Have you heard about Meatless Monday? It’s an international movement founded 20 years ago at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with the aim of encouraging everyone to eat vegetarian at least once a week. But the concept is even older than that – it started in WWII when meat was in short supply and the U.S. government introduced Meatless Monday to help prevent shortages. Today, though, we know that eating less meat is healthier; in fact, many experts recommend a plant-based diet for optimum health.
But even when you know we need to cut back on meat, it’s not always easy to think vegetarian when you’re standing in the grocery aisle, basket in hand. Here are some vegetable-centered main dishes that will make even the most carnivorous diner happy.
1. Make Your Lasagna Meatless.
Lasagna may be a household favorite, but when you make it with ground beef or other meat, it’s not kind to your heart. Instead, swap the meat with portobello mushrooms, chopped spinach, and mixed veggies (try broccoli, carrots, and squash). Make your entree even healthier by using whole-grain noodles and lower-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella and ricotta, which contain less fat than their traditional whole-milk counterparts.
2. Focus on Frittatas
Like quiche, these baked egg and cheese dishes are quick, delicious, and easy to enhance with all manner of vegetables. But they’re even simpler to make, since you don’t have to bother with a crust. Here’s Kaiser Permanente physician Dr. Preston Maring’s recipe; this one features caramelized onions, zucchini, and artichoke hearts, but you can make a frittata out of just about any vegetable in your refrigerator.
3. Go South of the Border.
Enjoy the spicy flair of Mexican fare by building vegetable-heavy burritos or enchiladas. Stuff whole-grain tortillas with a variety of beans, corn, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms, then top with salsa and avocado instead of sour cream to boost antioxidants while reducing fat. Another south-of-the-border speciality is Dr. Maring’s tamale pie, which features carrots, zucchini, and black beans in a cornmeal crust.
4. Warm Up with a Winter Stew
Not only are stews hearty and comforting, they can be heart-healthy when made with vegetables instead of beef or chicken. Start with this basic vegetarian stew recipe featuring tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots for thickness, then experiment by adding additional vegetables, beans, or chickpeas to vary the flavor.
5. Get Friendly with Eggplant.
The texture and consistency of eggplant make it an easy meat substitute, hence its central role in dishes like eggplant parmesan. And eggplant is low-calorie, too; one cup of eggplant contains just 20 calories. Add mushrooms, spinach, and artichokes to the sauce for a nutritional boost that will make your dish more flavorful, too. One more tip: coat the eggplant in flaxseed and oats instead of processed bread crumbs to increase fiber while reducing sugar and fat.