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Top 9 Dietitian Tips to Make Meatless Easy

Sharon Palmer

Just in time for No Meat May, I asked some of my favorite dietitian friends to offer up their favorite tips for enjoying more plant-based meals—for your health and the health of the planet. Check out these amazing, expert tips and enjoy more meatless meals all month long!

Baked Mediterranean Lasagna

1. Make Meatless Versions of Favorites. “I always suggest people write a list of their 10 most frequently consumed meals, including carry out, and then next to it list meatless substitutes that could fit and they’re willing to try. For instance, instead of a BLT, a TLT (with tofu or tempeh), instead of meatballs on spaghetti, veggie balls made with mushrooms and brown rice, instead of chicken stir-fry, try marinated tofu. It makes the transition easier if we stick to familiar foods and change one thing at a time,” says Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, of Chronic Planet.

2. Make Meat Swaps. “I usually swap out the meat for beans or tofu. Hummus or other bean spreads are also great to top a salad or whole grains like quinoa or farro. Bean-based pastas like chickpea or lentil are great with vegetables on top!” says Janet Brancato, MS, RDN, of Nutopia Nutrition.

3. Good Planning = Adequate Plant Protein. “One of the questions clients frequently ask me surrounding meatless eating styles is whether or not these patterns provide sufficient protein. I always explain that many Americans exceed the recommended intake of protein, and plant-based foods can provide adequate protein with less saturated fat and more fiber, and recommend incorporating more legumes (beans, lentils, peas and peanuts), soy products, whole grains, nuts, and seeds in place of all or part of the meat at meals. For example, fill tacos with beans or lentils instead of ground beef or make burger patties with half ground beef and half mushrooms. As a rule of thumb, trade ¼ cup of beans for every ounce of meat you’d usually use in a recipe,” says Jessica Cox Ivey, Registered Dietitian and Chef of The Happy Healthy Kitchen.

Sorghum Salad with Green Chickpeas and Masala Spice

4. Use Whole Grain Stand-Ins for Extra Protein. “Since I work with many athletes and active individuals, I encourage the consumption of protein-rich starches such as farro, bulgur or quinoa paired with legumes to replace animal proteins. This ensures not only adequate total protein, but appropriate protein quality for muscle repair and immune function,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, of Kelly Jones Nutrition.

5. Build a Balanced Meal. “Season Great Northern or Navy beans with rosemary and garlic and add sautéed spinach. Serve with whole grain couscous or bulgur. A nice green salad completes the meal!” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition

Sesame Tempeh Buddha Bowl

6. Experiment with the “Meatiness” of Mushrooms. “Play around with mushrooms to replace meat in recipes. Mushrooms have a meaty texture and if seasoned can be just as satisfying. Try them in tacos, meat sauces, and sandwiches,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, owner of Nutrition Now, LLC.

7. Save Money with Plant-Based Meals. “A common misconception is that plant-based foods are more expensive. But some of the most nutritious foods are cheaper and provide more nutrients per dollar than other foods. Close to a cup of dried beans yields two cups cooked. You can feed a family of two a filling side dish for under a quarter. Yes, that’s 0.25 cents. A can of drained pinto beans, at 0.51 cents, is also a bargain, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Prices might be higher or lower, depending on where you live,” says Tamar Rothenberg, MS, RDN, owner of Nutrition Nom Nom. 

Chickpea Curry with Sorghum

8. Spice Up Your Plant-Based Dishes. “I recommend clients use spices to flavor their veggies and other plant protein (beans, legumes) to make them more appealing. Garlic, dill, Italian seasoning, cumin, ginger etc. they can even use the flavors they put on meats to enhance the taste of veggies,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RDN.

9. Get to Know TVP. “Using textured vegetable protein (TVP) is an easy way to replace meat on the table and keeping traditional recipes alive! In Mexican cuisine we often use it as taco meat alternative. It’s also often called dehydrated soy flour,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, RDN, LDN, Food is Vida Vegan Dietitian.

Main image: Herbed Lentil Patties with Mushroom Sauce, Sharon Palmer, RDN

2 thoughts on “Top 9 Dietitian Tips to Make Meatless Easy

  1. It’s interesting how mushrooms may be able to provide a similar texture to meat in certain dishes. My younger brother developed alpha-gal syndrome from a tick bite, so he now has to deal with a red meat allergy. I will pass the suggestions you shared along to him so he can experiment with other alternatives in his cooking.

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