I read a quote today in Time Magazine that said that 89% of Americans think they have a healthy diet. 89%, which makes me think that 50% of Americans must have no clue what a healthy diet is and made me re-examine my own ‘healthy diet,’ finding there is always room for improvement and questioning what exactly does ‘healthy’ mean?
For me it’s a holistic thing, good food makes me feel good and foods that have a smaller carbon footprint make me feel even better about what I am eating – looking at it as healthy for my body, my heart, my mind and the planet. One easy way to take a step closer to a healthier diet is to adopt the lifestyle of Meat Free Mondays. It’s good for your health because it cuts down on the amount of saturated fat in your diet (which aids in weight loss and lowering risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes) and good for the planet because the meat industry is one of the biggest generators of greenhouse gases, a huge consumer of water and nearly half of all the pesticides used in the US are used in meat production!
I am for the most part already a 2/3 vegetarian, but dinners still are centered around meat, so committing to Meatless Mondays is a good way to ease my way into a less meat-centric diet.
Here’s a typical Meatless Monday:
Breakfast is the easy one for me – a bowl of hot oat bran, raisins and a giant grape fruit.
Lunch – a fresh pita from the local bakery with a homemade hummuss spread (thanks Nate – he taught me how easy it is to make, can of chick peas, dash of salt, splash of olive oil and a splash of lemon – add tahini and or garlic for a more seasoned taste), stuffed with a greek salad – lettuce, pepperocini’s, olives, feta, carrots and cucumbers; a piece of fresh fruit.
Dinner – typically when I think Meatless dinner, I go straight for the spaghetti, but here are 3 meatless mondays recipes that will make you forget all about the meat!
1) Last-Minute Vegetarian Lasagna (Courtesy of Real Simple)
* 1 26-ounce jar pasta sauce
* 2 30-ounce bags frozen large cheese ravioli, unthawed
* 1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water (best way to remove the water is to thaw it, drain it in a colander and then squeeze out excess moisture with your hands)
* 1 8-ounce bag shredded mozzarella
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1. Heat oven to 350° F. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and spoon in a third of the sauce.
2. Arrange 12 ravioli on top and scatter the spinach over them. Top with half of each cheese. Cover with another layer of ravioli and the remaining sauce and cheese.
3. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until bubbly.
We like to spice ours up with a little jalapeno or red pepper flakes mixed in with the sauce.
2) Black Bean Veggie Burgers (w/salad & roasted rosemary potatoes) – (Courtesy of Allrecipes.com)
* 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
* 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
* 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 1 tablespoon cumin
* 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
* 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.
3) Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad – (Courtesy of Mark Bittman)
2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa or other small-kernel grain or 1 cup raw
1 large or 2 medium (about 1 pound) sweet potatoes
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion or shallot
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic, sherry, or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh chives or parsley leaves
1. If you haven’t already, cook the quinoa or other grain. Drain in a strainer and rinse. Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and dice it into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces. Cook it in boiling salted water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes; drain well.
2. Toss together the potato, quinoa, bell pepper, and onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk the oil and vinegar together and toss the salad with about half of this mixture; add all or some of the rest to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with the chives and serve.
I am obsessed with quinoa and this from the master of cooking made easy, Mark Bittman, is divine. Although, my husband constantly complains of being hungry after a dinner of quinoa, so you might need something hearty to pair with this meal.
Here are some great reference books for exploring vegetarian cooking and learning how to incorporate more vegetarian meals into your diet:
Still struggling to cook meatless? Our recommendation – opt for Indian or Thai take-out, they’ve got plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes! Mmm Ghana Masala! Or try out some Indian cooking of your own with these 12 Vegetarian Curry Recipes.