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Plant Friendly

Meatless Mondays:
Ideas for Plant‍-‍Powered Plates

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Trying to eat less meat and more plants? You’re in good company, as many Americans work towards this goal for better health. Replacing meat and full‍-‍fat dairy products (like cheese, butter and whole milk) with plant‍-‍powered foods is a great way to increase intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals and protective plant compounds, while decreasing intake of saturated fat.

Since saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease over time, swapping animal‍-‍based foods for plant‍-‍powered options is an easy and delicious way to protect your heart. Additionally, many plant‍-‍based foods contain heart‍-‍healthy liquid fats, like omega‍-‍3 and omega‍-‍6 unsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to have health benefits including decreasing risk of heart disease. Some common foods that contain these heart‍-‍healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and smaller amounts found in legumes.

If concerned about getting enough protein while reducing meat intake, there’s little reason to be. There are many simple, cost effective plant‍-‍based protein choices to help meet daily goals including legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas), quinoa, nuts, seeds, grains, certain vegetables, tofu and other soy products.

Remember, there’s no need to give up animal foods all together. Simply get into the habit of adding plant‍-‍based meals to your week. For example, make every Monday a Meatless Monday™!

Here are some delicious, healthy swaps and ideas for Plant‍-‍Powered Meals:

  • In the mood for tacos? Fill whole grain tortillas with black beans, sliced Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, leafy greens, avocado and optional lowfat shredded cheese or almond cheese. You can also use tofu/soy crumbles, which will provide a similar texture to beef.
  • When making Asian stir‍-‍fry, replace chicken or steak with firm tofu! It will have a similar texture and will be high in protein. Make sure to add a variety of vegetables to your stir‍-‍fry, as well as a side of brown rice or quinoa.
  • Whenever a recipe calls for butter, you can replace it with plant‍-‍based oils like vegetable or olive oil, depending on the recipe.
  • A peanut butter sandwich for lunch is a great source of protein, but there are ways to make it more appealing and nutritious. Add fruit, like banana, raisins or apple slices, and chia seeds for an added boost of plant‍-‍based omega‍-‍3s.
  • Keep it simple by using cost effective, shelf‍-‍stable foods like brown rice and beans. After cooking the brown rice, add canned black beans, chopped tomatoes and your favorite spices. You can also add cooked tofu for added protein and your choice of vegetables.
  • If having trouble giving up meat‍-‍based meals, start slow! Make meals more nutritious by replacing a portion of meat with plants:
    • When making hamburgers, add mushrooms and onions to the mixture to decrease the amount of meat per burger.
    • For burrito bowls and tacos, a smaller serving of beef can be paired with brown rice, avocado, beans and extra vegetables.
    • If you pair bacon and sausage with your morning eggs, have smaller portions of those meats and add vegetables, whole grain toast and a side of fruit to your meal. For cheesy omelets, make sure to use lowfat cheese. You can also make Mexican‍-‍style eggs and add black beans.

Reviewed 2/28/2022