Protein-Rich Foods for Vegetarian Children + Recipes

Recently my daughter has mentioned a desire to eat less meat. We are not a vegetarian family, but Sofie has several vegetarian friends and a soft spot for animals. As much as she loves the taste of most meats, I think she’s grappling with the realization that animals are being killed for her food.

I’m all for supporting this change. A semi-vegetarian lifestyle is healthier and eco-friendly. My role now is to determine good sources of protein to replace the meat in Sofie’s meals.

Protein-Rich Foods (and Recipes) for Vegetarian Children

As the main building blocks of the body, proteins are necessary for building and maintaining our muscles, tissues and organs; fueling our brains; and aiding in specialized functions. A “complete” protein includes all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. Vegetarians often get all those amino acids through eating a varied diet.

After some research, and knowing my daughter’s tastes, I’ve decided to focus on these seven protein sources for Sofie. Some were surprising, especially since I didn’t have much idea of proteins beyond beans and eggs.  I’ve also included links to some kid-friendly recipes for each protein.


This nutrient-rich food is a complete protein (8 grams of protein per cooked cup) high in fiber, iron, magnesium and calcium. Although often grouped with grains, quinoa is actually part of the food family that includes spinach, beets and Swiss chard. Kids might enjoy its many colors (white, red, orange, purple, black) and its somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. Quinoa can be eaten in a variety of ways from soups and stir-fries to breakfast porridge and meatballs.

Quinoa Recipes for Kids

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa is the least allergenic grain crop, which provides edible seeds. Quinoa is rich in proteins and wheat-free. It contains all nine crucial amino acids necessary for your toddler’s healthy growth and development. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy yet crunchy, and you can cook them to make many nutty delights for your toddler. (1)

Here is our collection of the  quinoa recipes :

1. Quinoa Curry:

You Will Need:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ cup of quinoa, cooked
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp of fresh ginger, crushed
  • ½ tsp of curry powder
  • ¾ cannellini beans
  • ¾ cup of tomatoes, chopped

How To:

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion in the oil. Sauté the onion for about two minutes.
  1. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for two more minutes
  2. Add cannellini beans and curry powder and stir well.
  3. Add cooked quinoa and tomatoes. Then lower the heat and bring it to a simmer for ten minutes.
  4. Mash well and serve.

2. Savoury And Sweet Vegetable Quinoa:


You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp of zucchini diced
  • One sweet potato
  • One green onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of dried and chopped apricots
  • 1 tbsp raisins

How To:

  1. Soak apricots and raisin in a bowl of warm water. Allow them to turn soft.
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan.
  1. Add sweet potato, onion, and zucchini and sauté till onion turns golden
  2. Add quinoa, apricots, and raisin and stir well.
  3. Serve when warm.

3. Apple, Beet, And Quinoa Blend:

You Will Need:

  • 1 peeled and diced apple
  • 1 peeled and diced beetroot
  • ½ cup of cooked quinoa

How To:

  1. Steam the apple pieces and beet cubes till they turn tender.
  1. Puree beet and apple cubes in a food processor.
  1. Add cooked quinoa to the puree and serve.

4. Quinoa Cookies:

You Will Need:

  • ½ cup of quinoa flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup of wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • ½ cup of oats
  • ½ cup of chocolate chips

How To:

  1. Mix quinoa flour, wheat flour, baking powder, oats, chocolate chips, and brown sugar in a one bowl.
  1. Mix egg, oil, and vanilla extract in another bowl.
  1. Now, mix mixtures in both the bowls.
  1. Prepare small balls with your hands. Place these balls on cookie sheet.
  1. Bake balls for about eight minutes.
  1. Serve them

5. Mexico-Quinoa Salad:

You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of corn kernels, cooked
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of black beans, cooked
  • ½ tsp of sea salt
  • Three green onions, sliced
  • Some cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Juice of one fresh lemon
  • Two tsp of olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Pepper and salt to taste

How To:

  1. Place a cup of quinoa, two cups of vegetable broth, and some water in a saucepan.
  1. Add sea salt to the mixture and bring it to a full boil. Lower the heat to simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 15 minutes. As the clear grains ascend, tap them with a fork and let them cool down.
  1. Then place the quinoa in a bowl. Add beans, pepper, cilantro, and olive oil. Then add corn, onion slices, lemon juice, cumin, and salt. Mix all the ingredients well and serve.

