While I myself am not vegetarian, I am picky about where my meat comes from and I eat vegetarian meals more often than not. With this said, as I see more people switch over to a meat-free lifestyle (whatever their reasons may be), many do not know how to build a meal on this new eating plan. Most often, I see people continue to plan meals that are centered around meat, even though that is exactly what they are giving up. For example, they may eat frozen "chicken" nuggets that are made from plant-based proteins or subsist solely on frozen veggie burgers. These foods are highly processed, often unappetizing, and expensive. I saw this very sort of thing promoted on a recent show on the Cooking Channel. The episode was all about cooking using the Morning Star veggie burgers and the hosts kept talking about getting healthy with a vegetarian diet. I think they were doing exactly the opposite. The key to being meat-free is to think of food in a new way, and get the focus off of meat. The first step is to think of all the foods you are eating, rather than the few that you aren't. Vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and eggs are all fair game for vegetarians and can be combined in many different ways to create a delicious meal. Make spiced black beans served over brown rice with grilled veggies and a fruit salsa on the side. Another option is to roast your favorite vegetables in the oven and make them the star. Then serve with quinoa or over whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce. Think outside of your normal confines and get a little creative. A good place to start is with a vegetarian cookbook. Make sure it's one based on whole real foods and not the franken-foods I mentioned above. Deborah Madison is a great cookbook author as well as Heidi Swanson. Start with their titles, and use them as a jumping off point for your own creativity.
Whether you are vegetarian or not, meatless meals can be a delicious and filling option. Learning to cook this way may take a little practice, but, once you drop the fake meat and embrace the yummy plant foods at your finger tips, you'll see that vegetarian does not have to mean cardboard.
How do you feel about vegetarian cuisine? Like it or hate it, I'm all ears!
Do you have a favorite vegetarian cookbook author?
Let me know in the comments below! : )