Meatless Meals Made Easy

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

Oftentimes in America a meal is centered on meat, and vegetables are often an afterthought. However, it’s beneficial not only for your body but also for the environment to cut back on the amount of meat you consume. In fact, a new study just revealed that eating too much animal-based protein could lead to an early death. You can get plenty of protein from plant-based foods and eggs. Beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, tofu and certain vegetables and grains are healthy, nutrient-dense forms of protein that are low in saturated fat.

Here are some easy tips to help you make delicious meatless meals:

  • If a recipe calls for ground meat, simply replace one ounce of meat with a quarter cup of cooked beans or lentils.
  • Try grilling large portabella mushroom caps in place of burgers.
  • Bake a frittata for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or top roasted veggies or a salad with a poached egg.
  • Bulk up a vegetable soup with protein-rich tofu (crumble up soft tofu into your soup) or use diced firm or extra-firm tofu in a vegetable stir-fry. You can also make meatless kabobs with cubes of marinated extra-firm tofu and thick cuts of vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, or even fruits like juicy fresh pineapple or peaches.
  • Quick-cooking quinoa is a whole grain that is also a complete protein. Quinoa has a wonderful taste and texture and can be used as an alternative to pasta or rice in many dishes.
  • Delete the meat atop your salad and instead toss in some nuts or seeds to pump up the protein. To boost their flavor, toast the nuts or seeds in a skillet beforehand.
  • Go exotic and make a Thai peanut butter sauce to spread over various meat-free options. Simply combine 1/4 cup of peanut butter (or other nut butter) with 1/3 cup warm water and then add 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar, and 4 teaspoons of sugar. Pour the peanut sauce over cooked veggies, whole-wheat pasta or brown rice.

Operation Food Search is pleased to partner with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri for April Showers, a community-wide personal care item drive. Last year’s drive brought us more than a million care items to distribute to our neighbors in need. The items secured through this major collection (soap, toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.) are not a luxury – they are essential to health, hygiene, and self-esteem, yet are often costly and not covered by food stamps. Please mark your calendar with these important dates and make a contribution to this year’s April Showers collection: April 4 – 6: Bag distribution; April 5: Showering the Community event at area Walmart stores; April 12: Bag collection.