When many people think of vegetarians, tasty meals are not the first thought that comes to mind. With so many Americans eating almost twice the amount of protein need per day, usually from meat sources, the vegetarian lifestyle does not seem appealing. However, vegetarian meals are usually delicious, especially when prepared by someone who is skilled in the kitchen. There are some reasons why people shy away from any dish labeled “vegetarian” though.
First, fake meat products. Many companies in an effort to reach meat lovers, have come out with products claiming to taste like meat. Usually burgers, ribs, and fake chicken patties, these meatless products are designed to imitate the taste of meat. The short answer is that they don’t. Duplicating the taste of meat is almost impossible, and the products are usually bland and chewy, although a good source of protein. It’s better to stay away from these fake meat products. They’re expensive and usually are not a great addition to a vegetarian diet.
Leaving fake meats behind, a vegetarian diet is a delicious and healthy choice for many people. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have released several papers stating that “individuals who eat plant-based foods…generally consume fewer calories and less saturated and total fat, weigh less, as well as having a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease than nonvegetarians do.” While a vegetarian diet must be planned carefully in order to get proper nutrition, a conscientious individual will have a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes.
When trying to find foods that are good sources of protein and nutrients to replace meat, look for recipes that emphasize flavor and variety. Eggplant parmesan is a great vegetarian meal that emphasizes flavor and nutrition at the same time. Popular with vegetarians and those that do eat meat, it’s hard to find a more popular Italian dish. When understanding the role of meat in dishes, it’s important to realize that most meats do not have a lot of flavor themselves. Rather the flavor in a dish comes from the seasoning, the cheese, or the vegetables cooked with the meat. Vegetarian meals still contain all of these elements and can have the same punch as a steak. Try cooking a meatless chili and with the right spices and ingredients, it will soon become a family favorite. Other dishes like pizza, roasted and stuffed red peppers, are favorites with people of all ages and can easily be enjoyed by those that are not on a vegetarian diet.
Anyone switching to a vegetarian diet or just trying to eat more meat-free meals may have some challenges at first. It is difficult to make a lifestyle change, and becoming a vegetarian takes time. Take the time to enjoy food by exploring new tastes, new foods, and new recipes. These are ways to enjoy the natural flavors in many fruits and vegetables that are often lost. Most people find that they actually begin to enjoy food more as they try vegetarian dishes. The next time you’re at a restaurant, try the vegetarian entree. Chances are, it will be a delicious surprise!