These are a few of my favorite things…
I have been a vegetarian going-on two years now, but it feels like way longer. I became vegetarian for a few animal rights reasons, which I plan to get more into in a future post, and also because I never really liked meat. From a young age, it kind of freaked me out to eat meat. When I got to college, I started becoming more independent with my meals and relying less on someone else to cook for me. I started eating meat less often until I finally gave it up altogether.
As I started eating less meat, I knew I would have to find other sources of protein and fat to make up for what was now out of my diet. I also discovered new foods and new recipes. (Pinterest was my bible for the first few months of cooking vegetarian.) I thought I’d share with all you dolls a few of the staples in my vegetarian diet.
I am very much obsessed with eggplant. I will eat it on or with anything. I’ll eat it multiple times a day. I call it my new “chicken” because I eat it as much as most people eat chicken. Even though eggplant isn’t high in protein, it is high in fiber and a bunch of other important vitamins. It can also help combat cancer and help your digestive system. (Read more about what eggplant can do for you here.)
How i eat it:
- Grilled Eggplant – I grill an eggplant to use for a number of dishes throughout the week. I like putting grilled eggplant in my salads or making a healthier eggplant parm with it (grill your eggplant first, place in a baking dish, cover with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and bake until the cheese bubbles).
- Eggplant Parm (traditional)
- Eggplant Rollantini – Like an eggplant parm, but slices of eggplant are stuffed with ricotta cheese and covered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Cheese can be both a great source of diary and protein for vegetarians. A lot of my meals rely on cheese for protein. When I first became a vegetarian, people told me I would get tired of eating cheese. Guess what – one and a half years later and I still haven’t gotten tired of cheese! There’s so many different types of cheese out there that if I get tired of one, I can always switch to another. And, cheese can be used in virtually anything.
How i Eat it:
- On Salads – I make sure there is always a fat and a protein in my salads. Most of that time that protein is from cheese. My favorite cheeses to put in salads are Brie, goat, blue and cheddar.
- Quesadilla or in a Sandwich – The hardest part of being a vegetarian is trying to eat out at chain restaurants with friends. Luckily, most of these chain restaurants (Qdoba, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc.) will have a quesadilla or grilled cheese on the menu. It gives me the protein and carbs I need for the night.
- On Top of Pasta – I like to make a lot of my pasta dishes consisting of pasta, veggies and tomato sauce. So, I have some carbs ands some vegetables. I use one or two types of cheeses in the pasta dishes to help give me the extra protein and fats I need. Mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan are all great cheeses to top pastas with.
I am a true kale-fanatic. I will eat it cooked or uncooked. I love the texture and occasional bitterness. Kale is EXTREMELY high in vitamins K, A and C. It even has some protein and a bit of iron in it. No matter where I am if there is a kale salad on the menu, you bet I’m eating it. I love kale so much! (Calm down, Jen.)
How I eat It:
- Salads – I mostly eat kale as a salad. Most of my kale salads consist of slices of fruit (such as an apple), dried cranberries, almonds, cheese, some sort of grilled vegetable and a sweet vinaigrette (i.e. white peach balsamic vinegar with olive oil).
- Kale Chips
- Kale Pesto
At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of zucchini because of how watery it is. Then, this summer, I discovered zoodles! Zoodles are basically zucchini shredded into a spaghetti shape. They are a great pasta-alternative that I am now obsessed with. Zoodles aren’t as watery as zucchini in other cooked forms. Another great benefit of zucchini is that it is loaded with vitamin C.
How I Eat It:
- Zoodles – My favorite way to eat zucchini is as zoodles in a vegetarian bolognese with fresh ricotta cheese.
- Mexican Zucchini Boats – This is like a burrito, but instead of using a tortilla you use a zucchini.
- Zucchini Bread – I have yet to try making zucchini bread myself. Every time I try someone else’s homemade zucchini bread, it is phenomenal.
I got a cap on my tooth the other day, and I was pretty much afraid to eat anything other than avocado. Avocado is one of the many foods I started to like more when I began eating vegetarian. I’m a texture person, and I love the texture of avocado. It’s nice and creamy. There are many health benefits of avocado. It is high in vitamin K and heart healthy fats. It also has a little bit of protein in it. (Read more about the benefits of eating avocados here.) As a vegetarian, I like to eat avocados to give me an extra boost of healthy fats that I can’t get from most of the vegetables I eat.
How I eat it:
- Summer Salads – I love making summer salads with avocado, summer fruits (like pineapple or mango) and a coconut vinaigrette made from coconut white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
- Avocado Toast
- Guacamole – Whenever I go out for Mexican food, I need some guacamole with my meal. It’s also extremely easy to make.
Again, texture is part of the reason why I like beans. They’re nice and soft, and easy to eat. Beans get a bad reputation because of that childhood song (you know what I’m talking about), but I don’t listen to that. Beans are a great, cheap staple to any meal – no matter the cuisine. There are so many different types of beans that it’s almost hard not to find a type that goes with your meal. Beans, in general, are full of benefits. Not only are beans high in protein, but they are low in fat. They are also full of fiber. Still not convinced to try beans? Read this article to find out more about their health benefits.
How I eat it:
- Chili – I know I say I’m obsessed with a lot of things, but I’m REALLY obsessed with chili. I could eat it every night if I could. (Now I want chili for dinner…)
- Pasta – Have you ever thought about adding beans to a pasta dish? Let me tell you, you will not regret it. My friend and I tried this recipe and absolutely loved it.
- Sandwiches – I like to mash up beans (particularly black beans) and put them on a panini with cheese, sundried tomatoes and kale. To mash up the beans, place them in a microwave safe dish and heat for no more than 30 seconds. Then mash with a fork until the beans start to form together. Finally, put them on your bread and make your sandwich how you like.
I always describe farro as a cross between rice and quinoa. I’m not a fan of the texture of quinoa, but I also want more protein than rice has to offer. Though farro has a few more carbs than quinoa, it is actually slightly higher in protein and calcium, according to this article from POPSUGAR. It’s a great rice-substitute to any meal or recipe. If you’re not a huge fan of quinoa’s texture, I definitely suggest trying farro.
How I eat it:
- Farro in kale pesto with veggies – My friends and I tried this recipe over the summer and loved every single bite.
- Soup – It’s getting colder out. Add extra protein to your soup in an unconventional way by using farro in your soup recipe.
So, that’s basically what I eat. Well, of course I eat more than that, but these are seven staples that I love to add to my vegetarian dishes. Becoming vegetarian is not always the easiest transition. I had to learn how to cook for myself and how to find new sources of nutrients I would be lacking from not eating meat. For anyone making a diet change, read up on material, find recipes and be open to trying new things.
Are you a bit of a food fanatic, like me? Read more of my Food posts here.