One way to cut back on your meat intake is to eat a meatless lunch, at least a few times a week.
Vegetarian lunches tend to be quick, cheap, and easy. The challenge with these vegetarian lunches is to make sure you are still getting enough protein. When meat is absent, it’s more important to choose food staples that will provide enough to sustain the body’s daily needs.
Here are some tips for preparing quick, healthy vegetarian meals.
Plan ahead – Stock your pantry with all the staples that you need to make as many different meals as you need to provide lunch for the entire week.
Prep food – Whatever needs to be cooked, if you can get it ready ahead of time this will cut down on what you have to do to get ready each day. This can include chopping vegetables, making pizza crusts or tortillas, slicing fruit, cooking beans or rice.
Here are some quick vegetarian lunch ideas, hot and cold.
Cold Vegetarian Lunches
* Veggie sub – Make a foot-long sub on Sunday and cut it into three or four pieces for lunchtime meals. Try onions, lettuce, Portobello mushrooms, banana peppers, tomatoes and a low-calorie mayonnaise. Carry the mayonnaise in a small container and spread it on just before you eat.
* Pasta salad – Pasta makes a filling and quick meal anytime. Use whole wheat pasta to maximize your intake of whole grains. Add, olives, onions, celery, parmesan cheese and toss with Italian dressing for a zesty quick lunch. Spoon it into lunch-size containers for easy transport. Because it’s made to eat cold, you can eat it on the run.
* Hummus and chips – You may just want something light one day for lunch. You can buy hummus or make your own. Grind your own chickpeas; add healthy oil and flavoring to get just the taste you want. Toast pita chips ahead of time and store them in an airtight container for up to a week. Place a few in a snack bag to eat with your hummus dip.
Hot Vegetarian Lunches
* Vegetable soup – Make a pot of vegetable soup or chili on Sunday and eat it during the week. You can take it hot in a thermos, or heat it for a few minutes in the microwave at lunchtime.
* Veggie pizza – Make personal pizzas crusts ahead of time and freeze them until you need them. Top with your favorite veggies. For best results, prebake the crusts before freezing.
Vegetarian Lunch Recipes to Try
Yields about 1 cup
2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Place all ingredients (except olive oil and Parmesan cheese) into a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, while at the same time pulsing the mixture. Remove from the food processor when the right consistency is achieved, place the mixture into a bowl and stir in the cheese. Serve over pasta of your choice (or in the recipe below.)
Wheat-Free Rice Pasta Salad
4 cups rice pasta
3/4 – 1 cup basil pesto or arugula pesto
2 tbsp green olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh or frozen and defrosted peas
1 tbsp olive oil
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Cook the rice pasta according to package instructions. Drain and arrange in a large serving bowl. Add the olives, pine nuts and pesto and gently toss. Then add the cherry tomatoes, peas, parsley and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
Black Bean Quesadillas
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed
½ cup shredded cheese (preferably Monterey Jack)
½ cup salsa
4 (8″) tortillas (ideally whole-wheat)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
In a bowl, mix together the beans, cheese and half of the salsa. Place the tortillas flat on a work surface and spread with ½ cup of the bean/cheese filling. Then fold the tortilla in half and gently press down to spread out the mixture evenly.
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and cook the tortillas on each side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes each side. Serve with the remaining salsa and the cut up avocado and a tossed salad.
Avocado and Tomato Salad
Serves about 4
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 large ripe tomato, diced
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 avocado, diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Arrange the tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado and mozzarella in a serving dish. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve immediately, as avocado slices will turn brown.
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