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.”
To learn more about the benefits – and tips to follow – a flexitarian diet, be sure to read The Flexitarian Diet: Being vegetarian & carnivore.
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.
3 cups arugula
3 dried figs, chopped
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup canned Great Northern beans, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
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.
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
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.
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
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.