I have been trying to cut back on animal proteins. This
guy cow is probably happy about this initiative. And what better time than after Thanksgiving, when turkey is oozing from our skin. Don’t worry, I’m not going vegan on you, but to have chicken, meat, fish, eggs or cheese at every meal is a bit too much animal. By the way, “meat-less wednesdays” was just the name of my post until I googled it -it’s a whole movement!
Plant based meals are awesome. In addition to being lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber, plant based dishes are usually less expensive. Warning: a high fiber meal (beans and legumes) can make you bloated, so it may not be the best meal to have if you are planning on squeezing into your half-a-size too small jeans. And don’t we all have that pair.
Making changes is never easy. Start off planning two non-animal based dinners per week and take it from there. I try not to substitute meats for tofu because there is some research, though it’s still conflicting, on potential harms of high soy intake. And, since I can get protein from other sources like beans, grains and nuts, tofu is not a necessity.
1. Lentils. High in fiber, protein and iron. Choose green lentils because they have more fiber than red ones. You can get them pre-cooked at Trader Joe’s or make them yourself in about 10 minutes by boiling dried lentils in water following the packaging instructions. Mix into a cold salad with fresh veggies or serve hot over sauteed sweet potatoes.
2. Quinoa. It’s a seed (and not a legume) that is very high in protein. It has a great nutty flavor and is a good substitute for rice and couscous. Hearty up a stir fry, soup or salad by adding in some quinoa.
3. Black bean or veggie burger. High in fiber, which will help keep you full for longer and regulate the bowels. Serve it on a multigrain bun with a side of baked potato wedges. Recipe to come once it’s perfected, the last attempt fell apart. Unless you have a good recipe you can buy pre-made. Read the labels because some veggie burgers are surprisingly not full of veggies and instead full of tofu and other fillers.
4. Portobello burger. Super easy and filling. Bake a portobello for 25 minutes in 350 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When cooled, add roasted red peppers and caramelized onions.
5. Falafel. Make a platter if you don’t want the carbs from pita. You can bake falafel at home, but if you buy it ready made it’s likely fried so limit 1-2 balls. Add hummus and extra salad.
6. Hearty bean + veggie soup/chili. High in protein and fiber. Any combo of beans, grains, veggies is delicious. Great served with a slice of whole wheat bread + salad.
7. Cheese-less pizza or pasta. Sautee broccoli rabe and/or mushrooms and/or peppers with onion and olive oil and add onto whole wheat pizza dough. Tomato sauce is not needed, but add if you prefer. Whole wheat pasta or gnocchi with pesto and fresh cherry tomatoes are both great. Try cheese-less lasagna by baking thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini layered between tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, sauteed garlic and onion. Adding some breadcrumbs on top gives a crunchy texture.
8. Vegetable sushi + edamame or steamed veggie dumplings. Kids love chopsticks. Remember, I said steamed not fried dumplings. Go for the low-sodium soy sauce.
9. (Brown) rice n’ beans. The beans provide the fiber and together they make a complete protein, which is a fancy way of saying that it provides all of the essential proteins that our bodies cannot make and must get from food. It’s my fav animal-less dish served with salad or steamed veggies. Stay tuned for the ultimate recipe.
10. Polenta with ratatouille or any sauteed veggies. Polenta is boiled cornmeal. Cornmeal is found in the grain aisle at most grocery stores if you want to make it from scratch, but I’ve actually only tried ready made polenta available at more specialty stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods. I mash up the ready made polenta and mix in veggies. This is a great way to use whatever is leftover in the fridge. Most recent combo: diced eggplant, onions, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes. Here’s what ready made polenta looks like if you haven’t seen it:
I was planning on only having a list of 10, but I just thought of 2 more:
11.Veggie burrito night. Set up beans, brown rice, quinoa, sauteed onions, fresh tomato, lettuce, corn, salsa (home-made preferable), hot sauce in separate bowls with whole wheat tortillas/wraps. Have the kids assemble their own burrito/wrap/taco.
12. Smoothie. Instead of cow’s or soy milk try almond milk + banana+ strawberries + dash of chocolate syrup + spoonful of peanut butter.
Most people fear that giving up “obvious” protein sources like meat will keep them feeling hungry. But all of the suggestions above when eaten with the right sides will fill you up. Please let me know if you experience otherwise.