According to a recent poll, around 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian and 3 percent are vegan. But you don’t have to fall into one of those categories to enjoy the benefits of the occasional meatless meal. Including more plant-based foods in your diet can help to reduce your cholesterol and saturated fat intake, improve heart health, elevate energy levels and reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Plus, studies show that plant-based diets are more conducive to weight loss, as meatless meals usually contain fewer calories.
As registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey points out, vegetarian meals are often high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, along with a host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. “Diets high in plants are also linked to lower levels of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” she adds.
If you’re not quite ready to make the leap to an all-meatless diet, why not explore the “flexitarian” lifestyle? Flexitarians are those who choose to cut back on their meat intake and focus more on grains, beans, fruits, veggies and other plant-based foods.
Not sure where to start? Try incorporating some of these meatless recipes into your weekly meal planning.
Two-Bean Sweet Potato Chili: This vegetarian chili uses some secret tricks to boost the flavor without adding calories.
Baked Falafel: Use all chickpeas if you don't have fava beans. If you use canned beans, omit the salt to cut down on sodium.
Bruschetta-Stuffed Mushrooms: All the delicious flavor of bruschetta, in a healthy mushroom.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese: This slimmed-down version of a family classic boosts the nutritional value without sacrificing taste.
Cheesy Spinach Enchiladas: A delicious way to sneak some extra veggies into your day.
Simple Quinoa and Vegetables: This protein-rich vegetarian recipe is simple to make and tasty to eat.
Mini Vegetable Frittatas: Make this ahead of time and then refrigerate for a quick, protein-packed breakfast that's also portion-controlled.
Vegetarian Lentil Loaf: Serve with steamed broccoli and sweet corn for a complete vegetarian meal.
Crustless Spinach, Onion and Feta Quiche: Technically this is a crustless quiche, but the addition of flour makes for a delicious crusty bottom and sides.
Easy Bean Tostadas: They’re budget-friendly, easy to make and full of fiber.
Easy Poached Eggs and Pasta: The still-runny egg yolk adds a creaminess to the sauce and perfectly mixes with the spinach.
Farfalle with Mushrooms and Spinach: This recipe is fast, filling and super low in fat.
Vegan Moroccan-Style Chickpeas: This simple dish is chock full of flavor and nutrients.
Slow Cooker Healthy Potato Soup: Enjoy a flavorful, hearty and nutritious meal with no hassle.
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili: The secret to this hearty vegetarian chili is butternut squash, which holds its shape and adds a layer of flavor and sweetness.
Spaghetti Squash Marinara: This healthy pasta alternative boasts a classic Italian twist.
Vegetable Rissoto: Rich and creamy, this risotto is full of whole grains and vegetables.
Vegetarian Vindaloo: This spicy Indian curry can be made vegetarian or with meat, and is packed with spices.
White Beans with Caramelized Onions and Kale: Packed with protein and flavor, this filling dish won’t leave you missing the meat.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Sesame Peanut Sauce: This Asian-inspired pasta dish can be served hot or cold. Add some tofu for another healthy option.
What are your favorite meatless recipes? Share them in the comments!
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