meatless meals" makes them cringe while they imagine a block of tofu slapped between two pieces of bread. But going "meatless" doesn't have to mean sacrificing on flavor. Read on to get some great ideas to make meatless cooking delicious.
Why would you go meatless? Research has shown that increasing intake of legumes, beans and fish is good for your heart and your brain. This style of eating increases your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and decreases intake of saturated fat. Eating meatless at least some of the time has been shown to decrease overall mortality and increase favorable health outcomes.
Do you have to avoid meat all of the time to see a health benefit? While some people do so for many reasons, do not feel like this is an all or nothing quest. Consider being a "flexitarian" by eating meatless only a few meals each week. The other meals, focus on eating lean meat options such as 90/10 ground beef, pork loin, skinless chicken and turkey. Incorporating meatless meals this way is often much less overwhelming. What I love about going meatless at least occasionally is it forces us to expand our meal list and overall variety in our diet. How many of us our simply creatures of habit when it comes to weekly meals? (Come on...let me see that hand.)
Is there a good and bad way to go meatless? Vegetarians and vegans can eat just as poor of a diet as those who eat meat. Macaroni and cheese, for example, is vegetarian, but surviving on this alone is not a healthy choice. Here are some ground rules to going meatless:
1. Know your protein sources. For meals that don't include fish, aim to have 2 separate protein options in that meal to assure your total protein intake is high enough. Meat-free protein foods include:
-Seafood: any type of fish or crustacean is considered a meatless protein
-Dairy: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
-Beans: starchy beans like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and white beans
-Nuts and seeds: including peanut butter, almond butter and sunflower seed butter
-Tofu: including all consistencies of tofu, tempeh and edemame
-Seitan: for those who are a little more adventurous in the meat-free arena
2. Once you have picked a protein, pair with brightly colored vegetables for fiber, vitamins and minerals.
3. Round out the meal with a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, meusli or a whole wheat bread.
4. If you don't already have a nut or seed source, choose a healthy fat to top everything off, such as avocado, olive oil, oil-based salad dressing, olives, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
My experience working with meatless meal converts is that comfort working with meatless proteins decreases as we work our way down that list in #1. So, I'm going to share some of my favorite recipes to help ease you into meatless meals. Be creative, expand your pallet, have fun and contribute to your health by trying meatless meals!
Easy Baked Salmon - Cooks quickly for a fast weeknight dinner. Cut the butter by about half.
Transformed Spinach Mushroom Quiche - Packed with veggies, let those eggs shine at dinnertime!
Sun Dried Tomato, Kale & White Bean Skillet - One of the easiest ways to use beans is to make a favorite Mexican dish using black beans or tilapia, but omitting meat. However, I also love this recipe because it is so simple yet bursting with flavor!
Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple & Red Lentil Soup - Lentils tend to be the most unfamiliar option on this list. Don't be afraid! They cook very similarly to rice, yet are significantly higher in protein. Try this recipe - you won't even know they are in there!
Crispy Baked Peanut Tofu - If you have said no to tofu in the past, you won't after trying this dish. While the extra step of the baking the tofu does lengthen the process, it really improves the texture because it dries out the tofu. You could do this step in advance on the weekend and then finish the dish on a weeknight.
I would love to hear how you liked the dishes! Email me any time at RDKate@RDKate.com.
Your "Flexitarian" Nutrition Coach,
Kate Davis MS, RD, CSSD, LDN