Vegging Out: Easy Meat Substitutes for Optimal Health

Chicago’s health commissioner recently urged Windy City denizens to give up meat for the entire month of January, in a bid to improve locals’ health. Getting residents of Chicago—a city famed for its sausages—to go vegetarian for a month, or even a week, may seem like a tall order. Heck, I’m a vegetarian-leaning omnivore and it seems a bit challenging even for me!

However, the guy’s got a point. Reducing the meat content of one’s diet saves money, the planet, and oneself, as less meat intake can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, not to mention one’s waist size. So maybe you won’t ban meat for a whole month, a whole week, or even a whole day, but I suggest experimenting with at least one meat-free meal per day. I’ve been eating this way for a while now, and I hardly miss the extra portion of animal protein in my daily diet.

Here are some healthy, protein-rich vegetarian dishes from my personal repertoire that even my ultra-carnivorous family members adore:

Three-Bean Salad With Avocado
Pick your favorite beans—I like garbanzos, black beans, and kidney beans, but any will do—and toss with chunks of avocado, tomato, and finely chopped red onion. Dress with a light vinaigrette made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Optional: serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.

Easy Asian-Style Baked Tofu
Marinate cubes of firm tofu in a sauce of minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, a tiny bit of sugar, and sesame seeds (this can be done for up to two hours). Bake at 400 for about 30-40 minutes, until edges of tofu cubes start to crisp up. Much healthier than stir-fried tofu, this baked version makes a delicious addition to a salad or a veggie and rice bowl. (Note that several pre-cooked versions of this dish can be purchased at most supermarkets, but they are more costly than going home-made and may contain a few more ingredients than necessary).

Egyptian Fava Bean or Edamame Stew
I suggest buying pre-cooked fava beans, as cooking the fresh version is an extremely labor-intensive process. You may opt for edamame instead, depending on your taste. The recipe is tailored to using about eight to ten ounces of beans. You’ll need them shelled and cooked prior to starting the rest of the recipe that follows.

Chop a medium yellow onion and sauté in olive oil until onion is soft and translucent. Stir in several cloves of minced garlic, one teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, and a pinch of cayenne, until fragrant. Then stir in a 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, including the liquid. Simmer until liquid mostly cooks down, and then add beans and some fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Stir and simmer for a few minutes, then serve fresh over your grain of choice.

Image credit: Texas Finn at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Written by jessicamordo

6 Comments

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  1. Hi

    I don’t know what are your thoughts about mono-sodiun glutamate but soy sauce has plenty of MSG in it.

    I have changed and after watching a video of dr Blaylock about MSG on google video I got rid of the MSG of my diet.

    I loved the website.

    thanks

    Sam

  2. Sam,

    I would assume that the presence of MSG depends on the product. The last bottle of soy sauce I purchased is the low-sodium version from the VH brand and it is MSG free.

  3. Yum!!! I can’t wait to try the baked tofu. Tonight I made tofu that, while delicious, wasn’t all that healthy – breaded, fried in oil and then smothered in a homemade buffalo sauce. It certainly “scratches the chicken wing itch” as my partner says but I wanted to think up a healthier alternative as I have plenty of tofu leftovers (a pack is so cheap – 99 cents and lasts for several meals!)

    Re: the bean salad – I made a rendition of this salad in the spring and summer, omitting the kidney beans but adding sweet corn – lovely!

  4. I like that you offered suggestions that didn’t include soy. While tofu and other soy-based foods are great substitutes for meat and provide you with a protein rich diet, many of my clients can’t digest it. This is especially true for people that suffer from IBS and lactose intolerance. Because of this, many of my clients believe they can’t go vegetarian, even though they lean toward wanting to for health and morale reasons. I tell them everyday that there are other substitutes that will satisfy their hunger and provide them with enough protein in their diet. Beans are one of the best ways to do this, so thank you for including that in this article.

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