We totally commend you for cutting down on meat and packing on the veggies. But we also get that your hankerings for comforting and filling dishes like stir-fry, chili and burgers are in overdrive. Good news: You can still enjoy the hearty textures and savory flavors you love with plenty of plant-based foods.
For instance, legumes, soy-based protein products and healthy fats (like avocado, nuts and seeds) can offer heartiness while packing an extra punch of protein and fiber, says Kelly Jones, RD, CSSD. Plus, these plant foods will not only satisfy your cravings, but they're also cheaper at the store and often easier to meal prep in bulk.
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Here are six comforting, plant-based meals that work as great swaps for meat-based dishes. You won't even realize the difference, and they'll totally hit the spot.
If You Miss Shrimp Stir-Fry, Try Tofu Stir-Fry
"Soy is one of the highest quality plant protein source available," says Jones, and it works great in a stir-fry, as it has a thicker texture to stand up to sauces and hearty veggies.
In fact, a December 2016 study in the journal Nutrients showed that soy is linked to reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, as well as breast and prostate cancer, among boasting other health benefits. What's more, soy is a great source of plant-based iron. This stir-fry also features vitamin-C-rich vegetables — and vitamin C helps the body better absorb the iron, Jones adds.
Get the Tofu Tricolor Stir-Fry full recipe and nutrition info here.
If You Miss Beef Stew, Try Bean Chili
This spicy bean chili is rich and great for the winter when temperatures are low and you need something warm and comforting to dig into.
"In addition to fiber and protein, beans also provide B vitamins, iron and zinc, among other nutrients," Jones says. "And while excessive beef consumption has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, beans and the fiber they contain have been shown to improve heart health," she adds.
In fact, an October 2015 study in Clinical Diabetes shows that eating more plants is linked to lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Get the Spicy Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info here.
If You Miss Buffalo Chicken Wings, Try Buffalo Cauliflower
Consider these hot-sauce-slathered cauliflower bites for your next game-day party. "Cauliflower really holds up texture-wise as a great alternative to chicken wings. It provides a variety of nutrients, including vitamin C, an antioxidant linked to immune health," Jones says.
And get this: Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower contain a type of antioxidant called glucosinolates, which are linked to helping prevent colorectum, lung, prostate and breast cancer, per a 2013 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. Can chicken wings do that? We think not.
Get the Buffalo Cauliflower recipe and nutrition info here.
If You Miss Beef Burgers, Try a Veggie Burger
When choosing a store-bought veggie burger, keep an eye out for the protein content. Choosing one with beans or added pea protein is a good bet for added protein and that hearty texture, Jones says.
Pea protein has also been shown to be as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle recovery after exercise, per a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, making for a great post-workout meal. This veggie burger meal also features zucchini, which bumps up its fiber content for few carbs and calories.
Get the Zucchini Veggie Burger recipe and nutrition info here.
If You Miss a Bacon Omelet, Try a Tofu Scramble
"Tofu offers a texture similar to scrambled eggs and retains whichever seasonings you choose to add," Jones says. For that real, meaty texture, mushrooms are an excellent option, since they're bulky and pack some umami flavor.
"Mushrooms offer the antioxidant selenium, which is important for protecting the body's cells, and vitamin D, which is not available in other plant foods," she adds. And mushrooms pack antibacterial, immune-system-boosting and cholesterol-lowering properties and have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, according to a January 2015 study in the International Journal of Microbiology.
Get the Veggie Tofu Scramble recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: How to Cook Silken Tofu
If You Miss Veal Parmesan, Try Eggplant Parmesan
You don't have to give up Italian-night favorites if you're going plant-based. "Eggplant parmesan has been a replacement for veal since well before plants were trendy. Eggplant provides nutrients such as lutein, which is important for eye health, and antioxidants such as anthocyanins," says Jones.
In fact, eating eggplant is linked to protecting against DNA damage and mutations, a January 2019 study in Mutation Research found. This vegan recipe packs in flavorful and hearty textures plus digestion-aiding fiber.
Get the Vegan Italian Eggplant Parmesan recipe and nutrition info here.
- Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention: "Cruciferous vegetables: dietary phytochemicals for cancer prevention"
- Clinical Diabetes: "Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein"
- International Journal of Microbiology: "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life"
- Mutation Research: "Eggplant fruits protect against DNA damage and mutations"