Eating a diet based on plants instead of animal products isn’t for everybody, but that doesn’t mean that everybody can’t benefit from eating more vegetarian meals.
Your own health will likely benefit when you eat more plant-based meals, which have been shown to reduce the risk of the top-two killers in America: heart disease and cancer (plus strokes, diabetes, and other health issues).
Raising and killing animals for food results in considerably more greenhouse gas emissions than growing fruits and vegetables, and biodiverse habitats are destroyed when land is cleared for animal agriculture. All of this contributes to global warming.
For people living with a substance use disorder, healthy vegetarian meals can be an excellent foundation for providing much-needed nutrition. For example, people who use cocaine or other stimulants might regularly skip meals, leading to weight loss and poor nutrition. Eating plant-based meals during crack cocaine treatment and other addiction treatment can help provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, or chemicals produced by plants that provide nutritional benefits.
Eating more plants might make us happier, too. One study showed a link between a vegetarian diet and improved mood states, with people who eat plant-based meals less likely than meat-eaters to report negative emotions.
Many dieticians and other health professionals recommend that people “eat the rainbow” to ensure that they’re getting a variety of fruits and veggies in their diets.
Whether you’re new to vegetarian meals or an old pro, here are a few tasty meals to try that provide a nutritional boost.
Makes 2 servings
Like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable that’s loaded with nutritional benefits. Studies show that healthy fats help the body absorb micronutrients found in vegetables, so don’t be afraid to slather on the dressing.
For the salad:
- 2 red grapefruits or navel oranges, peeled and segmented
- 1 5-oz. pkg. arugula
- ¼ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium avocado, diced
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh dill
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. Honey
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Dash of pepper
How to prepare the salad:
- Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients.
- Pour the dressing over the greens and toss to combine. Ideally, do this a few hours before serving to allow the ingredients to marinate slightly.
Green Lentil Rice
Makes 2 servings
Ever wonder what category a food belongs to? Like, is corn a vegetable or a grain? Well, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lentils belong to a subgroup that qualifies as both a vegetable and a protein. Double score!
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 2 c. diced onion
- 1 medium tomato, cubed
- 4 c. chopped fresh spinach
- 1 ½ c. cooked rice
- 2 c. cooked green lentils
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
To make the meal:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 30 seconds.
- Add the salt and pepper and stir for 30 seconds.
- Increase the heat to high, add the onions, and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until soft.
- Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for 1 minute.
- Add the spinach and cook until reduced to ⅓ of its original volume, about 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the rice and lentils. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring gently.
- Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Butter Sauce
Makes 2 servings, or about 6 large rolls
No, you say. Too many ingredients and too many steps. But this recipe is much simpler than it looks. And the results? Totally worth it. A favorite with veg heads and meat lovers alike. Herbs are nutrition powerhouses that add a burst of fresh flavor.
For the spring rolls:
- 2 oz. rice sticks (a type of rice noodle)
- 1 pkg. spring roll wrappers
- 1 pkg. extra-firm tofu pressed to remove water and then diced or crumbled
- 1 c. grated carrots
- 1 c. sprouts
- 1 c. julienned cucumber
- 6 large green lettuce leaves, washed
- 2 large red lettuce leaves, washed and quartered
- 3 Tbsp. chopped mint leaves
- 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
For the sauce:
- 2 ½ Tbsp. tamari
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 3 Tbsp. water
- ¼ c. peanut butter
- 1 Tbsp. mustard
- 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. minced ginger
- 2 tsp. honey
To make the recipe:
- Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Fill a large bowl with very hot water. Place the rice sticks into the water and let soak for 15 minutes, until soft.
- Meanwhile, make your spring-roll assembly station: Place the remaining ingredients, except the wrappers, in their own bowls. Place a large plate or cutting board in the middle, where you will make the rolls. Finally, place a large plate to the side where the completed rolls will go.
- Using a large bowl of hot water, quickly dip one spring roll wrapper in just until softened. Gently remove and place on the cutting board. Note: The sides of the wrapper will tend to fold in and stick to each other. It takes a little practice.
- Place a lettuce leaf in the middle, add some prepared rice sticks, and top with the remaining ingredients however you like.
- Serve with the sauce and other sauces you think might go well with the rolls, such as soy sauce or hoisin sauce.
Try one or all three of these delicious vegetarian dishes.
Featured Photo by Cocobols on Unsplash