October is National Vegetarian Awareness Month, and we are very excited to celebrate here at Oldways. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian to participate, although you are encouraged to make veggies the center of your plate with a slight reduction in meat consumption.
We know that meat lovers may not be so keen on that idea, so we put out a call for ways to encourage them to eat more plants (with no Halloween trickery involved)! Our legion of experts responded with tips to add veggies for ﬂavor, replace meat with veggie-based ingredients, and make vegetarian recipes that picky meat eaters will enjoy.
Ask the Experts, Veggies for Meat Lovers Edition
This Oven Baked Fried Rice (vegetarian and gluten-free; courtesy image below) came to fruition after my husband said he wanted to eat more vegetables (yes, true story) but also didn’t want salad! Enter this recipe. Not only is it ﬁlled with a blend of carrots, broccoli, onion, and zucchini, but this dish comes together on a sheet pan, meaning one-pan cleanup—yes please! It’s also a great way to get a whole grain in (try it with brown rice or quinoa) and an added boost of protein from those eggs. No need to turn to a salad solely for amping up your veggie intake; just add more produce into recipes to make them a bit more nutrient dense.
– Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, Nutrition Communications Consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Fertility Nutrition Expert at BumpstoBaby.com, Co-Author of Fertility Foods.
One of the best ways to approach more plant-based eating is to turn some of your favorite, classic meals into plant-based versions. So, that could mean turning your favorite ground beef lasagna recipe into a vegetable lasagna, skipping the meat in your classic chili recipe and adding more vegetables, and making taco Tuesday about the beans and veggies. I love this easy recipe for Spicy Hummus Veggie Tacos (courtesy image below), because it is all about a simple spread of hummus and fresh, seasonal veggies.
– Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, SharonPalmer.com
I love burgers, but I don’t like to eat a lot of meat, and I am always looking for ways to include more vegetables. Mushrooms have a meaty texture and are a wonderful substitute for some of the meat in these burgers, which are juicy and delicious. You won’t even notice the mushrooms! I serve these burgers on whole grain buns and with a large side salad.
– Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, www.betteristhenewperfect.com
My husband loves meat. He likes vegetables, too, but you really need to punch up the ﬂavor to get him interested. I remember when I ﬁrst served these Brussels Sprouts with Orange and Walnuts (courtesy image below) to him—he went nuts! Now he looks forward to eating Brussels sprouts and other veggies—as long as they’re roasted and ﬂavorful.
– Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color and Feed the Belly, www.franceslargemanroth.com
Try a meatless sandwich. So many people have trouble giving up both meat and bread, so keep the bread (stick to whole grain) and substitute the burgers and steak with vegetables. How about a grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich topped with lettuce and tomato, sautéed onion, and avocado? Prefer to skip the sandwich? Try a cauliﬂower steak (courtesy image below and top):
- Cut the cauliﬂower into slices, drizzle with olive oil, and top with your favorite spices (turmeric, black pepper, mustard powder, or garlic powder)
- Roast in the oven
- Serve with a sweet potato and sautéed greens
Going meatless never tasted better. My carnivore clients love these ideas.
– Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD; Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at New York University, www.portionteller.com
Looking to dial down the meat and ramp up the produce? Green goes with everything. Add a few handfuls of chopped spinach, kale, arugula, chard, or any fresh leafy green to your usual hot noodles, beans, or whole grains. Give the whole thing a toss, and the greens wilt happily into your dish with no extra cooking or calories. The extras you do get are brighter ﬂavor, ﬁlling ﬁber, and nutrition galore.
For carnivorous, die-hards, beans are the new beef. Chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and more are cheap, pantry-friendly, and sustainable, and they provide something animal protein doesn’t oﬀer: ﬁber. They have as much protein as meat, have a meaty but meatless chew, soak up ﬂavor, and make for full, happy bellies.
Bonus Recipe: Chickpeas with Saﬀron (courtesy image below)
I recently served this plant-based riﬀ on the Catalan classic fabada asturiana (pork and bean stew) at a party. Everyone asked for seconds; no one could believe it was vegan. A sofrito (easy sauté) of tomato, onions, garlic, and spices builds ﬂavor and replaces the traditional animal products. Making this dish from dried chickpeas results in a really satisfying dish. The beans have an oomph-y texture and absorb all the rich ﬂavors. Serve with crusty whole grain bread, roasted vegetables, or a green salad and you’ll never miss the meat.
