The 2005 USDA Food Guide Pyramid favors plant-based proteins (like legumes and nuts), and even recommends fewer servings of meat than before. Research has shown that eating a few meatless meals per week can lower risk of heart disease and may even prolong life. This is simply because vegetarian meals are usually rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fiber, while low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
Although the majority of people aren’t vegetarian, you may eat like a vegetarian now and again without even thinking about it. It’ in the simple things such as; your morning toast or oatmeal, a garden salad, pasta, or vegetable stir-frys.
You could easily turn your favorite recipes into a vegetarian meal with a few simple changes. Here are a few recipe tips to get you started:
- In casseroles, stews and soups you could substitute cooked legumes for the meat. Try kidney beans in chili or stew, red lentils in spaghetti sauce, refried beans in burritos, tacos and enchiladas.
- In stir-fry dishes, think about using firm tofu, tempeh, cooked beans, nuts and sesame seeds in place of meat, poultry or seafood. Firm tofu and tempeh can even be cubed and skewered as kebabs for grilling. Try scrambled tofu for breakfast.
- Preparing pasta sauces, pizza toppings, soups, stews and other mixed dishes as you always do. Simply skip adding any meat and try add more chopped vegetables instead. Simply sprinkling cheese on top can add more protein and calcium to the meal.
If you really wanted to take your menu to the next level, you could try vegan dishes. Vegan dishes can make a healthy addition to your diet as well. Here’s how you could make a few changes:
- Eggs have many functions in a recipe. They can be used to thicken a recipe, bind ingredients together, coat breaded food items, or produce a baked product with a light tender texture. Without eggs, the quality of the food product often changes. Experiment with one of the following substitutes, but know that the results may differ.
- 1 mashed banana in breads, muffins, or pancakes
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken a product
- ¼ cup silken tofu (blend tofu with the liquid ingredients until smooth, then add it to the dry ingredients)
- Vegan egg replacement products
- Try tofu, soymilk, soy cheese and soy yogurt in recipes that call for dairy products. Crumbled tofu can take the place of ricotta cheese in lasagna. To make buttermilk, mix 1 cup soy milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Use soymilk when making puddings and mashed potatoes. Enjoy a thick, creamy fruit smoothie for breakfast or a snack. You can also blend the fruit with soft tofu, soymilk or juice.
- When cooking for a vegan, read labels carefully. Not all soy-based products are devoid of milk derivatives (like casein, whey, etc). Some companies save you time by printing the word “Vegan” at the very beginning or end of the ingredients list. The same goes for vegetarians. Don’t assume the can of vegetable soup is vegetarian—many dishes like this have beef, chicken, or fish-based broths.