Vegetarian + Creative = Wow!
My opinion about leading a vegetarian lifestyle has changed a lot over the past 10 years. I used to think it was very restrictive and, honestly, boring. But, not anymore. I now consider what so many call ‘plant based nutrition’ to be an exciting, flavorful, and nutritious way to go. I do still eat meat occasionally and seafood quite a bit – but, I love filling up my plate with colorful raw and cooked vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, too. It is amazing how the flavors pop!
What Exactly is it Like to Be a Vegetarian?
Some of my best friends are vegetarians – though I am not. Here are two different versions of vegetarian eating patterns to compare. Neither of them includes any red meat, poultry, or seafood. They both include delicious flavors, colors, and nutrition. Also, both allow you to use much creativity in the kitchen to create combinations of foods that are satisfying, day-after-day.
- Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian Pattern: My friend, Ana, is an ovo-lacto vegetarian which means that she eats a wide variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds – as well as eggs, yogurt, and cheese. She enjoys corn tortillas spread with vegetarian, refried black beans, tropical fruits of all kinds, leafy salads, plantains, rice, cheese sandwiches on bread, yogurt, and a whole lot more.
- Vegan-Vegetarian Pattern: My friend, Bhu, is a vegan vegetarian which means that she eats a wide variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds – however, she does not eat eggs, yogurt, or cheese. Bhu enjoys rice cooked with many vegetables and spices, bean dishes, and other stews and casseroles, along with beautiful, colorful fruits and cold salads.
Being Creative in the Kitchen with Plant-Based Foods
There are many ways to cook creatively with plant-based foods. Here are 5 tips and ideas:
- Think of your favorite ways to eat beans and then prepare one of them each day. For example: 3-bean salad; black bean taco; or red beans & rice with Bell peppers and onions.
- Feature leafy greens, either raw or cooked. For example: baby kale salad with dried cranberries & cucumbers; spinach sautéed lightly in extra virgin olive oil with minced garlic and red pepper flakes; or soft lettuce leaves wrapped around lightly sautéed tofu slices, shredded cabbage, and Korean gochujang sauce.
- Try a new kind of pancake. For example: add canned pumpkin & cinnamon or a ripe, mashed up banana to a simple pancake batter.
- Have a grain-bowl with extra virgin olive oil/vinegar dressing for dinner. For example: brown rice + grilled zucchini slices + artichoke hearts + tomatoes; quinoa + soybeans/edamame + grated carrots + raisins; or cooked oatmeal + sautéed mushrooms & spinach + chopped fresh basil.
- Go for it with pizza! For example: Mediterranean style pizza has chopped tomatoes, olives, eggplant, oregano, basil, and feta cheese; this pizza features Bell peppers, onions, and fresh garlic; or this one uses a Portobella mushroom for the crust!
What is a vegetarian meal that you enjoy making and eating?