Any time of the year is ripe for diet improvements, but the beginning of a new year often inspires people to make a fresh start. Perhaps overindulging on holiday cuisine, or running into Santa and taking one look at his waistline, leads them to resolve to change their eating habits.
“Meatless Mondays,” an international initiative which began in 2003, has taken hold in numerous cities, schools, businesses, and organizations, to encourage folks to improve their health and the health of the planet. A meatless day – primarily Friday – has also been followed for thousands of years by many of the world’s religions.
Incorporating one meatless day a week presents multiple benefits and is much easier and are more enjoyable than you think. Let’s take a look at the many advantages and food options of a meatless day: Research has shown that reducing the consumption of meat helps lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, arthritis, allergies, and cancer. Wholesome meat replacement meals encourage a commitment to better health and weight control. They contain lean protein, powerful nutrients and fiber, and can be just as delicious and filling. The building blocks of these meals are whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, meat and seafood are more expensive than almost any other food; therefore, abstaining from them one or two days per week reduces grocery cost, and offers the opportunity to explore new ingredients and recipes. Consuming less animal flesh is also better for the environment, since water and fuel use is extremely high in the production of this type of food.
Meals should contain enough protein when replacing meat and seafood. This can be easily accomplished by including soy products, such as tofu or soy milk (in soups, stews, and salads), low-fat dairy, (whole grain pasta and cheese), nuts or seeds added to salads and breakfast cereals, and the well known combination of whole grains with beans. Literally thousands of mouth-watering, healthful dishes can be prepared without meat, enhanced by herbs, spices and delicious sauces. So you see, you really don’t have to subsist on your lawn clippings on a meatless day.
The following are three scrumptious, easy to make main-dish recipes to get you started. Happy and healthy New Year!
Bulgur-Chickpeas and Feta
1 cup uncooked bulgur
2⁄3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
½ cucumber, peeled, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
4 – 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon basil
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring one cup water to a boil. Remove from stove. Mix uncooked bulgur into the water and let stand 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together all dressing ingredients. Add cucumber, celery, onion and chickpeas. When bulgur is done, combine it with the dressing mixture. Gently mix in the feta. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
½ green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch sticks
4 radishes, thinly sliced
3 green onions, sliced
½ Haas avocado, scooped into small chunks
3 large leaves Romaine lettuce, shredded
1 1⁄2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon dried basil
Salt and pepper
In medium bowl, whisk the dressing. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Serve with whole wheat or multi grain toasted pita bread.
Brown Rice with Eggplant-Tomato Stew
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 cup cooked beans, drained
1 1⁄2 cups water
½ small eggplant, cubed
1 large tomato, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ a small lemon
Cook rice as directed on package. Separately, place the (1 1⁄2 cups) water in a medium saucepan. Add eggplant and cook, covered, 12 minutes or until somewhat translucent. Add onion, garlic, tomato, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in oil. Simmer 5 more minutes. Remove from stove and add lemon juice. Serve over the rice and beans.
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Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor. She is a columnist and member of the American Holistic Health Association. Visit her Facebook under Judy E. Buss for more recipes and tips.