Celebrating Meatless Mondays with Healthy Vegetarian Meals
If you're the kind of person who enjoys a good steak, the idea of switching to a vegetarian diet might seem foreign to you. But why not start with one day a week to lower your carbon footprint by reducing your meat intake?
Meatless Mondays are becoming a favorite way to get your whole family interested in eating a little less meat — but you need some tasty vegetarian dishes to get the idea to stick. Here are a few tips and a recipe to get you started.
What Makes a Great Vegetarian Meal?
You need three components to create a tasty vegetarian meal that everyone will enjoy:
- Protein: First, you need a plant-based protein to build your dish around. Look for things like beans, lentils, tofu, edamame or nuts and seeds. Since this is a vegetarian dish and not a vegan one, you can also choose eggs or dairy products like cheese and yogurt for your protein.
- Carbohydrates: Next, choose your favorite carbohydrate. The key is to make sure you're selecting a complex carb that takes longer to digest and keeps you feeling full longer. Simple carbs break down quicker and aren't as healthy. Quinoa has become a popular carb choice, but if you're not a fan of this superfood, you have other options. Whole grains like oats, buckwheat, barley, brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain bread can all fill this part of your meal. Seasonal fruits and starchy vegetables like winter squash or sweet potatoes are also healthy complex carbohydrates.
- Vegetables: Finally, it's time to pick your favorite vegetables. You've got a lot of options available for nearly every season. In the winter, look for things like brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and celery. For spring, asparagus, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are all in season. Summer produce will bring more color to your table, with things like cucumber, eggplant, green beans, spinach, sweet peppers and swiss chard becoming available. In the fall, look for artichokes, arugula, broccoli, mushrooms and turnips.
Choosing seasonal produce isn't just good for your wallet — it's also good for your health. The longer a piece of food sits on the shelf, the fewer nutrients it has. They're often covered in pesticides, wax and other preservatives to make them look good enough to eat, even if they aren't.
Vegetarian Meal Ideas
If you've never cooked a vegetarian meal in your life, here is a tasty recipe to get you started.
Crispy Baked Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos With Avocado Salsa
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8
- 2 cups refried beans
- 2 cups cooked, cubed sweet potatoes
- 2 cups grated cheese
- 16 tortillas
- Olive oil
Avocado Salsa Ingredients:
- 2 large avocados
- 2 tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Juice of two limes
- Start by preheating your oven to 450°F and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the olive oil onto the parchment paper.
- Top the tortillas with the refried beans, sweet potatoes and cheese. Fold each tortilla, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes, flipping once in the middle.
- While the tacos are baking, combine all of the ingredients for the salsa.
- Pull the tacos out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Top them with salsa and enjoy!
- You don't have to feel like you're missing out just because you're removing meat from your menu a few days a week. If these tacos don't sound appealing, look for a vegetarian version of your favorite meal and try that instead! You might be surprised at how tasty it can be.