6. Quinoa And Banana Breakfast:

You Will Need:

  • ½ ripe banana
  • ½ cup of quinoa, cooked
  • ½ cup of milk or whole milk
  • 1 tbsp apricots, dried

How To:

  1. Cut banana in small pieces using a knife.
  1. Combine small pieces of banana and milk in a saucepan.
  1. Pour a cup of quinoa and a tbsp of dried apricots to the pan and stir it gently for about five to ten minutes, till it turns thick.

7. Quinoa, Walnut, And Spinach Stir-Fry:

You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • One tsp garlic, minced
  • 5 ounces of baby spinach
  • One tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes or grapes
  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup of walnut, cut and toasted
  • Basil leaves

How To:

  1. Place quinoa in a bowl. Add water and smash it well. Place the mixture in a mesh strainer and drain the mixture well.
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add quinoa. Cook the quinoa till it turns golden. Stir it for ten minutes.
  1. Add garlic. Cook and stir the mixture for about 1 minute.
  1. Add salt and two cups of water and bring it to a boil. Lower the gas. Let it cook for about fifteen minutes
  1. Add tomatoes and spinach. Cook over medium heat for about one minute, till tomatoes turn warm and spinach wilts.
  1. Add Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts. Stir everything well.
  1. Garnish with basil leaves and serve

8. Delicious Pecan-Quinoa Bowl:

You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup of raisin or cranberries
  • 1 tbsp of honey or sugar
  • 1/3 cup of pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1sp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, grated

For Toppings:

  • Pecans, chopped
  • Honey
  • Warm milk

How To:

  1. Place milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  1. Add quinoa, butter, and cranberries. Cover the saucepan, lower the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes till quinoa turns tender.
  1. Add honey, cinnamon, pecans, nutmeg, and salt.
  1. Divide the mixture into four bowls.
  1. Garnish each bowl with chopped pecans, honey, and milk.
  1. Serve immediately. 

These delicious quinoa recipes  will certainly satisfy your kid`s taste buds without compromising on his nutrition. 


A member of the legume family, lentils are packed with B vitamins, fiber, folate and 18 grams of protein per cup. They fill you up in a most nutritional way and have a nutty, earthy flavor. Again, lentils can be fun to choose by color: green, brown, red, yellow and orange, although green and brown lentils retain their shape better when cooked.

Kid-Friendly Lentil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water (or more)
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 14 1/2–ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium–high heat. Add  onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes.

Add 4 cups broth, water, lentils and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

Puree soup with a stick blender to develop a smoother consistency (some texture should remain). Alternately, transfer 2 cups soup (mostly solids) to an upright blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more water by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick.

Gently stir in butter until melted and fully incorporated. Season with salt, pepper. Ladle soup into bowls to serve.

Lentil Hummus

This smooth, creamy spread is as wonderful on sandwiches as it is as a dip for crackers or pita wedges. If you like a smoky edge, add a pinch of smoked paprika along with the cayenne pepper.


  • 3/4 cups dried green lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch each salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper


In large saucepan of boiling water, cook lentils until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.

In food processor, puree together lentils, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper until smooth. 

Lentil Grain Burgers


  • 1⁄2cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1⁄2cup barley, uncooked
  • 1⁄2cup dried lentils, uncooked
  • 4 3⁄4cups water
  • 1⁄2cup carrot, shredded
  • 1⁄2cup onion, minced
  • 1⁄2cup celery, minced
  • 1teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄2teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1⁄4teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1⁄2teaspoon paprika
  • 3⁄4teaspoon salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in heavy pan on med heat.
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
  3. Simmer uncovered 50 min, or until all liquid is gone and mixture is very sticky.
  4. (Don't cook it too fast or it won't be sticky enough to hold together-- if liquid is gone and mixture doesn't seem to stick, add a little more water and continue simmering.) Stir periodically throughout and then frequently near end of cooking time to prevent scorching.
  5. Remove from heat, place in covered container, and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
  6. To cook burgers: Preheat skillet on medium, spray lightly with non-stick spray if desired.
  7. Wet hands lightly and shape patties from approx 1/2 cup chilled mixture each.
  8. Cook until browned on both sides-- turn carefully!

