If you’re looking for some meatless meal ideas, you’re in luck: Spring is a great time of year to get excited about produce. Whether you’re planning a dinner party for vegetarian guests or just looking to eat less meat and add more vegetables to your diet, use these pointers to create healthy vegetarian meals that will leave you feeling satisfied.
1. Get creative with your main dish
If you’ve never tried making a full vegetarian meal before, you might be racking your brain for a decent meat substitute. But remember that when it comes to meatless meals, you don’t have to have a direct one-to-one tradeoff. Your main dish can be any combination of delicious and satisfying produce. It can be fun to experiment in the kitchen.
That said, if you haven’t had an artichoke recently, you’re in for a treat. This strange, delicious vegetable makes a great core for any vegetarian meal, and it’s in season all spring. In addition to being hearty and versatile, artichokes are packed with nutrients like folate, fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K (important for blood clotting and bone strength). Though they make great stuffed sides, dips, or salads, perhaps the best way to get acquainted with artichokes is to start with a simple, yet satisfying, steamed artichoke dipped in butter or aioli.
2. Embrace snacking
For far too long, snacks have been unfairly judged as unhealthy and detrimental to good eating habits. If you’re trying to adopt healthy habits, you’re often warned away from including snacks. That especially goes for vegetarian diets. The first thing well-meaning friends and family will tell you is that vegetarian meals aren’t satisfying, causing you to snack more and gain weight. But that’s all based on an outdated understanding of nutrition.
Snacks can be healthy as long as you give yourself healthy options, and having a little something to eat between meals can help keep your energy stable. Think convenient, nutrient-dense, and satisfying. Fruits and vegetables are obviously an ideal choice, though you might not always be near a fridge or have perfectly ripe produce at your disposal. And that’s one area where freeze-dried fruits and vegetables can be a huge help. They’re low in calories, high in nutrients, shelf-stable, lightweight, and delicious.
3. Remember, comfort food can be vegetarian too
It’s true that meatless eating often means upping your vegetable intake, but it doesn’t mean you have to toss out the idea of comfort food entirely. Spring vegetables and herbs can be incorporated into delicious comfort foods like green casserole recipes or a comfort food disguised as spring salad.
And then there’s avocado. Avocados are nature’s butter. You can spread them on toast or chop them over salad. Avocado is a natural comfort food that adds a creamy richness to dishes of all sorts. Split your avocado in half and bake an egg in the middle for a breakfast twist, or grill your avocados and stuff them with quinoa and black beans. Don’t get us wrong — we love a good salad, but avocados can do so much more if you put a little imagination into it.
Working with a vegetarian menu can be a great way to get out of a food rut and learn some new recipes. Even if you don’t plan on meatless eating day in and day out, there’s no reason not to challenge yourself to a vegetable-centric meal on a regular basis. Meatless Mondays are a popular way to get started. You’ll inevitably find that your recipe repertoire expands, and you’re destined to learn more about the produce at your local market.