Even if you’re not a full-on vegetarian, you can benefit from meatless meals throughout the week. Animal protein is difficult for your belly to break down, and excess meat can contribute to inflammatory conditions like arthritis, skin problems, and poor digestion.
Evaluate the amount of animal protein in your diet – including eggs and dairy – and see where you have room to reduce. Start with just one meal per day, and work up to one or two meatless days per week.
Ideally, meat should make up a pretty small portion of your diet. Most of your calories should come from plant-based foods (pretty much everything that isn’t meat or dairy). Incorporate larger-than-you-think amounts of healthy fat, and fill yourself up with fiber from greens, beans, and whole grains.
Veggie-centered meals are budget friendly, easy to prepare, and incredibly versatile. Here are three of my favorite dishes:
1. Quick & Dirty Rice Bowl
Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 1.5 C dry wild rice
- Assorted vegetables of choice (whatever you have on hand). I usually have carrots, a green of some kind, and whatever else is about to go bad in the fridge.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Toasted Sesame Oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Dash of Tamari soy sauce
- Sprinkle of nutritional yeast (found in the bulk section of healthy stores)
Rinse rice for two minutes under warm water. Cook according to instructions (usually 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice). If you do this part ahead of time, the dish will come together in minutes.
While rice cooks, heat an inch or two of fresh water over medium heat in a large pot with a steamer attachment. Add vegetables, cover and steam about 10 minutes. Depending on what type of veggies, the cook time will be longer or shorter.
Assemble rice and veggies in a large bowl and top with oil, nutritional yeast, and seasoning. You can change up the oil, add herbs, use brown rice or quinoa instead of wild rice, and mix & match any vegetables you like.
This is also a great dish to make in a big batch and use for leftovers during the week.
2. Taco Night
Everyone loves taco night. It’s fast and easy, versatile and awesome. You don’t need meat to enjoy it – check this out:
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, sliced in half moons & layers separated
- 1/2 a bunch of kale, chopped
- High-heat oil (like coconut or peanut)
- 2 sweet potatoes, washed & cut into chunks
- 3 T taco seasoning
- 1 package hard or soft corn tortillas
- 1 avocado
- Queso blanco or other crumbly cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some salt. Toss to coat. Bake for 20-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook about 6 minutes, until they start to soften.
Meanwhile, mix taco seasoning with 3/4 cup hot water. When peppers and onions are soft, add kale and toss until it starts to wilt. Add taco seasoning mixture and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.
Heat corn tortillas in the oven until warm.
Make tacos with sweet potatoes and veggie mixture. Top with avocado, salsa and cheese if you like.
Moroccan Lentil Soup (from Lynne Rossetto Kasper on The Chew)
This is a big recipe. I usually cut it in half, or you can pre-portion the leftovers and freeze).
- Good tasting olive oil
- 1 large onion (cut into 1/8-inch dice)
- 1 small carrot (minced)
- 1/3 cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley stems and leaves (chopped)
- 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro stems and leaves (chopped)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large garlic cloves (minced)
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger (minced — about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/4 cup dried red lentils
- 2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes and their liquid (pureed)
- 8 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (enough to make a slightly thick soup
- 1 lemon
Coat the bottom of a 6-quart pot with a thin film of oil and set it over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, parsley, cilantro, and a little salt and sauté for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low; stir in the pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds.
Blend in the lentils, paprika, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a gentle bubble, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lentils have dissolved and the soup tastes rich and good. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a little water is the soup is too thick.
Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
What are your favorite vegetarian dishes? Let us know in the comments below!