I didn’t have as much time to cook this Meatless Monday, so I chose a quickie but goody: fajitas! My mom has often prepared these for our family, but using marinated chicken as the central filling. Instead, we marinated mushrooms in an already prepared fajita marinade and sautéed ’em up right nice. I don’t often like mushrooms, but these were great. Mushrooms can provide a meaty texture, if that’s something you really feel you need. Tofu would have worked as well. I cooked an abundance of peppers and onions in a grill pan on the stove, which is a great way to get that smoky flavor without having to deal with the actual grill. They tasted marvelous just seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. The other fillings were refried pinto beans (the healthy, vegetarian kind!), a low-fat mexican shredded cheese blend, and avocado slices. Check it out:
For the tortillas, there’s this great company I like that makes low-calorie, high fiber wraps and tortillas–I think it’s called La Tortilla Factory. I insist on using small flour tortillas for fajitas (it’s not a burrito, after all). These ones are 50 calories and 4 grams of fiber each. I hate when tiny tortillas have like 150 calories and add absolutely no nutrition to your meal. This is one complete fajita I made up:
The beans and a little sprinkling of cheese are underneath the other veggies. They were yumm-o, as my mom would say, and in no small part thanks to her. I was working without a recipe this time, so I was totally following her instructions. My brother the carnivore deemed them delicious and “hearty.” Win!
So this week’s reason for eating fewer animal products is that you make room for more nutritious plant-based foods. I’m not saying you can’t eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains while eating meat and dairy. In fact, what has become known as the health-promoting Mediterranean diet is focused on whole plant foods, plant-based fats, and moderate amounts of fish, lean meat, and dairy. But many of us in America base our entire diets on meat, dairy, and processed starches and sugars, and neglect to get all or any of the variety of nutrient dense whole plant foods we need to be healthy, save a slice of wilted lettuce on that burger.
It just seems more natural to replace meat with plant-based proteins and other veggies than to just add more of those foods to your baseline diet. Take the fajitas–without chicken or steak or whatever meat filling you’d use, there’s more room for more nutrient dense and varied fillings like peppers, onions, avocado, mushrooms, and pinto beans. You can also take the meat out of a lasagna and replace it with eggplant to get a lower calorie, more nutritious dish that’s probably just as satisfying for the same volume of food. An Asian-style stir fry with brown rice, tofu, and a rainbow of other veggies can be just as satisfying as a stir-fry with meat or fish. Start out by using less meat in the pan and replacing more of it with veggies.
What I’m trying to get at is that anyone would probably be more inclined to eat more veggies and whole grains if they were looking to eat with less meat, simply because you need something else between your two slices of bread. Speaking of which, my favorite lunch to pack is a whole wheat pita half stuffed with hummus and avocado. It’s effortlessly divine.
Whether you plan to eat less meat or not, though, I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat a variety of whole grains, legumes, and colorful non-starchy vegetables. Taste your rainbow from carrots, eggplant, blueberries, tomatoes, sweet potato, peppers, peas, and sweet corn, any fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or vegetable, just please not from Skittles.