Have you thought about cutting back on the amount of meat you eat? Interested in joining the #MeatlessMonday movement? If so, you’re in good company. Over the past few decades Americans have improved their diets by reducing their consumption of meat, drinking lower-fat milk and eating more grains (Dept. of Agriculture). Many people have joined the #MeatlessMonday movement, including celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Yoko Ono and many others. As our diets have significantly improved, meat-eaters and vegetarians alike have discovered that meatless meals offer satisfying, healthful nourishment even when prepared with only modest amounts of fat.
Meatless meals have become in vogue. No longer do we feel we need to apologize for not serving meat. Many have discovered they like the way eating less meat makes them feel lighter and more energetic. Eating less saturated fat (found in meat) helps to manage weight gain. Meatless meals can be delicious and pleasurable. Even if you love meat, you can still take great pleasure in pasta with spicy tomato sauces, salads of all kinds, chunky vegetable soups, nutty, roasted grains and white beans cooked with herbs or pan-roasted garlic. Eating less meat makes sense and it’s good for your health.
Let’s face it: meatless cooking is usually more work than throwing a piece of meat on the grill. However, by having ready-to-eat ingredients and pre-chopped vegetables, putting together last-minute meals becomes a cinch. Being prepared is the key to getting meals on the table in a flash; here are some ideas that may help.
- Design your meal around grains and vegetables. The biggest obstacle for many part-time vegetarians is the lack of confidence in putting together a meal without meat. We are so used to making meat the main attraction in American cuisine that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin when creating a meatless menu.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry. With a well-stocked pantry you don’t have to worry about last-minute meals. It’s easy to create delicious, healthy meals when you have all of the ingredients on hand. While there are numerous lists of how to stock a vegetarian pantry, for tips on what you need to consistently prepare tasty meatless meals this online list from About.com Vegetarian Food is a good starting point.
- Invest in time-saving equipment. There are a few cooking tools and equipment that can make a huge difference when you’re in a hurry. Here are some favorites:
- High-quality blender
- Food processor
- Rice cooker
- Chef’s knife and knife sharpener
- Spiral vegetable slicer
- Vegetable peelers (a variety for different vegetables and fruits)
- Garlic press
- Vegetable steamer
- Citrus reamer
- Salad spinner
- Kitchen scale (use for bulk goods)
- Take advantage of ready-to-eat ingredients. Making smart choices about ready-to-eat items from the store can make a tremendous difference in preparing meals quickly and easily.
- Prewashed, ready to eat produce can help you eat more vegetables because they eliminate prep time.
- Litehouse Instantly Fresh Herbs are a great way to add flavor to your favorite recipes. Naturally flavorful because they’re freeze-dried fresh from the fields, our herbs will change the way you think about and prepare food.
- Using Litehouse dressings and dips creatively, savvy cooks are able to shed preparation time from many recipes.
- Use low-sodium canned beans, stock, tomato sauces and freeze-dried items (like mushrooms) to save cooking time.
- Wash leafy-green vegetables as soon as you get home from market to eliminate washing time the next couple of days.
- Cut vegetables such as onions, ginger, peppers and carrots beforehand and refrigerate or even freeze until you’re ready to cook.
- Plan ahead and prep all ingredients needed for a meal all at once. For example, if you need chopped garlic for more than one dish, peel and chop the garlic all at the same time.
- Enlist the help of friends and family members. Make cooking together a fun time and a part of the full meal experience.
There are many benefits to eating fresh, wholesome meatless meals. At the outset you may decide to increase your meatless meals for health reasons, but you may find you prefer the lighter, fresher taste and adopt meatless meals into your regular recipe rotation. Here are some suggested recipes from the Living Litehouse blog to get you started:
- Fennel, Carrot & Olive Salad
- Italian-Style Quinoa Loaf
- Spinach Salad with Grilled Mushrooms and Peppers
- Quick-N-Easy Butternut Squash Ginger Soup
- Citrus and Feta Salad
- Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Bake
- Lemon Dill Green Beans
What are your favorite strategies for getting meatless meals on the table quickly and easily?