Research has shown that eating a few meatless meals per week can lower risk of heart disease and may even prolong life. Why? Well, vegetarian meals are usually rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fiber, while low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
The majority of people aren’t vegetarian. But you probably eat like a vegetarian now and again without even thinking about it—your morning toast or oatmeal, a garden salad, pasta, or vegetable stir-frys—even cheese pizza.
Whether you’d like to increase the number of vegetarian meals you eat, or you need to adapt a meat recipe for a vegetarian guest, you can 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, soups, and chili, substitute cooked legumes (like beans and lentils) for the meat. Try kidney beans in chili or stew, red lentils in spaghetti sauce or stuffed cabbage rolls, or refried beans in burritos, tacos, and enchiladas.
In stir-fry dishes, use 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 kebobs for grilling. Try scrambled tofu for breakfast. Marinated tofu, sliced thin, makes a delicious sandwich.
Prepare pasta sauces, pizza toppings, soups, stews, and other mixed dishes as you always do. However skip the meat and add more chopped vegetables. If you eat dairy products, sprinkle cheese on top for more protein and calcium.
Meat "analogs" are soy protein products that mimic different types of meat. Try vegetarian patties, bacon, and sausages at breakfast, pepperoni on pizza, burgers, "chicken" nuggets and patties—even barbecue ribs! Textured soy protein is often sold in a granular form. This works perfect in casseroles, soups, stews, lasagna, chili, enchiladas, and other mixed dishes.