Go Vegetarian One Day a Week

The eighth Healthy Habits challenge: Go meatless one day a week for all three meals.

Reader Profile: Really, No Meat?

"To me, healthy means choosing turkey chili over beef chili—not vegetarian chili." - Cheryl Marker: Age: 51, Marketing Consultant, New York

Cooking Light Reader: Cheryl Marker

Cheryl Marker: Really, No Meat?

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HER CHALLENGE 

Cheryl lives the busy life of a modern New York City working mom, but her thoughts on food still rest heavily in the traditional camp. "I grew up in a house where dinner was meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. I've evolved, but we're still into the meat," she says. Cheryl and her family currently eat a variety of lean meats because to her a meal isn't a meal without a recognizable protein source. "If I'm dining out and eating light, I'll go for fish. Even when I'm at the salad bar, I'm still throwing in the chopped turkey, shredded chicken, or shrimp." Plus, Cheryl is short-order cooking for a teenager and 10-year-old twins. "They're not interested if there's no meat."

OUR ADVICE

Draw up a list of well-reviewed restaurants that serve vegetable dishes (not necessarily all-vegetarian restaurants), and start by exploring Indian, Chinese, Mexican, South American, and other cuisines. In New York, there are also staggeringly good restaurants, such as ABC Kitchen and Mario Batali's Le Verdure, that celebrate or wholly focus on veggies. Drop into Whole Foods, and study the astounding array of grains, fruits, veggies, premade vegetarian dishes, and the like. Then, inspired, start cooking. Eating meatless once a week will actually turn out to be a delicious turn of events, from a creative point of view.

Dinnertime ...

  • Get the kids involved. Take them to the farmers' market or grocery store, and let them choose a vegetable or fruit that interests them. (We have plenty of recipe suggestions if they pick something you've never seen before.) When it's time to cook, let them help by stirring, pouring, and measuring ingredients.
  • Cook family favorites, sans meat. Instead of beef Stroganoff, try meaty mushrooms. White or black bean enchiladas are a great alternative to traditional chicken or beef versions. Veggie nachos, loaded with fajita-style peppers, refried beans, and tomatoes, may be a big hit, too.
  • Then try something entirely different. Once you've built up a bit of meatless momentum, venture outside your usual repertoire to try something like our Vegetarian Moussaka, a meatless take on the classic Greek dish that uses fiber-rich bulgur wheat instead of ground meat.

Lunchtime ...

  • Ask for meat-free options. Most good restaurants will produce an all-vegetable plate if asked. We've often seen kitchens turn out improvised vegetarian plates that are tastier than their regular offerings.
  • Make salad bar substitutions. Chickpeas, edamame, or walnuts are all healthy sources of protein that can be filling like meat. Half a cup of shelled edamame will add 8g of protein to your salad. A quarter cup of diced hard-cooked eggs ups your protein intake by 4g.

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