Wait… Where is the meat?

A few weeks ago, I made a vegetarian chilli. I brought it over to my boyfriend Chris’ place, and he proceeded to poke around the bowl, confused by the lack of meat. When I told him there was “no meat”, this is the reaction I got:

Someone was grumpy...
Someone was grumpy…

He was not happy. But he ate it anyways, because I made it and he was (sort of) joking 🙂

I am not a vegetarian, and I don’t think I ever could be. But I do actively try to include lots of plant-based foods at every meal and snack. To me, meat is seen more as a compliment to a dish, rather than the focal piece. By plant-based foods, I mean:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grains (whole-wheat breads, pastas, oats, spelt etc)
  • Beans, lentils, peas
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters
  • Plant-based fats such as flaxseed, cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, avocado
  • Chia

I also make several vegetarian/vegan dishes every week. I try to keep my meat consumption to 2-3 times per week at most. There are many benefits of eating more plant foods. These include:

  • Better for your health (A higher consumption of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds and healthy fats are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol)
  • Better for the environment (Eating more plant foods reduces your carbon footprint vs. the energy expended to feed, house, slaughter, transport and store meat)
  • Better for your wallet (Meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and nuts/seeds are PENNIES compared to the price of meat)
  • Better for your waistline (Most plant foods are a source of fibre, which keeps you satisfied for longer and keeps your blood sugars from spiking right after a meal. This can help you manage your weight better)

So do you want to start including more plant foods into your diet? Try these tips:

Sorry Chris, time to try some tempeh....
Sorry Chris, time to try some tempeh….
  • Get on the “meatless Monday” bandwagon. You don’t necessarily need to eat a vegetarian/vegan meal on Mondays, but pick a few meals per week to try a new recipe/dish that doesn’t include meat. I love Pinterest for recipe or meal ideas.
  • Shrink down the meat, up the plants. If you don’t want to forgo meat at your next meal, shrink the size and make it more of a compliment to the meal. For example, when making tacos I like to add a can of black beans to my ground turkey. It stretches the meat and adds more healthy soluble fibre. I also chop up lots of fresh veggies as toppings (fresh tomato, romaine lettuce, red onion, jalapenos or fresh/frozen corn).
  • Make beans and legumes your friend. I always have a couple cans of beans in my cupboard (usually chickpeas and black beans) and a bag of split-red lentils ready to go for quick meals. I love the red lentils because you don’t need to pre-soak them, and they do a great job taking on the flavour of whatever you cook with. Dried chickpeas and beans take more time to prep, but can be worth it if you are batch cooking or trying to save money. For tips on soaking and cooking beans, click here.

Here is my go-to Butternut Squash Soup recipe, to get your feet wet using lentils.

For the soup: 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes (scoop out the seeds and toast them, yum!). 1 medium yellow/cooking onion, roughly chopped. 2 cloves garlic, minced. 5 cups lower-salt vegetable broth. 1/2 cup split red lentils. 1 tbsp olive oil. 1-2 tsp curry powder. Freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Directions: In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over MEDIUM heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add in chopped butternut squash and curry powder, stir to combine with onion/garlic mixture. Add stock and lentils, increase heat to HIGH until soup begins to boil. Reduce back down to MEDIUM and let soup simmer until butternut squash is soft, approximately 20 minutes. Add more stock if soup is too thick (the lentils will absorb some of the stock). Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the soup until no chunks remain. Alternatively you can transfer the soup in batches into a blender and puree until smooth. Season with pepper to taste.

Note: This soup freezes well, just transfer into containers once cooled. I like to garnish the soup with fresh cilantro if I have any hanging out in the refrigerator.

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