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Whether you’re a Meatless Monday fan, a long time vegetarian, or simply like to dabble in making meatless meals; we have a ton of yummy vegetarian recipes. A green salad is only the beginning-- there are all sorts of hearty and easy vegetarian recipes you can make in a flash.

People love the vegetarian diet for a number of reasons: consuming less meat is better for the environment; you will have less participation in animal suffering by not eating them; eating less meat is correlated with a l…

nger life span, and eating vegetarian can be very budget-friendly-- and did we mention delicious! Also, you'll find that quite a few vegetarian recipes are also gluten-free or can be easily modified.

Vegetarian versus vegan

The vegetarian diet is less strict than the vegan diet. Vegetarians can eat dairy products, eggs, and honey-- although that depends on the type of vegetarian you are (see below for more information on the types of vegetarian diets). Eating vegetarian food, and reading up on the reasons why some vegetarians exclude certain foods or not, will allow you to connect with your food sources and develop an even greater appreciation for where your food comes from.

So why else might one eat vegetarian? The vegetarian diet may help you lose some weight, especially if you stick with high-fiber, low fat, and whole-food recipes. If weight loss is your goal, start by browsing the recipes, finding some new recipes, and creating a meal plan. There are many healthy recipes to choose from in a variety of cuisines-- Indian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Mediterranean and more.

Or, you may want to eat more vegetarian food to lessen your impact on the planet since animals take more land than produce and result in less food for fewer people. In addition, the methane animals put into the atmosphere is unhealthy for the environment. Or maybe your reasons for eating more veggie-based meals have more to do with health and longevity. The vegetarian diet is fiber-rich, which helps reduce heart disease. And here’s another great reason to eat more vegetarian dishes-- vegetarian cooking is very affordable! Sure, there are some high-priced fancy products and cheeses, but you can easily cook a delicious and super affordable meal using fresh produce, herbs and cheese-- and who doesn’t love that combination!

Types of vegetarians

Not all vegetarians subscribe to the same diet. Some vegetarians not eat eggs and/or dairy products. If you’re interested in exploring the vegetarian diet, consider what vegetarian label might suit you best:

  • Lacto-ovo: This vegetarian eats both dairy products and eggs.
  • Ovo: This type of vegetarian eats eggs but omits dairy products such as cheese and butter.
  • Lacto: This type of vegetarian avoids eggs but includes dairy products in their diet.

Where do you get your protein and iron?

This is a common concern, especially for newbie vegetarians. The average adult male needs approximately 56 grams of protein per day, and the average adult woman needs about 46 grams of protein per day. This is easy to get when you’re eating a well balanced vegetarian diet. Many people might be surprised how easy it is to get a lot of protein in your diet while eating vegetarian, but many plant-based foods are chocked full of it. Some of these foods include:

  • Beans and legumes (including lentils, peas, and peanuts)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.)
  • Seeds (chia, hemp, sesame seeds)
  • Tofu
  • Seitan
  • Protein-packed veggies (artichokes, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower)

Now let’s talk iron. Iron is a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body. A lack of iron can lead to anemia, so it’s essential to eat a lot of iron-rich foods, whether you’re vegetarian or not. Iron is best absorbed by the body when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C-- so eating black beans (rich in iron) with homemade salsa (tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C) would be a right combination. Regarding iron in vegetarian foods, it is found in dark leafy greens, quinoa, lentils, nuts, as well as most roots, tubers and anything grown in the ground. Not only are these foods good for your body, but including them makes for a hearty and balanced vegetarian meal.

Make it kid & crowd friendly

You can’t deny that nearly everyone loves cheese. If you want to entice your kids to eat more vegetarian dishes, incorporate some cheese in your dinner tonight-- try salads with olives, cucumber, and salty feta cheese or slow cooker vegetarian chili topped with shredded cheddar and some green onion. Not only will kids love these cheesy dishes, but adults will, too!

You’ll also want to include some hearty ingredients, so the meal feels satisfying to meat-eaters and vegetarians, alike. Portabella mushrooms and eggplant are often used in place of meat since they have a hearty texture. Have fun and experiment with different vegetables and cooking techniques.

If you want to wow a crowd, create a menu of vegetarian dishes cooked in a variety of methods-- roasted, steamed, sautéed and raw, for instance, to offer a stimulating range of flavor profiles.

There are also dozens of vegan breakfast recipes you can make!

Add Some Pizzazz

Dips and sauces add a lot of flavor and fun to veggie-based dishes. A drizzle of homemade pesto over a veggie pizza livens the flavor and presentation; homemade hummus is easy to whip up and makes a crudité platter more appetizing.

Try various herb pestos to liven-up roasted, steamed or raw vegetables. Get creative with a bouquet of herbs, an oil of your choice (olive oil, avocado oil, etc.), plus sea salt and pulse in a high-powered blender or food processor. Use this homemade pesto as a dip or sauce for roasted and steamed vegetables, or as a dressing for grain salads.

You can also liven up a grain salad by adding some nuts. We love some pistachios or slivered almonds, which add a nice crunch, as well as some protein and iron.

Cooking techniques

When vegetables and starches become the star ingredients of your meal, you’ll want to be certain you’re cooking them correctly. Even if you’re a regular home cook, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research to make sure you are preparing and cooking certain ingredients in the best way possible. Eggplant, for example, need to be covered in salt and allowed to “sweat” for about 30 minutes before it is rinsed, patted dry and ready to cook to give it that delicious restaurant-quality texture and bite.

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