Giving up all animal foods is a big step most people don’t take. However, having one or more meatless meals each week can boost your health without disrupting your life.
A healthy meatless meal means more plant foods – the vegetables, beans, and whole grains that are chock-full of nutrients. They’re good for your heart and your waistline, and lessen the risk of diabetes and cancer. But if you’re not used to meatless cooking, it can be a challenge to come up with new ideas.
There are some obvious ways to replace meat: tofu, for example. The traditional soy-based food is a staple in Asia and among many vegetarians in this country, although it may or may not please your taste buds.Look-Alike Pitfalls
Most supermarkets carry look-alike versions of traditional meat dishes made from tofu or other formulations of soy. These are visually similar to the animal version, but looks can be deceiving.
There’s an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” in which Marie decides to eat a healthier diet and serves a tofu “turkey” for Thanksgiving (a big blob of processed soy formed into a turkey shape). I’m pretty sure it’s the only time her cooking disappoints every single member of both older and younger Barone families. (And it would disappoint me, too.)
Sitcoms aside, soy impersonations of meat aren’t the traditional way of preparing tofu, and many of these types of products contain unhealthy additives. Prepared the right way, tofu has its place but it isn’t the only option.Meatless Mainstays
Protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates with a variety of vitamins and minerals should make up any healthy meal. Beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, and help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Nuts contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Whole grains and vegetables also contain some protein plus a bountiful array of beneficial nutrients.
There are many online sources of recipes. Two of my favorites are the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org
– vegetarian and other healthy recipes) and vegetarian cookbook author Nava Atlas (www.vegkitchen.com
– many vegetarian recipes and tips).
If you prefer convenience, Amy’s Kitchen (www.amyskitchen.com
) and Cedarlane Natural Foods (www.cedarlanefoods.com
) make a variety of heat-and-eat vegetarian meals available in stores around the country. Asherah’s Gourmet (www.asherahsgourmet.com
) makes good quality vegetarian burgers that are in stores in 10 states and online.