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Food & Cooking Articles   |  Healthier Eating

The Vegetarian Way

Adapting Your Recipes

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician

The 2005 USDA Food Guide Pyramid favors plant-based proteins (like legumes and nuts), and even recommends fewer servings of meat than before. Research has shown that eating a few meatless meals per week can lower risk of heart disease and may even prolong life. Why? Well, vegetarian meals are usually rich in complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fiber, while low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

The majority of people aren’t vegetarian. But you probably eat like a vegetarian now and again without even thinking about it—your morning toast or oatmeal, a garden salad, pasta, or vegetable stir-frys—even cheese pizza.

Whether you’d like to increase the number of vegetarian meals you eat, or you need to adapt a meat recipe for a vegetarian guest, you can turn your favorite recipes into a vegetarian meal with a few simple changes. Here are a few recipe tips to get you started:

In casseroles, stews, soups, and chili, substitute cooked legumes (like beans and lentils) for the meat. Try kidney beans in chili or stew, red lentils in spaghetti sauce or stuffed cabbage rolls, or refried beans in burritos, tacos, and enchiladas.

In stir-fry dishes, use firm tofu, tempeh, cooked beans, nuts, and sesame seeds in place of meat, poultry, or seafood. Firm tofu and tempeh can even be cubed and skewered as kebobs for grilling. Try scrambled tofu for breakfast. Marinated tofu, sliced thin, makes a delicious sandwich.

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