Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...
Love meat but want some delicious ways to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet? According to registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, LDN, author of The Flexitarian Diet and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, flexitarians - people who eat a diet that includes both vegetarian and meat-based meals - weigh less, live longer, and are in better overall health than their avid carnivoristic peers. Here are some flexitarian recipes to help you enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to completely give up meat.
The best of both worlds
If you are among the many who have vowed to follow a vegetarian diet only to eat meat at a special occasion or when the craving was unshakable, and then feel bad about it, The Flexitarian Diet will help alleviate that guilt.
Blatner, who is a member of the Fitness Magazine advisory board and a food and nutrition blogger for USA Today, says, "I've been a vegetarian for over 15 years but ate meat on rare occasions. Every time I ate meat I felt like I was being a bad and lazy vegetarian. So I developed this style of eating for people who know that vegetarianism is one of the healthiest and smartest ways to eat but just don't want to sit at a BBQ in the corner with an empty bun."
The beauty of Blatner's book The Flexitarian Diet is that it appeals to both vegetarian and meat eaters who are interested in following – and enjoying – a healthy diet. It is set up in a Five-by-Five Flex Plan that allows you to customize your meals.
There are no rules or restrictions – Blatner says "flexibility" is the real secret – and you can decide to cook her solely plant-based recipes or add a meat component according to your tastes.
Following are three flexitarian recipes – vegetarian recipes with a "flex swap" option to add meat, if you desire.
Arugula Salad with Fig and Goat Cheese
Flex Swap: Replace beans with 2 ounces of cooked, diced chicken breast.
Directions: Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy.
Edamame Stir-fry with Brown Rice
Flex Swap: Substitute 3 ounces of (cooked) lean steak strips for the edamame.
Ingredients: 1/2-inch chunk peeled fresh gingerroot, grated 1 clove garlic, minced Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes Dash of salt 1 red bell pepper, sliced 2 teaspoons sesame oil 3/4 cup shelled frozen edamame (fresh soy beans) 1/4 cup 100 percent pineapple juice 1 cup cooked brown rice, hot
Directions: Saute the ginger, garlic, red pepper, salt and bell pepper in oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add edamame and pineapple juice and cook for 8 minutes more on high heat. Top brown rice with stir-fry and serve.
Orzo with Cilantro-Lime Pesto
Flex Swap: Instead of black beans, add a 2-ounce piece of cooked salmon, tuna or other fish.
Ingredients: 1/4 cup (2 ounces) uncooked whole grain orzo (rice-shaped pasta) 1 cup fresh cilantro 1 lime, juiced 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 tablespoon pine nuts 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained 1/4 cup drained, chopped roasted red peppers (in a jar packed with water) 1/4 cup corn kernels
Directions: Cook orzo according to package directions. With the chopper attachment of a hand blender, or in a food processor, puree cilantro, lime juice, oil, pine nuts and garlic to make pesto. Toss cooked orzo with pesto and remaining ingredients and serve.