Lentil Granola Bars


¼ cup (60 mL) dry red lentils

1½ cups (375 mL) old-fashioned (large flake) or quick oats (not instant)

½ cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar

1/3 cup (75 mL) oat or barley flour

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) cinnamon

1 cup (250 mL) raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, chopped dried apricots or figs, or a combination

1 cup (250 mL) chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a combination

¼ cup (60 mL) sunflower seeds

¼ cup (60 mL) pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil

1/3 cup (75 mL) peanut or almond butter

1/3 cup (75 mL) liquid honey, maple syrup, or golden syrup

1 large egg

2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick spray. In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook the lentils for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Drain well and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, oat flour, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, peanut butter, honey, egg, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients along with the cooked, drained lentils and stir until well combined and crumbly. Press into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and golden around the edges. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars.


Peanut butter has been a kid favorite for decades, and the peanut is a legume containing vitamin E, folate, copper and biotin. Peanut butter offers about 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. How do other nut butters compare? Almond butter has 7 grams per 2 tablespoons and includes a good amount (80 mg) of calcium. Sunflower seed and soynut butter both contain about 9 grams of protein; soynut has 60 mg of calcium, while sunflower is rich in magnesium, zinc and iron. Any nut butter can be enjoyed as a spread or a dip for fruits and veggies.


Pumpkin seeds—sometimes known as pepitas—are a complete protein that also provide good levels of manganese, copper and zinc (eaten unshelled). They can be eaten raw, baked or boiled and offer a sweet, crunchy flavor along with 12 grams of protein per cup.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Try this pesto as a spread on sandwiches, tossed with hot pasta or served over roasted or steamed vegetables.

  • 2 cups unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons of the oil and salt then spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast until seeds are puffed and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes, then set aside to let cool. 
Combine seeds in a food processor with 1/4 cup water, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Pulse until mixture forms a coarse paste then season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use.

CHICKPEAS (Garbanzo Beans)

With 13 grams of protein per cup, chickpeas are also an excellent source of manganese, folate, fiber and folate. They have a buttery and starchy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. You can find chickpeas dried or canned, which is quicker for cooking (dried ones require pre-soaking). Be sure to rinse the canned beans first or seek out BPA free versions.

Pumpkin Blueberry Pancakes (with chickpea flour)

This pumpkin blueberry pancakes recipe is a favorite by all who try it. It’s gluten-free, qualifies as a genuine high-fiber food and is seriously delicious! Try it and you won’t be sorry!​


  • 1 cup gluten-free pancake flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil


  1. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl (except blueberries)
  2. Whisk in dry ingredients carefully to avoid clumping
  3. Stir in blueberries
  4. Heat Coconut oil in pan over medium heat
  5. Pour approximately 1/3 cups of batter per pancake until pan is full
  6. Cook until bubbles form on top of batter and begin to pop, flip and repeat cooking
  7. Serve warm with blueberry and maple syrup

Soft Baked Honey-Cinnamon Chickpeas
If you start with dried beans, make sure to cook them until they are very tender. If making these for a kiddo under one, swap out the honey for maple syrup.


  • 1 14.5-ounce can chickpeas rinsed, drained, and patted dry (or about 2 cups cooked dried)
  • 1 teaspoon canola or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread on a baking sheet or baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until fragrant, lightly golden, and soft. Serve warm or at room temperature, smashing beans slightly for younger eaters if desired.

Skip the vanilla and add 1/4 teaspoon cumin for a more savory version.
Add 1 teaspoon sesame seeds before baking for extra flavor and good fats.
Mash the baked beans completely with a fork or in the food processor and spread on buttered toast.


An excellent and delicious source of calcium, potassium and probiotics, Greek yogurt has the edge on regular yogurt because it typically contains half the sugar and double the protein. One cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains 25 grams of protein. Fruit varieties have more calories and less protein (about 10 grams per cup). Try sweetening plain yogurt with fresh fruit and honey for your kids.


One egg contains about 6 grams of protein (3 grams in the white and 3 in the yolk), yet each part contains all essential amino acids, making them complete proteins on their own. This is good news for a girl who only likes the whites (unless scrambled). Eggs are also an excellent source of B vitamins, selenium and iodine.

More Plant-based Proteins:

  • Edamame (soybeans) – 17 grams per cup
  • Green Peas – 8 grams per cup
  • Buckwheat (including soba noodles and buckwheat flour pancakes) – 6 grams per cooked cup
  • Chia Seeds – 4.7 grams per ounce
  • Ezekiel Bread – 4 grams per slice
  • Broccoli – 2.6 grams per cup



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