Vegetarian Meals

Denise asks, "What about meals for vegetarians?"

Good question! Vegetarians should use the same basic guidelines for menu planning. The only difference is in the source of protein for the meal.

Vegetarians differ in their eating preference.  Vegans are strict vegetarians and eat no animal products at all.  Lacto-vegetarians enjoy milk products but no other animal products, ovo-vegetarians will choose eggs only, and lacto-ovo vegetarians will consume both milk products and eggs but not other animal products. A semi-vegetarian will choose an occasional fish or poultry serving but avoids all other meat.  A pescetarian adds fish to the otherwise plant based intake.

Protein (blog post, 7/31/10) is made of 22 amino acids (AA.)  Think of a long plastic chain made of 22 different colored rings. Each ring represents a different AA.  Eight of these AA are unable to be made by the human body, and are called essential amino acids. The other 14 are non-essential; the body can provide its own.  All animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, poultry and milk, are complete proteins, which means they contain all 22 AA. Plants, as a rule, are incomplete proteins;  they are a bit shy of a full chain.  Having all 22 amino acids available everyday is critical to nutrition and health.

Soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, soy nuts) and quinoa are exceptions to the rule.  They provide a complete source.  Other good veggie protein sources include dried beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Fair sources are found in wheat, dried beans, lentils, corn, and rice.  All of these are incomplete proteins.

It's important that vegetarians be aware of where their protein is coming from.  If there is a daily intake of soy, quinoa, poultry, milk products, fish or eggs, there is no problem-- all 22 AA are supplied.  Vegans need to mindfully choose a variety of plant proteins in addition to whole grains, corn and rice each and everyday to be sure they are getting all of the essential amino acids.

Referring back to "Plan Those Meals!" (blog post 10/31/10) two of the meals are easy for vegetarians to enjoy, and some need a little tweaking.

  • Load Your Own Baked Potato: Vegans will omit the cheese or use soy cheese, and will not add the salmon or tuna.
  • Burritos: Perfect. Vegans choose soy cheese or none.
  • Chicken faijtas, Chicken Chili:  Omit chicken, cheese and yogurt.  Add:
    • beans
    • porta bella mushrooms 
    • cubed eggplant
    • soy crumbles (frozen food)
  • Spaghetti.  Omit meat.  Add:
    • soy crumbles
    • firm tofu
    • porta bella mushrooms
    • eggplant
  • Meatloaf.  Try a recipe for a veggie loaf, or eat a Morning Star Farms spicy black bean burger instead (I love these!)
  • Vegetarian Chili (blog post 12/26/09) This one is so good and so filling. My husband just made it last night--yum!
Veggie meals can be so delicious, colorful, and nutritious, too.  Higher in fiber, too.

What's your favorite vegetarian fare?