3 Easy Steps to Go Veg!
The switch to a veg diet can be an exciting and delicious way to explore new foods. It is also much easier than you think. Most people typically use a limited variety of favorite recipes. The average family usually eats only eight or nine different dinners repeatedly. You can use a simple, three-step method to come up with nine veg dinner menus that you enjoy and can prepare easily.
First, think of three veg meals that you already enjoy. Common ones are tofu (or fake meat) and vegetable stir-fries, vegetable stew, or pasta primavera.
Second, think of three recipes you prepare regularly that can easily be adapted to a veg menu. For example, enjoy bean burritos (using canned vegetarian refried beans) instead of beef burritos, veggie burgers instead of hamburgers, and grilled portobello mushrooms, eggplant or roasted red peppers instead of grilled chicken in sandwiches. A favorite chili recipe can be made with all of the same ingredients; just replace the meat with beans or texturized vegetable protein. Many soups, stews, and casseroles also can be made into veg dishes with a few simple changes.
Third, check out some veg cookbooks from the library or bookstore and experiment with the recipes for a week or so until you find three new recipes that are delicious and easy to make. As you can see, with minimal changes to your menus, you will have nine veg dinners.
After that, coming up with veg options for breakfast and lunch is easy. Try muffins with fruit spread, cholesterol-free french toast, or cereal for breakfasts. Dinner leftovers or sandwiches with spreads like hummus or white bean pâté with lemon and garlic make great lunches!
DELICIOUS DAIRY ALTERNATIVES
If you are curious whether dairy foods are contributing to your allergies, skin problems, asthma, stomach upset, gas, diarrhea, or constipation, or you’d like to see how your body feels when it is dairy-free, just give it a try for 21 days. It takes about three weeks to break or create a habit. In that short time, many people experience major benefits, such as a drop in blood cholesterol levels, weight loss, relief from allergies, asthma, indigestion, or chronic stomach problems.
You can get all the calcium that you need from the plant world. Many leafy green vegetables (such as kale and spinach), broccoli, beans, almonds, soy milk, tofu, and calcium fortified orange juice are all good sources.
Regular intake of vitamin B12 is important. Good sources include all common multiple vitamins, fortified cereals, some brands of nutritional yeast, and fortified soymilk. The B12 in pill form and fortified foods is actually much easier to absorb than that found in animal products. When reading food labels, look for the word cyanocobalamin in the ingredients list. This is the form of vitamin B12 that is best absorbed by the body.
ESSENTIAL FOOD GROUPS IN A VEG DIET
Fruits: 3 or more servings a day
Fruits are rich in ﬁber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Be sure to include at least one serving each day of fruits that are high in vitamin C—citrus fruits, melons, and strawberries are all good choices. Choose whole fruit over fruit juices, which do not contain very much ﬁber.
Serving size: 1 medium piece of fruit; ½ cup cooked fruit; 4 ounces juice
Legumes: 2 or more servings a day
Legumes (another name for beans, peas, and lentils) are all good sources of ﬁber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soymilk, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein.
Serving size: ½ cup cooked beans; 4 ounces tofu or tempeh; 8 ounces soymilk
Whole Grains: 5 or more servings a day
This group includes bread, rice, pasta, hot or cold cereal, corn, millet, barley, bulgur, buckwheat groats, and tortillas. Build each of your meals around a hearty grain dish; grains are rich in fiber and other complex carbohydrates, as well as protein, B vitamins, and zinc.
Serving size: ½ cup hot cereal; 1 ounce dry cereal; 1 slice bread
Vegetables: 4 or more servings a day
Vegetables are packed with nutrients; they provide vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboﬂavin, iron, calcium, ﬁber, and other nutrients. Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, chicory, or bok choy are especially good sources of these important nutrients. Dark yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin provide extra beta-carotene. Include generous portions of a variety of vegetables in your diet.
Serving size: ½ cup cooked vegetable; 1 cup raw vegetable
TRY THESE QUICK AND EASY MEAL IDEAS
Appetizers can be as simple as chips and dip or as elegant as a vegan pâté. Here are some ideas for quick-and-easy hors d’oeuvres:
Whip up a seven-layer Mexican dip using refried beans, black olives, salsa, shredded non-dairy cheese, Tofutti brand “sour cream,” sliced green onions, and jalapeños.
Shake and Bake bite-size pieces of mock chicken or tofu and serve them with toothpicks.
Microwave tortillas and fill them with canned refried beans, vegan cheese, salsa, guacamole, and corn for easy burritos.
Zap a veggie burger in the microwave and put it on a bun with your favorite condiments and toppings.
Heat sliced veggie dogs and canned vegan-style baked beans in the microwave for fast “franks” and beans.
Make an easy pasta salad by mixing cooked spiral pasta with chopped broccoli, carrots, green pepper, corn, red onion, and your favorite vinaigrette.
Here are some creative ideas. The possibilities are endless!
Chop up whatever veggies are on hand and drizzle some olive oil over them.
Try new ideas for toppings, like sun-dried tomatoes, corn, spinach, or even beans.
Add different sauces, like pesto or red-pepper-and-garlic purée.
Try nutritional yeast or soy Parmesan for a traditional cheesy taste.
For a Mexican pizza, try refried beans, tomatoes, soy cheese, and salsa.
Sandwich fillings can be just about anything that you have on hand:
Stuff a baguette with lettuce, tomato, veggie bologna or turkey, and dairy-free cheese slices.
Dress up a bagel with tofu cream cheese and olives or veggie salami.
Fill a pita with faux (imitation) tuna or veggie “chicken” salad.
Make a grilled “cheese” sandwich with nondairy cheese, such as Daiya or Follow Your Heart.
Please click here for Veg Diet Transition Tips-Part 1