The vegetarian diet is growing in popularity in the youth sports community, inspired in part by the many elite and professional athletes making the leap to plant-based nutrition to maximize their athletic performance and recovery time.
Some vegetarians rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. Moreover, they may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on necessary nutrients. TrueSport expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, adds that “vegetarians need to focus on getting common nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin D, and B12 when it comes to meal planning, as it’s more of a challenge for young vegetarian athletes to reach their basic nutrient needs.”
As a non-vegetarian parent, preparing vegetarian meals for your athlete may be challenging, but here are seven quick and easy meals that you can make for your athlete that are also packed with the nutrients they need to help them reach their sport performance goals.
Breakfast is extremely important because it jumpstarts your metabolism and provides energy for the day. Here are a few options to help your vegetarian athlete get their day started on the right note.
1. Breakfast Tacos (serving size 4 tacos)
In addition to the ease of preparation of this recipe, it’s also one that you can adapt to your athlete’s preferences, so don’t be afraid to add, remove, or alter the ingredients.
- 4 small flour or corn tortillas
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon sour cream (or milk), plus more for serving if desired
- Two dashes of hot sauce, such as Cholula, plus more for serving if desired
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced vegetables
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup shredded or crumbled cheese, optional (cheddar, Cotija, feta, goat, even mozzarella)
- ¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
- Suggested garnishes (choose a few): chopped fresh cilantro, hot sauce, salsa, or Pico de Gallo, strips of avocado or guacamole, diced tomato or sliced cherry tomatoes, sour cream
- Warm the tortillas in a large skillet over medium heat in batches, flipping to warm each side.
- Whisk to combine eggs, until pure yellow, and add sour cream or milk, hot sauce, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt.
- In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the vegetables, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the chili powder and cumin. Stir to combine, and cook, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
- Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low heat and melt the remaining ½ tablespoon butter. Pour in the egg mixture. Use a spatula to gently stir and push the eggs around the skillet until the eggs are clumpy but still slightly wet, about 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the cheese (if using) and green onion, and gently stir to combine.
- Assemble your tacos by spooning scrambled eggs down the length of a tortilla, topping with some cooked veggies, and your garnishes of choice.
2. Power Porridge
If your athlete prefers sweet over savory breakfasts, make this power porridge their go-to meal.
- ½ cup oats (steel-cut for more fiber)
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut flakes
- 10 ounces low-fat milk (if your athlete is vegan, use oat milk as an alternative)
- Measure the oats in a glass and then pour them in a pot. Pour double that amount of water in the pot and then start heating it.
- Stir frequently, until you reach the consistency of porridge you prefer.
- Pour in the peanut butter and coconut flakes and then mix it all together.
- Fill bowl with the oat milk.
3. Avocado Toast
Another breakfast favorite that your athlete can make their own by adding a variety of toppings. Be sure to serve this with a protein source to make it a complete, balanced meal. Examples include: milk, yogurt, egg, cottage cheese.
- 1 slice of bread
- ½ ripe avocado
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: any of the extra toppings (garlic, radish, green onion, arugula, spinach, tomato, egg)
- Toast your slice of bread until golden and firm.
- Remove the pit from your avocado. Use a big spoon to scoop out the flesh. Put it in a bowl and mash it up with a fork until it’s as smooth as you like it. Mix in a pinch of salt (about ⅛ teaspoon) and add more to taste, if desired.
- Spread avocado on top of your toast. Enjoy as-is or top with any extras.