It keeps covered and refrigerated for the better part of a week, and the ﬂavors continue to deepen.
Serves 6 to 8
1 onion, peeled
1 head of garlic
1 pound dried chickpeas, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight with cold water to cover, plus a pinch of baking soda
For the sofrito
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped or 1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, preferably ﬁre-roasted
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 generous pinch saﬀron threads
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Handful of chopped cilantro, if desired
- Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the whole onion and head of garlic and pour in the beans. Give them a hard boil with heat on high for 10 minutes, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let beans simmer, covered for an hour.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, for about 3 minutes, or until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until they soften and smell fragrant. Reduce heat to medium and pour in the chopped tomatoes. Add the liquid smoke and smoked paprika, crumble in the saﬀron threads, and add it to the tomatoes. Stir together.
- Continue cooking and stirring for about 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken and dark to a brick color.
- Remove the lid from the bean pot. Pour in the sofrito and stir to combine. Let the beans continue to cook, uncovered, for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce reduces and coats the beans.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with the fresh, chopped cilantro leaves, if using.
– Ellen Kanner, Huﬃngton Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner and Oldways Vegetarian Network advisor
My favorite part about being a Registered Dietitian and Chef is providing nutrition education through food. Whenever I discuss increasing amount of vegetables in a day, I do sometimes get some resistance. The resistance is mainly coming from food boredom, and my goal is to make vegetables exciting and ﬂavorful. Like any food, it has to taste good, or you’ll never win anyone ever with your recipes. I’ve converted many Brussels sprouts haters into Brussels sprouts lovers with my Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe. We need to get people back in their kitchens getting comfortable cooking vegetables in a variety of ways for National Vegetarian Awareness Month.
– Julie Harrington, RD, Culinary Nutrition Consultant of RDelicious Kitchen
The key to making vegetarian meals that meat eaters will love is to make them taste great! No one at your table will miss the meat in this spicy, cheesy, Lentil Enchilada Bake (courtesy image below). Serve it up with a crisp salad and enjoy!
– Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Culinary Nutrition Consultant and Author at www.JaniceCooks.com
Whether the reason is for health, ﬁnancial, sustainability, or moral reasons, more and more people are eating less meat. Dried lentils are some of the easiest and least expensive plant proteins, and black lentils—also called beluga or French de Puy—are particularly nutrient-dense. One serving (½ cup cooked) contains 12 g protein, 10 g ﬁber, and over 20% of your recommended daily iron intake, and their dark hue indicates high concentrations of anthocyanins: antioxidant blue-purple pigments.
Now that the days are cooling, give my warm and smoky “sloppy” black lentils (courtesy image below) a try! Combined with sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, Ethiopian Berbere spice lends an exotic feel, but you can easily swap in your favorite blend of spices (or try homemade Ras el Hanout or Garam Masala). Quick and budget-friendly, ﬁlling and healthy, and absolutely fabulous, this recipe is a meatless main keeper.
– Heather Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN, nutrition consultant and food blogger at Heather Goesch Nutrition, and contributing author to Food & Nutrition Magazine; www.heathergnutrition.com
As an Italian, I love tomato sauce. If you typically add ground meat to yours, here’s one of the easiest and tastiest tips to add “meaty” veggies rather than a lot of meat to your sauce. Reduce the amount of meat you add and, instead, add the same amount of grated carrots to your sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes until the carrots are tender. Magically, the texture of the carrots takes on a meaty feel to the sauce. I promise you won’t even miss the meat. Mangia.
– Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, Clinical Associate Professor, Boston University and author of Nutrition & You
As a registered dietitian and mom, I am always thinking about how I can add more vegetables into more popular dishes. Vegetables add a lot of ﬂavor, they’re high in ﬁber and antioxidants, and they’re relatively inexpensive. I tend to make the vegetables the highlight of the dish, creating a more colorful and appealing meal. So how do I change over the meat lovers? Add your favorite spices, herbs, and oils to vegetables to create the aroma and taste of your most-loved dishes. My family’s go-to vegetarian meal is Spaghetti Squash with Cannellini Beans (courtesy image at top). The Italian ﬂavors including the garlic, onions, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan, and many vegetables create a delicious family-friendly meal. No one misses the meat with this dish; the protein-packed beans keep everyone feeling satisﬁed and happy.
– Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN Nutrition Communications Consultant at Triad to Wellness