Basic Vegetarian Menus for Easy Meals

My mother was a registered nurse. When planning dinner for her six children, nutrition was a very important component to her. At the time, the basis for a nutritious meal was that it included something from each of the four food groups.  These were a meat, a starchy dish (or a carb, as they are now), a vegetable, and dairy. For us, the dairy was almost always a glass of milk.  However, the variety of the meats, the starches, and the vegetables was pretty wide.

Even though you have come here in search of easy recipes for non-meat proteins, don’t think this will be a limited list!  Meats have a wide variety of ways to prepare them, right?  Well, the same applies to eggs, legumes, cheeses, and the rest of the non-meat proteins. So I’m going to give you some basic vegetarian menus for easy meals, and you can mix or match them as you see fit.

Breakfast for Dinner

One great idea–and maybe something new to you–is the breakfast burrito. I was initially introduced to breakfast burritos when I lived in Texas in the 1980’s.  They’re very common there and it’s not unusual to see people bring them to work in the morning.

Breakfast burritos can include a wide variety of fillings, such as cheese, eggs, cooked veggies, and cooked potatoes (which serve as a carb).  They also can include a choice of meats, which, of course, we’ll not be including here.

These items are wrapped in a flour tortilla and are handy for a fast meal. If you’d like, you can include some cut-up fruit, such as pineapple. In this meal, the cheese is the dairy and the protein, the eggs can be a protein, and the tortilla is the carb. The vegetable is whichever you decide to add, such as onions.

The usual “breakfast for dinner” used to be a great favorite of mine when I was growing up, and really, it still is. It comes together so quickly, so if you’re tired after a long day, this could be a good option for you.

You can scramble some eggs and maybe throw in chopped veggies such as onions or scallions, or even some spinach. If you’d like to add mushrooms, just be sure to saute them before adding them to your eggs–either in butter, vegetable oil, or even a little liquid such as vegetable broth or water. Your dairy can be shredded cheese, and your carb can be toast. Add a fruit-cottage cheese combo, and you have your complete meal!

The Lowly Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwiches can be great fun, especially for children. You can get your children involved in this meal by having several kinds of cheeses available and allowing them to choose which they’d like.  This would also give them a sense of adventure and allow them to broaden their palates as well. Maybe they could put the slices of cheese on their sandwiches before you cook them, or apply the butter or mayonnaise to the bread.

Also, try using alternative types of bread, rather than the traditional white bread.  This would be a really creative way to add nutrition to your meal. Try whole wheat bread, or rye, or multigrain! Add a raw vegetable on the side, such as cut-up carrots, beets, or celery. At the end of the meal, you can have unsweetened applesauce for your fruit.

In this meal, the cheese is the dairy and the protein, and the bread is the carb. You have the choice to cut up any vegetable, and the fruit is the applesauce.

Smorgasbord

I used to like to fix this for my children. I’d take 1-2 bars of cheese, such as Colby, cheddar, pepper jack, and/or Colby-jack, and I cut them into sliced bars. Then I’d arrange them on a serving tray, along with cut-up raw veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and/or mushrooms, along with cherry tomatoes . Then I’d add some kind of savory crackers or potato chips. You can have a lot of fun with this one; make sure to include raw vegetables that you and/or your children enjoy!

In this meal the cheese (once again) is the dairy and the protein. The crackers or potato chips are the carb. Believe it or not, tomato is a fruit! Other fruits that are “disguised” as veggies are avocados, olives, cucumbers, squash, and okra, among others.

“Hamburgers”

Perhaps you’ve noticed the meat substitutes as you shop at the grocery store. There’s a pretty decent list of choices for what I call “fake” meats, including the plant-based hamburgers.

There are quite a few established companies that produce these–usually frozen. Believe it or not, there are store-brand plant-based hamburgers as well!

Vegetarian hamburgers are very easy to prepare, either pan-cooked or baked, and you can top them with any of the items you normally use with hamburgers.  These include mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce, cheese, avocado or guacamole, you name it. You can even get a bit adventurous and cook some mushrooms and/or onions to go on top of your “burgers.” If you like bacon, you can top your “hamburger” with plant-based bacon, too!

You’ll discover that there are many flavor ideas for plant-based hamburgers. Of course, you’ll find the “traditional” flame-cooked type, but there are quite a few others, such as those made with black beans and other legumes, different types of spiciness, burgers made for those who favor Indian cuisine, and even patties made with plant-based “chicken” or “turkey.” You just might have a hard time choosing which to use!

If you’re curious, here’s a link to an article that talks about the Best Imitation-Meat Burgers

To Wrap It Up

Sometimes you need something quick and easy for a meal, and nutrition is important to you.  These are some suggestions for those times.  As you can see, it’s really not so difficult to come up with ideas.  You can probably take these proposals and customize them to your individual palate.

In addition, maybe you can play around with these a little to try something new. Remember: you’re trying a whole new method of eating here.  So why not take it a little further and see if you can find something you’ve never tried before? You may be pleasantly surprised!

Maybe you have a few ideas of your own for an easy veggie meal to share with us, or perhaps a question.  Feel free to share with us in the comments!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Leave a Comment