8 Expert Tips for Making Better Vegetarian Meals
Are you looking for tips for eating more plant-based meals or tips for following a Mediterranean Diet for vegetarian families? Check out our expert advice below!
The Mediterranean Diet is primarily a plant-based diet, in that many meals are built around plant products. Animal products are allowed but meat takes more of a supporting role to all the beans, fruits, and vegetables. (Seafood is the exception to this rule, as the Mediterranean Diet encourages lots of fish consumption.) This means that at least a few times per week, you should enjoy some completely meat-free, vegetarian meals.
3 Mediterranean Diet Modifications for Vegetarian Meals:For many of us who grew up with a plate that included animal products every time, cooking a vegetarian meal can seem a bit daunting. Happily, there are so many delicious ways to prepare and enjoy vegetarian or vegan dishes. Certainly, you can scan our website and the big, wide internet for recipes to try. We also encourage you to try some of our favorite tips for making your favorite meals meat-free.
- Sub vegetables or legumes for meat: There are many dishes where vegetables can be a pretty convincing stand-in for animal protein. Soups and stews are great for this. Beef chili, for example, gets a color boost when tri-colored beans (kidney, navy, and black) are used instead of beef. Tons more fiber and balanced gut flora, too. Another great example is chicken parmesan. Sub in eggplant, and it is a similarly yummy (and healthy!) dish. Think about dishes that your family already knows and loves, and see where you can swap grains, legumes, or beans for the animal product.
- In certain dishes, just take the meat out!: Lots of pasta dishes that contain meat can easily become vegetarian. Examples include meat pasta sauce, meat ravioli, and meat lasagna. You could sub a vegetable for the meat, or you could leave it out entirely. Pasta covered in a scrumptious, hearty tomato sauce can be just as filling as pasta with meat sauce, especially if you are using whole wheat or bean pasta.
- When in doubt, make a bowl: Our favorite way to eat vegetarian, especially with a family, is to build Buddha bowls. Pick a grain or legume as the base, layer on cooked vegetables, and other delectable foods like cheese or seeds. Then be sure to top it with a luxurious sauce. Check out some of our sauces.
5 Tips For Making Vegetarian Meals More SatisfyingIf you have tried eating more vegetarian meals and found them to be a bit bland or unsatisfying, these 5 tips are going to change your world! Meat-free meals do NOT have to be boring, dull, or unsatisfying. If you are looking for ways to make your vegetarian or vegan meals more satisfying or delicious, give these a try!
- Bring on the (healthy) fat: Don’t shy away from using olive oil, avocado, or nuts and nut butters in your meals. Fat adds satiety to food, helps you feel full longer after eating it, and tastes great! Consuming a variety of healthy fats will provide you with essential nutrients including Omega 3s, DHA, and EPA, all of which are known to help decrease inflammation, improve weight loss, decrease your risk of heart disease and improve cognitive function and memory.
- Bulk up with grains: Quinoa, brown rice, farrow, whole grain bread, are just a few of the healthy grains that are staples of a Mediterranean Diet. "Buddha bowls" are a quick, easy, and hearty way to prepare a nutrient dense meal; using grains as the base, you can top it with roasted veggies, beans, legumes, and a dressing all in one dish! For more information on grains, check out our blog post.
- Add on some protein: Many vegetarians have no problem meeting their protein needs. Beans, lentils, and legumes are great options for protein, as well as being super healthy overall. Lentils have over 17 grams per cup when boiled. Many beans have 13 or 14 grams per cup, when boiled from dried. Edamame rings in at an amazing 18 grams per cup when cooked from frozen. Nuts and seeds like chia seeds are a great source of protein with one tablespoon containing almost 5 grams of protein. Many vegetables have protein too! Vegetables may not contain as much protein per ounce compared when compare to meat or fish. However, the protein content of vegetables can add up throughout the day! (Veggies are also an excellent source of fiber. 95% of Americans don't get the recommended amount of fiber!)
- Get creative with the preparation: Try the same food prepared in several ways. You will keep your taste buds happy, even if you are eating similar foods over and over. For example, you can steam broccoli with lemon or roasted it with garlic. Or you can grill it with vinaigrette, eat it raw with hummus or grate it into a broccoli slaw. You get the idea. When I first started cooking, I was astonished at how different preparations could make a difference in the final product!
- Aim for variety - try some new recipes! Vegetarians can fall into the same trap of convenience eating as other eaters. Relying entirely on pizza, bagels, and cereal may ensure that you are eating meat-free, but it is not the healthiest approach. And, it's not the Mediterranean Diet for vegetarian families approach either! That is why we have compiled a variety of vegetarian options that are delicious and nutritious for the entire family! Lentil soup, vegetarian chili, homemade veggie burgers, buddha bowls, and bean salad are all great options. You can find lots of tasty options from places around the world like Italy, Indian, and Thailand, too.