Healthy Eating

Satisfying Plant-Based Meal Ideas

If you’ve been wanting to cut your meat consumption, you’re in good company.

A quarter of Americans reported cutting down meat consumption, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. Health, environmental, and food safety concerns led the decision. COVID-19-related meat shortages drove consumption of beef, pork, and turkey down further in 2020.

Research supports the move toward a more plant-heavy diet for better health. Studies show that people who consume more healthy plants like whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains had lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who consumed meat frequently.

Red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and mental health conditions. Red meats include beef, pork, and lamb. Processed meats are transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, or smoking. The American Diabetes Association recommends replacing red and processed meat with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

To reduce meat consumption, Gallup survey respondents said they reduced portion sizes or substituted with plant-based alternatives or vegetables.

What is a plant-based diet?

Following a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean no meat at all. It certainly doesn’t have to be unsatisfying. Think of it as a little bit of meat with plenty of other goodness. Instead of a dinner plate with a whole chicken breast and side salad, think of a taco bowl with lettuce, rice, black beans, salsa, guacamole, and a bit of chicken.

The Mediterranean diet, is a popular plant-based diet. It emphasizes eating a variety of plants, two servings of fish per week, and moderate portions of meat and dairy.

If you want to incorporate more plant-based meals into your repertoire, I’ve found that a bit of cheese or a delicious sauce can bring most people around to a plant-based eating pattern.

Satisfying plant-based recipes

Italian favorites

Grilled chicken and asparagus pesto pasta. Pesto makes everything it touches amazing! To make it vegetarian, swap the chicken for some white beans.

Eggplant Parmesan like Nonna used to make is on regular rotation at our house. Sometimes we add a little Italian chicken sausage to the layers.

Go-to lunch

Make a batch of apple-walnut chickpea salad in about 15 minutes on Sunday and it’s good for lunch all week!

Pass the sweet potatoes

I love the combination of black beans with sweet potatoes. With the flavor-packed enchilada sauce and a sprinkling of pepperjack, my family was three servings in before they noticed these enchiladas were meat-free.

I’m similarly obsessed with this sweet potato-lentil chili. I brought it to a chili cook-off and it held its own against the meatier versions. I like to top it with crumbled cornbread, cilantro and avocado slices.

Insider tip: Follow Gwen at Delightful Adventures for more satisfying gluten-free and vegan recipes.

Comfort food

I grew up eating my Midwest grandma’s tator-tot hot dish, so I had my doubts about this harissa chickpea version, but it was devoured at my house. Feta optional.

I also love a warm-me-up pot pie. This root vegetable version fits the bill. You could always add some leftover roasted turkey.


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Eggplant image by ALLEKO