Did you know that October is National Vegetarian Month?
October is autumn. It’s falling leaves. It’s cool, rainy days.
October is Halloween. Spooky monsters and sweet treats.
October is apple harvest. Apple crisp. Apple pie. Apple cider donuts. Apple everything.
And October is also National Vegetarian Month. How shall we celebrate?
Plant-based diets, veganism and vegetarianism are on the rise around the world. New products are popping up all the time — and even McDonald’s, home of the hamburger, is launching a McPlant menu. Analysts predict the plant-based food market to grow by 12% in the next five years.
First, let’s define some terms.
Vegans eat no animal products at all. Nothing that comes from an animal — like cow’s or goat’s milk, cheese, butter, eggs — is allowed as part of a vegan diet.
Vegetarians avoid eating meat, but meat by-products, like eggs and dairy, are OK.
Pescatarians avoid meat and poultry, but eat fish and seafood.
Flexitarians eat meat only occasionally.
Plant-based simply means focusing on things that come from plants — fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), vegetable oils and whole grains. It does not prohibit eating meat, but de-emphasizes it. Plant-based diets have been shown to have health benefits, especially for heart health.
Vegetarianism is rooted in history. The Old Testament talks about Daniel and his friends, who were found to be wiser and healthier even though they refused to eat the meat served at the king’s court. Benjamin Franklin claimed he was rewarded with “greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension” due to his avoidance of meat. Albert Einstein said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
The current rise in plant-based eating is fueled by several factors. The rise in diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related ailments, and now the coronavirus pandemic, have caused many to re-evaluate what they eat and how it contributes to their overall health.
Other people are reducing their meat intake due to interest in sustainability and concern for our planet. The food industry — and especially the meat industry — contributes heavily to greenhouse gasses; 30% of all greenhouse gases come from food production. Industrialized meat production affects both the health of livestock and human health. Due to how animals in CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations) are raised and the drugs they are fed, reducing meat consumption is increasingly viewed as better for both human health and for our planet.
Perhaps that’s why the summer of 2020 saw plant-based food sales rise while consumption of meat went down. People are adding more veggies — and a larger variety — to their dinner tables.
One word of warning: All of these food options can still be unhealthy, because they allow you to eat processed and refined foods, foods made with white flour, refined sugar, trans fats (vegan butter is artificially hydrogenated), sweetened beverages, fast foods and snack foods like cookies and chips. So, prepare food at home and read ingredients carefully on food that you purchase.
Make wholesome, healthy choices in whatever eating plan is right for you.
1/2 cup whole grain, like quinoa, buckwheat, millet, faro, barley or brown rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup broth, cider or water
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion
2 cups cooked pumpkin or other winter squash
1 bunch kale or other winter greens
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 apples, cored and diced
In saucepan, combine grain, salt, and broth. Bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed. This will depend on your grain of choice. 15 minutes for quinoa; 40 minutes for brown rice; just a few minutes for cracked buckwheat or bulgur.
Heat oil in a skillet. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and cook 10 minutes or longer on low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in cooked mashed pumpkin. Stir into cooked grain and set aside.
Steam kale. Combine with crushed garlic, feta cheese and diced apples in bottom of greased casserole.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Layer in casserole: half the grain-pumpkin mixture, half the kale. Repeat layers. Bake 30 minutes. Serve with a tossed salad.
Option: Add meat, liked diced cooked chicken or ham, between the layers.
Option: Top with 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheese.
Grain and Bean Salad
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cups corn kernels
1 cup cooked or canned black beans
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 cup minced fresh Vidalia onion
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
In a saucepan, combine the water, salt, and quinoa; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in the bulgur, return to boil, turn off heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. When liquid is absorbed, fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
Crush garlic with salt. Combine with remaining dressing ingredients (olive oil, herbs and lemon juice) in bowl, and stir into warm grains. Add corn, beans, diced red pepper, parsley, sweet Vidalia onion and tomatoes.
Optional ingredients to add for extra protein – 1 cup diced ham; or 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese; or 1 or 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.