Becoming vegetarian can obviously come with a set of health benefits for many people. It’s not just about tofurkey (just, no), organic to the max, ridiculous specialty food store bills, and saying ‘sayonara’ to savory bacon, it’s about doing something.
When I say “something” I mean anything that can be a win-win for you and the world around you. A lot of people hear the word vegetarian and run before I can even finish speaking. I have been a vegetarian on and off for the last 20 years. I go through periods where all I can literally dream about is steak – there’s no real Freudian explanation for this, and periods where I am craving what I call “clean” eating. I don’t have any specific reasons I am willing to bombard you with on why I do decide to go vegetarian for months or years at a time, I just do.
This year I’m going to make a consistent and conscious effort to at the very least get back to my ‘Meatless Mondays’. Have you heard of it? Probably.
This catchy phrase started as a 2003 international campaign to encourage people not to eat meat on, you guessed it, Mondays. All of this is in the hopes of promoting and improving their health and the health of our lovely little planet. The non-profit initiative was started by The Monday Campaigns, Inc. and works with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable future. You can check out why they decided on Monday for their favored day here and the full scope history of the endeavor here.
On a more personal level for me it’s the perfect chance to really step out of my usual beef, chicken, turkey cycle and inspire myself to create some delicious meals sans meat. Which I have been skipping way more than I want to.
I’ve noticed that a lot of dietary philosophy can quickly go from something you enjoy doing, to a fully-fledged “lifestyle” borderlining fanatical in some cases. I can’t help but admit when I was doing at least one, if not more, meatless meals throughout the week I was feeling healthier (physically and emotionally), I knew I was having a balanced meal of fibers and nutrients, and I loved the fact that I was helping the environment become more stable while respecting the improvement of animal welfare when I could.
No I’m not a fulltime vegetarian but I am doing what I can in my own way. Currently we get about 30 % of our calories per day from animal byproducts and less than 10% from things like fruits, beans, and fibers.
I backed myself into the corner of thinking I needed to be all or nothing with my meatless venture – which is why it’s so on/off for me. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can really be whatever I want. Creating rules around food caused me to break them and feel restrained.
What I’m consuming changes based on what I have available, who I’m around, what I’m in the mood for, if it’s a fasting day or not, my own personal health concerns, what’s in stock at the farmer’s market, and what fits best within my routine. None of these are wrong to take into consideration but I realize I miss having a dedicated day to have no meat.
It’s not complicated unless I make it complicated with my own self-sabotage. My meatless meals used to be structured on a plant-based foundation built up with minimally processed vegetables, legumes, sprouted grains, seeds/nuts, and lots and lots of fruits. I’m not a huge fan of soy and kept using that as the reason I wasn’t all in on my weekly meals but I’m shoving that excuse right in the trash. There are so many other ways to get proteins if I ignore soy:
- Seitan (often confused for soy but it’s actually wheat)
- Beans – all the beans
- Plant based milks
- Dairy-free cheese
- Jackfruit (so fibrous!)
- Beyond Meats
- Spirulina (crazy full of protein and good for shakes)
One of my favorite go-to meatless meals is ‘Southwest Vegetable Quesadillas‘. It’s simple, quick, and pretty filling. Enjoy a spiced, bean based, pepper, corn, and cheesy packed twist on a familiar meal. Don’t forget sour cream or lite ranch for dipping on the side! Here’s the recipe:
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cilantro (optional)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil of your choice
- 1 cup of drained and rinsed black beans (substitute canned to cut time)
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup corn (fresh or canned)
- 1 cup diced peppers of your choice
- 2 cups shredded Mexican style four cheese
- 6 flour tortillas (8 inch)
- In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Put to side.
- Heat half of the oil in a pan over medium to high heat. Add black beans, corn, diced onion and peppers to pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes and add spices in bowl to pan halfway through. Take off heat when peppers and onions are softened.
- In a separate clean skillet, add one flour tortilla over medium heat. Sprinkle cheese to coat bottom of tortilla shell. Top with veggie mixture and another layer of cheese before placing a second tortilla on top. Check that tortilla is golden brown on bottom before flipping onto other side. Cook both sides until golden brown for 2-3 minutes per side before removing from pan.
- Repeat with remaining ingredients. Be sure to serve warm with sour cream or ranch on side for dipping. Optional: sprinkle cilantro on top of quesadilla when done.
I like to add in even more veggies where I can, whether that’s through salsa, with avocado, tomatoes, or more – don’t be afraid to experiment. This seems like a good recipe to get myself back on meatless meals. If you have a favorite meatless meal, feel free to share it!