Cooking Vegetarian Family Meals
By Lisa Paterson
Every family can benefit from increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Even if you are not vegetarians, consider cooking a couple of "meat free" meals each week. People who follow a vegetarian diet tend to have lower cholesterol, stronger immune systems and are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight.
Here are some tips to help you make the switch:
* Start with a "family favourite" recipe, such as lasagna or bolognese, and modify the recipe for a meat free version. Remember, you don´t have to make the meal solely from vegetables. Use one of the many soya-based meat equivalents.
* If you find the thought of cooking a vegetarian meal from scratch a little daunting, buy a couple of supermarket ready meals first. Most stores offer a great choice of dishes and it should be easy to find one that appeals to the family´s taste.
* Buy a cheap vegetarian cookbook or download recipe ideas from the internet. There is a wealth of information out there, so there are no excuses for serving limp salads!
* When eating out, try to switch to a vegetarian option. Even the fast food chains offer vegeburgers and bean burritos, so making the switch is easy. Just make sure that you go easy on the side orders. French Fries might be made of potato but they are still loaded with fat!
* If you find the taste of some vegetarian meals a little bland, use herbs, spices and seasoning to add taste and flavor.
* Think of all the recipes that your family enjoys and eats anyway. Chances are that there are quite a few vegetarian meals in the list! Tomato soup, bean salad, coleslaw, macaroni cheese..it should be easy to put together a vegetarian menu a couple of times a week.
* Go easy on the higher fat foods such as cheese. It is still possible to gain weight on a vegetarian diet if you eat the wrong foods in large portion sizes. Remember to check that any cheese you buy is vegetarian, as some cheeses are made from animal rennet. Increase your consumption of beans and pulses in tasty stews and casseroles. Legumes are a good source of protein.
*If you don´t think you can miss meat out of your recipes altogether, try giving up red meat instead. Switch to chicken or turkey mince in pasta sauces and burgers, as the fat content is considerable lower.
* Most cooking styles will have a wealth of vegetarian options available, meaning you can have an extensive and varied repertoire of family meals. Italian pasta sauces, stir fry recipes, mexican food, curries.. the choice is endless.
* Many vegetarian dishes can be easily cooked in your slow cooker. Vegetable stew, Winter Vegetable Casseroles, soups and curries. Save time, effort AND calories with these healthy choices.
Try making the switch and see if your family can tell the difference. The first time I made lasagna to the usual recipe, but with soya mince, no-one around the table even noticed. And if your family enjoys the meals so much that you decide to make a lifestyle change, remember that you will have to start checking the ingredients on every food item that you buy. Read the nutritional labels of every product carefully, as animal products do turn up in the strangest places!
You can even adapt your favourite crock pot recipes to be vegetarian. Lisa has with these vegetarian crock pot recipes
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