I realize that June’s Montana Meals Challenge of the Month, to go Meatless on Mondays, may have raised a few eyebrows, or even quick responses of “I’m never doing that.” Or, maybe the response was more like that of someone (who will remain nameless) in our office:

“I will participate in Meatless Mondays, as long as I can also participate in Super Steak Sundays”!

For many people, the word ‘vegetarian’ often brings to mind tasteless tofu, fake meat substitutes, and boring meals that leave you feeling unsatisfied. Others immediately think of protein and wonder how it’s possible to get enough without meat. So, to calm a few fears…

The average American eats plenty of protein.  Many popular diets emphasize protein over carbohydrates, and thus I often hear from people worried about if they are getting enough protein in their diets. But the reality is that if you’re eating enough calories, you’re more than likely getting enough protein as long as your diet consists of more than just donuts, coffee, chips, and other vending machine snacks. Individual needs vary, but a good rule of thumb for determining how much protein you need is to assume 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.  For a 150-lb person, that means about 60 grams of protein needed per day.  Here’s how that could look on a Meatless Monday (or any meatless day):

 Breakfast

  • Two eggs 12g (grams)
  • Slice of whole wheat toast 4g
  • Fruit 1g

 Morning Snack

  • Greek yogurt 15g

Lunch

  • Veggie wrap:
  • Hummus 2g
  • Slice of cheddar cheese 7g
  • Sunflower seeds 3g
  • Veggies
  • Whole wheat tortilla 5g

Afternoon Snack

  • Almonds 6g

Dinner

  • Vegetarian chili 10g
  • Romaine lettuce salad 1g
  • ½ cup vanilla ice cream with berries  5g

Total protein: 71 grams (goal was at least 60g)

That menu doesn’t look too bad, right? As you can see, many foods contain protein. The best meatless protein sources include beans, nuts, eggs, dairy, soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame), seeds, and whole grains. Incorporating a variety of these foods into your snacks and meals will ensure that you are meeting your protein needs even without meat.

Here are a few more meatless meal suggestions:

  • Black bean and corn quesadillas
  • Portabella mushroom burgers
  • Tofu stir-fry
  • Pasta with vegetables and marinara sauce
  • Soba noodles with peanut sauce
  • Ethnic foods – Indian, Asian, Ethiopian, etc. cuisines often feature vegetarian entrees
  • Homemade veggie burgers made with garbanzo beans and walnuts
  • Pita pizzas (individual pizzas made on pita bread)
  • Spinach and zucchini lasagna
  • Stuffed squash filled with rice and vegetables
  • Tempeh fajitas
  • Tempeh sloppy joes
  • Quiche or frittata with herbs, veggies, and Parmesan cheese

If you’re still not convinced to try out Meatless Mondays, think about making it a Less-Meat Monday! Keep your portion size of meat to 3-4 oz, or a quarter of your meal plate, and you’ll have more room for those good-for-you vegetables and whole grains.

Happy Eating!

CS

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