Developing Your Vegetarian Meal Plan With Your Food Pyramid
After going meatless it is very helpful to develop your own vegetarian meal plan that is practical, satisfying and as easy to implement as possible.
The SAD (Standard American Diet) meal plan we may have been adhering to until now will no longer apply to us. This is because the entire concept of "three square meals a day" no longer works with our new vegetarian lifestyle. The premise behind that concept assumes that a meat, vegetable and starch portion of some kind will usually be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For breakfast, this might be bacon and eggs with hash browns and toast. For lunch, maybe a corned beef sandwich with slaw. And for dinner, perhaps a seafood platter with a salad and dinner rolls.
If you remove the meat portions from these SAD meal plans, they don't seem like "three square" anymore. So lets abandon this dated approach and restructure our own vegetarian meal plan from a completely different perspective.
The classical restaurant menu, which is divided into appetizers, salads, entrees, sides and desserts, serves to reinforce our notion that a "square meal" should consist of most, if not all, of these different portions with a meat entree taking center stage. One common problem many people encounter when deciding to go meatless is trying to fill the meat void with a vegetarian substitute for the entree portion on the menu.
For example, when going out to eat at an Italian restaurant we might order the eggplant parmesan dinner, an easy vegetarian choice. However, if you try to eat like this all the time, especially day in and day out at home, you're likely to quickly run out of options.
In rethinking our vegetarian meal plan we recommend getting past the old restaurant menu concept altogether and consulting our own vegetarian food pyramid instead. After all, this food pyramid is the guideline that we have already created for ourselves and this is precisely the occasion where we need to consult it and put it to our good use.
Instead of planning our meals around familiar recipes and entrees, we need to reorient our meal planning around using the different food groups in our vegetarian food pyramid. In our case, this means that we need to center our vegetarian meal plan around using fresh fruits and vegetables with a secondary emphasis on using beans, grains or breads.
This is where the experimenting (and the fun) begins in earnest.
For breakfast we've tried a lot of different things. One of the benefits of our experimenting over the years with fruitarian and raw foods diets to some extent, is that we have come to really enjoy and savor a simple breakfast of just fresh fruits. We have followed this plan for years now, with little variation, and we absolutely love it. It lends a fresh, bright start to the morning without that heavy feeling.
About mid-morning we usually have a snack. It might be some raw nuts and seeds or some whole grain crackers (like Triskets) with cheese if we're brown-bagging it. If we're at home, we might throw together some bread nachos. If we know beforehand that there won't be time for a snack, we might have a slice of toast with the fruit for breakfast.
Then comes lunch. For us, the mid-day meal is the main meal of the day. Consulting our food pyramid, lunch ought to feature lots of fresh vegetables with some grains, beans or pasta. Now there is one largely overlooked class of foods that absolutely fills the bill for us in this regard. This food class can feature assorted vegetables in a never-ending and satisfying variety of possible recipe choices and that food class is...soups and stews.
Fresh, homemade, savory vegetable soups are the backbone of most of our mid-day meals. Served with a salad and/or a sandwich or small veggie pizza, our lunches easily get us through the rest of the day.
We don't have soup for lunch every day. Sometimes we'll have an assortment of roasted vegetables, a vegetable curry or a veggie stir-fry. The possibilities are endless once you bypass the old menu concept.
But when in doubt, preparing a fresh pot of hearty, homemade soup is always a winner.
We reserve the evening meal for a "splurge-snack". We fix whatever we want, but we keep the portions small for a light evening nosh. That way we don't go to bed hungry...but we don't go to bed stuffed, either.
We might prepare an open-faced baked tomato and swiss cheese melt or maybe just a slice of toast with peanut butter and jelly...whatever suits our fancy. The key for us is to keep it small and simple.
Our current vegetarian meal plan follows our food pyramid guidelines to a tee. We have a nice assortment of fresh fruits for breakfast, a small snack of some concentrated foods mid-morning, a hearty lunch featuring fresh vegetables with some beans, grains, pasta or bread for the main meal of the day and then a small but satisfying dinnertime snack before bed.
We didn't just start our vegetarian adventure with this plan intact. We developed it, played with it and tweaked it over many years. Now we're quite comfortable with it and we find it very easy to follow on a daily basis.
We feel certain that you can do the same!
Just stay true to your food pyramid...up to a point. Remember that both your food pyramid and your vegetarian meal plan are linked together and can change during the course of your experimentation. Just stick with it and your own version of a vegetarian meal plan with a food pyramid that mirrors it will evolve together into a new vegetarian lifestyle that is healthy, satisfying and that works for you.
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What Works For You?
Were you successful in developing a meal plan that's practical, satisfying and easy to impliment? Does your meal plan mirror your food pyramid? Does it feature a basic food class like soups, salads or something else?
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