a personal decision, not necessarily one they make for others. I liken it to the way I have no problem giving friends a ride to church, even though I don’t share their beliefs.

In my experience, there are many meals that can either be made with meat only in part or have meat added after. If necessary, just make two smaller copies of the same dish, one with meat and one without.

A couple things are very important:

  1. Do you think, even a little bit, that he should be a vegitarian?
  2. Does he think, even a little, that you are silly for being a vegitarian?

If either of these things are true, you need to makes sure you resolve it. Feeling (on either side) that you are being judged for what you eat in your own home will cause daily tension and bad blood. Be wary of this–what starts out as casual teasing can grow to monumental stress.

Seocnd, does he like a wide variety of vegetables? As long as he likes peppers and mushrooms and such, on the nights you cook he can just have what you have. On the nights he cooks, one thing he could do is try to make at least half the meal “vegitarian” and since it’s a schedule, you could plan on having a larger lunch and a light dinner–i.e., if he makes meat-with-spagetti sauce and a salad, you could have a salad and plain pasta with butter. And, at first, both of you should have a couple heat-and-eat things in the freezer so that if it turns out he’s craving meat on your night or the meatless version of his dinner is not appealing, you have something to fall back on without guilt or blame.

If he is a meat-and-potatos only guy, this is more complicated.

I think that you need to work on giving him a broader range of vegetarian dishes that he is willing to cook. My semi-vegetarian roommate in college emphasized that she had no problem going to someone’s house and eating salad, a baked potato, and dessert, while her companions ate the above with a steak. You can try selling him on the potential for meat substitutes–although just “letting” him have a hunk of meat may be a more appealling option–especially for him. Consider fixing mushroom stroganoff for you, and adding beef to his-- that type of thing. Fix lots of different dishes which are meat free in non-obvious ways–bean and cheese enchiladas, or spinach and cheese enchiladas, or stir-fry or Indian food or whatever.

Mostly, give it time, give him a chance to develop a better idea of what vegetarians can eat, explain to him that eating pasta with tomato sauce three nights a week doesn’t appeal to you, and try to find some recipes that he can put into his rotation of meals that don’t require greatly more effort on his part, just in case part of it is laziness and lack of inspiration in cooking rather than some sort of “I’m Italian, cooking veggie means pasta” stance.

Another possiblity–does he like to cook, or is it jsut a chore? Is he willing to eat your veggie meals with the occasional chunk of meat thrown in?

If so, you might consider just taking over the cooking, and bargaining away something that you don’t really like, like the dishes every night (if you’ve been switching that), or your laundry. That way there is something you like every night, and your over all workload doesn’t increase.

I don’t get why so many people think this poor guy should be trained to like vegetarian dishes. Why should he be expected to participate in his SO’s diet in any way, shape or form?

Spinach is a very poor, in fact perhaps a negative form of Iron, due to the oxalates. Please inform her of this.

Girl From Mars, I’d say it was a lack of B12. There are NO vegetable sources of B12. Take a B12 pill, it’s cheap and safe. In fact, quite a few women with Iron problems really have a B12 shortage.

I actually agree with DtC! :eek:

However, pasta is a good compromise. In fact, he can cook sausgae or meatball on the side and add them as he desires.

Note that Vegetarian does NOT= “healthier”.

The OP said they share cooking duties. Unless they want to implement a “if you don’t like barbeque, go fix yourself a salad, babe” policy, then both will be cooking vegetarian dishes every night they eat in. As a practical matter, it can be tough to make two different versions of each dish (one with meat, one without) for every single meal, so it makes sense for them to find vegetarian options which both of them CAN eat and, ideally, will want to eat.

Oh, and I agree with DrDeth - both about the B12 and the fact that it’s just as easy to eat badly as a vegetarian as a meat-eater. A more accurate thing to say is:

Variety + Moderation = Healthier

I agree that this can be a problem – at the same time, how can your No. 1 NOT be true? She’s becoming vegetarian for “moral reasons”. How can she not feel that he’s less moral than she? Similarly, many non-vegetarians feel that vegetarians are a bit silly. Entitled to their choices, for sure, but . . . a little over the top, right?


There’s something wrong with that sentence… I guess I’d better have a steak. :stuck_out_tongue:

Because presumbably eating together is important to them. Since they have a cooking routine, it sounds like sitting down and eating together is an important part of their relationship–which it is for many people. If it weren’t important to them, she wouldn’t even be posting this, they’d both just be cooking for one each night, as they used to do.

But since eating more or less the same thing at the same time does matter to them, they have to figure out a way to do it that serves both their needs. We know her needs, we don’t know his–which is why people have been ASKING if he enjoys vegetarian meals but doesn’t know how to cook them, or if he only enjoys meals that have a signifigane meat component. If he’s content with vegetarian meals the bulk of the time–which isn’t crazy, assuming he eats meat for lunch and whenever they eat out–then cooking vegetarian for their “together” meal makes sense. If he doesn’t enjoy vegetarian meals at all, then a more complicated compromise is needed.

This is just a natural outgrowth of hte normal diet-syncing that happens when you move in with someone. I mean, spagetti with tomato sauce was an absolute stable at my house. It’s the standard quick and easy dish. My husband hates tomato sauce. My husband likes canned meats–corned beef hash and such. I can’t even see them as food. Nights when we are cooking for each other, we don’t make these things. I don’t see how either of us is “expected to participate in his SO’s diet in any way, shape or form.” We just either eat these things when we go out, or make them when we aren’t eating together.

I mean, it’s legitimate to suggest “Why don’t you both just cook seperate meals and not split that chore anymore?” But I hope you can see that for some couples that might be unsatisfying, and wanting to eat together (as well as save time) might be a motive to find a compromise.