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What Can Vegetarians Eat?

“What are you even going to eat anymore? Meat is everything. Bacon is everything.”

That was my younger brother’s instantaneous reaction to him learning that I decided to make the move to a meat-free diet five years ago.

However, meat is far from ‘everything’! In fact, I have found that not consuming meat actually opens your eyes to countless delicious vegetarian options, never before considered. There are countless substitutes that can take place of bacon, chicken, or almost every other meat-related product you may be craving. There is an endless variety of food items that can come together to make up an incredibly diverse meal plan with just a little creativity.

Since vegans and vegetarians are voluntarily removing direct sources of nutrients such as iron, B12, calcium, and other nutrients, we consciously make sure to provide ourselves with appropriate nutritional substitutions.

Dr. Kathy Pollard, the owner of The Wellness Forum and certified instructor of plant-based nutrition explains that when done in a healthy manner, “a whole food plant-based diet offers all of the nutrients needed to maintain health and resolve most chronic diseases.”

But what about protein? Dr. Pollard continues:

“Whole plant foods contain the protein, complex carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in the correct ratios for health, vitality, immune function, and cell maintenance.”

A healthy vegetarian diet is diverse, and provides your body the essential nutrients needed to thrive. But enough broad talk, let’s get to some recommendations.

“Love homemade baked tofu. Vegetarian chills and stews are easy,” recommends Dr. Melissa Pickell, a registered dietitian. “Sunshine Burgers are a whole foods veg burger that are frozen and convenient…just sunflower seeds, brown rice and veggies, pretty clean. Almond butter. Steel-cut oats. Make homemade hummus. Keep cans (BPA-free) of black beans and chickpeas on hand. Love collard wraps.”

Other numerous grub ideas include eggplant-based meals, vegetable based pasta dishes, grilled portabella mushrooms burgers, vegetarian pizzas, veggie stir-fries and stews, quiche, and the endless possibilities that come with tofu.

Growing demand has led grocery stores to expand their stock of vegan and vegetarian products. For instance, several grocery stores now offer customers a variety of different products including everything from meat-free lunchmeat, dairy-free ice cream, and even faux hot dogs. Check out PETA’s Favorite Vegan Substitutes for extensive list of delicious, cruelty-free alternatives.

Specifically, some brands that carry these types of products include: Daiya Foods, VeggieLand, Boca Foods, Silk, Tofutti, and countless others.

For those times that you’re not in the mood to cook or out with friends, most restaurants typically have at least some vegetarian options. In fact, there actually are over 5,000 vegetarian and vegan specialized restaurants across the nation.

Fear not meat-free participators: between basic food groups, vegetarian and vegan friendly food brands, restaurants and health food stores, and a little imagination, vegetarian food options are nearly endless!

Written by Caitlin Cowan