I would have to say that while I do include meat and animal products in my daily meals, I also enjoy great vegetarian-based meals. I really don’t mind if I don’t get meat in on many days of the week because a vegetarian based diet has many health benefits, and can actually be a lot more flavorful, creative and budget-friendly. It can help in the prevention of many chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. There are lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol with less animal protein, as well as higher levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals in vegetarian-based diets. A few things that one may need to watch out for, if the plant-based diet isn’t well planned, or with some vegan diets, is deficiencies in vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and n-3 fatty acids.
Check out this position paper by ADA.
Aside from Italian food, my next favorite is Mediterranean or Greek type cuisine because there are so many great spices and flavors in their traditional dishes. One of my favorite greek restaurants is Greek Bistro. Boy do they have some great dishes! The ultimate vegetarian meal for me is falafel. Basically, it’s a patty of mixed garbanzo beans, bread crumbs and flavorful spices like cumin, cayenne and sumac (I add this one since I have a huge jar left from my lamb kofta). It is so great stuffed into a nice fluffy pita from Amena Bakery, with all kinds of veggies and a creamy yogurt-cucumber dip.
(adapted from CookingLight)
4 servings (serving size: 2 stuffed pita halves)
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (I use a stale garlic ciabatta bread from TJ’s and pulse it in the food processor or about 1 1/2 slices of your favorite bread)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 3 rounded teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tbsp sumac (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large egg
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
- big handful of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (you may need more if you sauté in batches)
Tzatziki Sauce: (feel free to double)
- 1/2 cup plain low-fat greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber, drained on a paper towel
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame-seed paste)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, cut in half (Amena bakery is my favorite)
- As many of your favorite veggies like dark leafy lettuce, tomato slices, etc. that you can stuff into the pita! I also like to add roasted zucchini slices with olive oil and herbes de provence in a 400 oven for about 40 minutes until they get brown and delicious. Roasted red pepper is a great addition too.
To prepare falafel, place garlic cloves in food processor and pulse (these tend to not mix well), then add the other ingredients; process mixture until smooth. Add a little bit of olive oil if it is too thick. Divide mixture into 16 equal portions, and shape each portion into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Or you can make 8-9 big patties. They may be quite sticky, so I spray my hands with pam first). Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until patties are browned.
To prepare sauce, combine all the ingredients, stirring mixture with a whisk. Spread a dollop of ziki sauce into each pita half. Fill each pita half with desired veggies and 2 patties. I had one pita with 2 bigger patties. Enjoy some great vegetarian nutrition!
My pita was bursting at the seams!
- Calories: 403 (28% from fat)
- Fat: 12.6g (sat 1.9g,mono 5.6g,poly 3.9g)
- Protein: 15g
- Carbohydrate: 59g
- Fiber: 6.8g (that’s about 28% of your daily needs)
- Cholesterol: 56mg
- Iron: 4.4mg (Chickpeas have 2.4 mg of iron per serving, lentils have 3.3 mg per serving, and one 4 oz serving of lean beef has 3 mg, but is more bioavailable for absorption)
- Sodium: 901mg
- Calcium: 188mg
Do you eat a plant-based diet? What are some recipes or spices you enjoy?