NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Getting Started with Meatless Monday: Vegan/Vegetarian Meal Staples

GettyImages-1136561497Mondays can be hard enough, getting back into the swing of things after a much-too-short weekend. The last thought on your mind is what to cook for dinner, right? You might go out to eat instead, pick up carryout, or eat a frozen pizza for the most painless dinner prep possible. However, what if you opt for something that is not only easy for you, but also healthy for you and the planet?

Meatless Monday is a global movement with this message: one day a week, cut the meat. The goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and the health of the planet. Did you know that over 40 countries participate in Meatless Monday? Check out these easy tips on how to get your Meatless Monday started!

Breakfast

Breakfast, known as the most important meal of the day, is one of the easiest times to make a meatless meal. I understand it can be hard to get out the door on time in the morning, especially if you are also trying to get kids and pets taken care of. Opt for a carbohydrate and a protein at breakfast to create a breakfast that satisfies you throughout the morning.

Meal Ideas

  • Oatmeal + nuts/nut butter + fruit
  • Whole-grain toast + peanut butter + banana slices
  • Yogurt (try Silk soy yogurt) + granola + nuts
  • Smoothies

Staples

Rolled oats, variety of fruit (apple, banana, frozen berries), nuts/nut butters, plant milk, yogurt variety (try a plant milk option!), whole-grain bread.

Lunch and Dinner

I’ve combined these two meals because, honestly, what’s easier than eating dinner leftovers for lunch? Just make sure to cook an extra batch the night before. If you’re not a fan of day-old food, I have a few fresh ideas as well!

Meal Ideas

  • Veggie wraps (hummus + spinach + bell peppers + tomato + avocado)
  • Tofu stir-fry (baked ½-inch cubes of extra-firm tofu + brown rice + assorted veggies)
  • Fajitas (peppers + onion + black beans + salsa)
  • PBJ (fresh fruit slices + peanut butter + side of carrot sticks and hummus)
  • Veggie chili (beans + assorted spices + cornbread)

Staples

Canned beans (black/garbanzo/kidney/pinto beans, etc.), hummus, whole-grain bread, variety of veggies (peppers, onion, tomato, carrots), fruit (apples, berries), extra-firm tofu.

Take Care of the Planet and Yourself

It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about switching up your usual routine, but I promise it will be so worth it! You might even find that you actually love chili without the meat or hardly notice it missing when you begin to experiment with the vast array of spices that plant-based cooking uses. Make your grocery list and stock your kitchen with these staples and you’ll be good to go! The year 2020 is all about addressing the needs of the planet as well as ourselves. A plant-based diet has never been easier to try!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: lunch breakfast vegetarian vegan meals meal planning Meatless Monday dinner

Thinking of Going Vegetarian?

Have you been considering a vegetarian diet? Approximately 3.2% of the American population currently follows a meat-free diet, with 0.5% of those following a vegan diet, which includes no animal products at all. This is very small when compared to India, where an estimated 42% of the population follows vegetarianism.

Veggie

So why would you consider going vegetarian? There are many reasons, but the most popular are for health reasons, to help preserve the Earth’s natural resources, and for animal rights.

Essential Nutrients for Meat-Free Meals

When some individuals decide to eliminate meat and other animal products from their diets, they might not be getting all of the essential nutrients that are important. So here are some nutrients to make sure you are getting in to guarantee your diet is balanced.

  • Protein: Essential for growth and maintenance. Food sources include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are options for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  • Iron: A primary carrier of oxygen in the blood. Food sources include iron-fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole-wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and raisins).
  • Calcium: Important for building bones and teeth and maintenance of bone strength. Food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, soy (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green, leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens).
  • Zinc: Necessary for many biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly. Food sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and milk products for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B12: Necessary for cell division and growth, and strengthens the immune system. Food sources include milk products, eggs, B12 fortified foods (breakfast cereals, soy-based burgers, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast).

Additional Recommendations for Vegans

476027891Vegans who do not have fortified foods and ovo-vegetarians who do not have fortified milk substitutes should consume the following daily:

  • 3 to 5 teaspoons vegetable oil (for calories and essential fatty acid)
  • 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium)
  • 1 Tablespoon brewer’s nutritional yeast for B vitamins, especially riboflavin and B12

Build Meals Around Low-Fat Proteins

Some final advice is to build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and quinoa. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheese to replace the meat.

Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. A variety of meat-free products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.

Most restaurants can accommodate modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat frm stir-fry dishes, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.

To find out more about personal nutrition coaching at NIFS, follow this link. If you would like to schedule a personal nutrition consultation to help you decide whether switching to a vegetarian diet is the right choice for you, contact me at amitchell@nifs.org.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nutrition weight management vegetarian protein vegan