Vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, no matter what you call it, there is a growing trend towards diets that are lower in meat and dairy in 2018. Some people are motivated by health concerns and weight loss, while others cite the environment and global warming as key motivators for eating plant based. Of course, the animal rights folks are happy about it too.
With so many great reasons to eat more plant-based foods, it might be time to jump on the bandwagon for 2018, and make eating ‘veg’ one of your New Year’s resolutions. While it can seem daunting to go full-on vegan or vegetarian, you could try easing into it with concepts like Meatless Monday or “VB6”, a diet by Mark Bittman that involves eating vegan before 6pm (i.e. breakfast and lunch) and having an omnivorous dinner. With so many Philly chefs jumping on board, it might not be as hard as you think. Here are some great ways to get your protein without the meat:
- Soy contains the same amino acids as animal protein so you can rest assured that you won’t be missing out on any nutrients. Soy milk, edamame and tofu are all great options. Tofu has a very subtle, almost bland flavor when eaten plain, but this makes it a great blank canvas for any flavor and spice you add to it. To prepare it, drain it well, place it between lint-free tea towels or paper towels on a dish, and place a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan on it for 10-20 minutes to press the liquid out of it. From there, you can crumble it into a tofu scramble, cut into cubes for a teriyaki stir fry, or slice it into “steaks” and marinate or brush it with BBQ sauce, then grill it. Best Beginner Recipe: Tofu Scramble
- Seitan is a pure wheat-gluten product that contains 100% protein. Typically used in Asian cuisine in baked and grilled dishes, it has a surprisingly meaty taste and texture. When it’s brushed with Buffalo sauce, it tastes a lot like Buffalo wings – just in time for the Superbowl! Superbowl Snack: Seitan Wings
- Beans. Black, white, red, kidney, cannellini, garbanzo – the options are endless. Black beans go great with Mexican fare, while white beans go great in an Italian soup or stew. Garbanzo beans are staples in Israeli food and are the key ingredient in hummus. Best Hummus in Philly: Dizengoff
- Lentils. If you’re not too fond of beans, try starting out with their smaller cousin, the lentil. Lentils also come in many shapes and sizes and make a great base for soups this time of year. RD pick: Ina Garten’s Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Almonds. A quarter cup of almonds packs 8g of protein! Pair them with a few dried cranberries and chocolate chips for a salty and sweet afternoon snack.
Of course the list goes on. Hemp seeds, peanut butter and quinoa are some of my other favorite plant based protein sources. One thing to keep in mind – the average American exceeds their protein needs by almost double! For most people, the recommended intake of protein is only 50 to 60 grams a day, which is easily met on a plant-based diet. To a happy, healthy and plant-filled 2018!