The Part-Time Vegetarian

Most red-blooded Americans like their red-blooded meat. But their bodies often don’t. The American diet is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in the United States, according to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

To keep a healthy balance in your diet, try being a part-time vegetarian. However you do it (every other day, a meal or two a day, or two out of four weeks in the month), reducing the amount of red meat and total meat in your diet will lower your chance for high cholesterol and help keep that waistline the same size it was when you graduated from college. (Okay, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.)

In “What’s For Dinner: A Complete Guide to Vegetarian Meal Planning” in an October 1998 issue of the Vegetarian Times, writer Mariclare Barrett Obis offers these suggestions for making your meatless meal far from tasteless.

EXPLORE ETHNIC CUISINES

Believe it or not, the United States is one of the few cultures that boasts hamburgers, hot dogs and meat-lovers’ pizza as the staple food items of the average family. Spice up your line-up with dishes inspired from other cultures: try vegetable stir-fry with flavorful Asian sauces. Accompany it with a bed of brown or white rice, millet, couscous, kasha or any other grain.

Go Italian with pasta. Instead of chicken in your alfredo, try broccoli, mushrooms or sautéed spinach. Try marina sauce on your spaghetti without meat or meatballs. Stuff manicotti shells with ricotta cheese and top with tomato sauce.

Middle Eastern and Latin cuisines center around vegetable and bean dishes. As you know from staring at a Taco Bell menu the past couple decades, Mexican meals can be assembled from five core ingredients: tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and beans.

REDISCOVER SOUPS AND SALADS

When eating out, the soup and salad combo is often the cheapest menu item that will actually fill you up.

MAKE VEGETARIAN VERSIONS OF FAVORITE MEAT-CONTAINING DISHES

Make lasagna using spinach and onions instead of ground beef. If you’re not afraid of tofu, crumble it in chili to replace the meat. Or grill tofu burgers or hotdogs. Spice up your plate with salad, break, vegetables or cole slaw.

See Also

BORROW DINNER IDEAS FROM BREAKFAST AND LUNCH

Who said you can only have waffles or pancakes before 10:30 a.m.? Accompany with fresh fruit. For variety, try making potato or zucchini pancakes sprinkled with tamari and a couple tablespoons of yogurt.

TREAT YOURSELF

You’ve saved calories and fat by cutting out meat. Reward yourself with a light, satisfying dessert of fruit and cheese. Try baking apples in a pan, sprinkled with raisins and topped with cinnamon and brown sugar. Serve with maple syrup.

What are the benefits of being a part-time vegetarian? According to “22 Reasons to Go Vegetarian Right Now” in the April 1999 issue of the Vegetarian Times, you’ll save your heart from battling excess saturated fat and cholesterol from meat projects; you’ll save money by replacing half your meat bills with lesser expensive fruits and vegetables; you’ll reduce your risk of cancer; you’ll maintain or lose weight; you’ll avoid overloading your system with toxins like pesticides, environmental pollutants, preservatives; and the kicker—you’ll be more “regular.”

You can have the best of both worlds.

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