There are lots of reasons people go vegetarian- sometimes it’s for health reasons, or maybe it’s to be more sustainable or to practice being more ethical (animal rights). Regardless of the reason, vegetarians need to work a little harder to come up with meals that are nutritious, delicious, and meat-free.
Sometimes searching through vast recipes online can be daunting, and paired with trying to make sure you get all the right nutrients is just scary. That’s why we’ve created a list of five delicious vegetarian lunch ideas, along with some information on the types of ingredients you should be including in your meals, so it’s easier for you to make up your own recipes in the future.
So, if you want to learn more about proper nutrition as a vegetarian and some delicious lunch ideas then keep reading!
As a vegetarian, you’re limiting your ability to get some crucial nutrients that come easily if you’re eating meat.
Some vegetarians will rely too heavily on highly processed foods- these items are inherently high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. This means you could be missing out on the important stuff like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods.
Here’s an easy to read list with some suggestions on daily intakes for different food groups:
If you’re just starting out on a vegetarian diet, or maybe you’ve realized you haven’t had the best eating habits as a vegetarian, it’s important to introduce these practices slowly into your eating habits. Beginning vegetarians, for example, aren’t encouraged to quit meat cold turkey but rather reduce their meat consumption over a period of time to encourage the body to react well to the change and to ensure that nutrients the body needs are still being met.
Some other important key vitamins are:
Calcium is important because it helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Of course, milk and dairy products are highest in calcium, but foods such as dark green vegetables (turnip greens, collard greens, kale, and broccoli) are great plant sources of calcium if you eat them in the right quantities.
Vitamin D is important too to the health of bones. It’s added to cow’s milk, some varying brands of soy and rice milk, along with cereals and margarines.
Vitamin B-12 is important because it produces red blood cells to prevent anemia. It’s a difficult vitamin to get when you’re a vegetarian because it almost always solely exists in animal products.
A great way to get this essential vitamin is through vitamin supplements, vitamin-enriched cereals and some fortified soy products.
Protein is important to the diet because it helps maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs.
Eggs and dairy products are great options for a vegetarian because you don’t need to eat large amounts in order to fulfill your protein needs. However, if you’re looking for alternatives to dairy, a great option for vegetarians are plant protein sources such as soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Heart health comes from Omega-3 Fatty Acids. When you’re engaging in a diet that does not include fish and eggs you’re inherently bound to lose out on this essential acid. Some options for Omega-3 are canola oil, soy oil, walnuts, ground flaxseed, and soybeans.
Iron is an important part of red blood cells. The recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is double that of non-vegetarians because of how hard it is for iron to be absorbed from plant sources. However when you pair foods like dried beans, peas, lentils, whole-grain products, dark leafy vegetables, and dried fruit with foods rich in vitamin C, like strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli the body is able to break down those chemicals in the iron.
Zinc is like iron in the sense that it is also not easily absorbed. However, some good options for zinc are cheese, whole grains, soy, legumes, nuts and wheat germ. Zinc is important to the body’s functions because it is a component of many enzymes and plays a crucial role in cell division and in formation of proteins.
A quick and easy spin on your typical salad, this meal will quickly become your go to lunch recipe due to how delicious and filling it is.
Mix half a cup of cooked lentils with half a cup of quinoa along with a quarter cup of diced onion, two to three clementines, one avocado, half a cup of grape tomatoes, fourth a cup of fresh parsley, fourth a cup of raw pecans, and finally four big handfuls of fresh spinach.
Mix all together and top with your favorite dressing and enjoy!
This recipe is a great twist to your normal pasta salad.
Take 16 oz rotini noodles, one and a half cups of cooked black beans, corn kernels, one red bell pepper, three fourths cup of diced zucchini, one cup of grape tomatoes, three fourths cup of diced red onion, one avocado, and salt and pepper and mix them together.For the dressing, you can use a creamy southwest dressing, or another kind of dressing that you would find tasty as an accompaniment to this pasta salad. Coat the pasta salad with as little or as much dressing as you want and enjoy for days as this recipe is a great one for leftovers or meal prepping!
Tofu is a great inclusion for any vegetarian. So, for this recipe you’ll need pesto- which is something you can make yourself or use a brand you like from the store, seven ounces of smoked tofu (or marinated regular tofu), one small zucchini cut into slices, one carrot sliced, lettuce, and two whole wheat buns.
Pan dry the tofu strips in a medium pan for two-three minutes on each side until brown and crispy, add a teaspoon of soy sauce if you’re feeling it. Then, pan fry the zucchini for three minutes and be sure to add spices such as oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme. To assemble the sandwiches, apply pesto to both sides of the bread, add lettuce, tofu, carrots and zucchini.
Then, you’re done!
For this recipe you will need: two large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes, one tablespoon of olive oil, half a teaspoon of paprika, one diced shallot, two diced scallions, a small bunch of chopped chives, three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, two teaspoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of maple syrup, and salt and pepper.
To assemble, you’ll preheat the oven at 390F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your sweet potatoes on the sheet with your olive oil and spices and cook for 25-35 minutes until roasted. Allow your sweet potatoes to cool off to the side while you prepare and mix your shallots, scallions, chives, vinegar, olive oil, and maple syrup. Toss the sweet potatoes with the dressing and garnish with chives. Serve then, or refrigerate for an hour to allow the full flavor of the dressing to seep into the potatoes.
For this recipe you will need: three tablespoons of sunflower seeds, two small carrots, one small red onion, one fourth bell pepper, one small handful of spinach, one thumb of fresh ginger, one third cup of cottage cheese, two tablespoons of sour cream, one teaspoon of lemon zest, three teaspoons of mustard, two wraps, and salt and pepper!
To begin this recipe, roast with sunflower seeds in a pan without any oil until golden brown. Peel and grate the carrots and dice the bell pepper. Cut the onion into thin rings and wash/drain the spinach.
For the dressing, grate the ginger into a bowl, add the cottage cheese, sour cream, lemon zest and mustard and mix well. Spread that mixture onto the wrap and then lay the spinach leaves on top. Put down the carrots, bell pepper, onion in a line across the middle. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Season with salt and pepper and fold the wraps a little bit on both sides so you can then tightly roll the wrap.
Overall, all of these recipes are a great way to get you going on your vegetarian diet. As you grow in confidence with your ability to make great food, allow yourself to explore what you can put together so you can eventually come up with your own go to recipes!