According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancers including colorectal, ovarian, and breast.
Vegetarians are people who primarily eat fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Vegans exclude all animal products from their diet including dairy products, eggs, and honey. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but avoid meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs but avoid meat, poultry, and fish. The lacto-ovo’s make up the majority of vegetarians in the United States.
People choose to be vegetarians for many reasons including economical, environmental, personal health, spiritual beliefs, and compassion for animals. A well balanced vegetarian diet can be sufficient in all essential nutrients including protein, but careful planning is important. Many processed foods such as chips and French fries are vegetarian but not healthy choices. Clean eating by targeting minimally processed wholesome foods provide the essential nutrients the body needs for optimal health.
Top sources of vegetarian protein include beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, tempeh, hemp, seitan, nuts, seeds, eggs, low fat dairy products, textured vegetable protein, soy products, and whole grains. Numerous vegetarian protein powders are also an option, the most prevalent contain soy, brown rice, pea, hemp, whey, and seeds.
Summer grilling is most often associated with burgers and hot dogs, but vegetarians can enjoy so much more when grilling outside. Using the grill brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables and seals in moisture for tender texture. Grilled vegetables do not develop dangerous carcinogens that meat does when cooked over high temperature, such as Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Vegetables are also high in fiber, rich in nutrients, low in calories, and provide antioxidants to fight off free radicals in the body.
Whether you are a vegetarian or not we can all benefit from eating meatless meals during the week. Consider the delicious summer recipe below and consider adding a meatless Monday to your families routine to help increase the vegetables in your diet.
Balsamic Portobello Burgers Recipe
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp minced thyme
4 portobello mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove stems and gills from the mushrooms (a spoon works well for this) and scrub clean.
In a bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, some salt, and some pepper.
Place mushrooms in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top. Seal bag and toss to coat.
Leave at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes, toss occasionally.
Place mushrooms on a medium heat grill for 5 minutes each side until fully cooked.
Serve on a whole grain bun with kale, red onions, and tomato. Enjoy!