The New Year is a time for many people to make new resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions in recent years has been to go meatless on Mondays. A lot of people who want to give this challenge a try think it’s going to be difficult to find recipes and meals without meat. But it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of delicious options available if you’re looking for some plant-based, vegan deliciousness. In this article, I’ll cover nine tips that will help make going meatless easy for your whole family, along with 20 easy-to-make recipes to get you started.
What Are Meatless Mondays?
Well, you’ve heard the news. Climate change is a real thing and it’s happening now.
The biggest impact you can have on climate change is by eating less meat and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Going Meatless on Mondays is a step in the right direction for your health, the environment, and our future generations.
Meatless Monday is a global movement that encourages people to reduce their meat intake and adopt healthier lifestyles. It was launched in 2003 as a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, working with the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Meat production takes an incredible toll on the environment, so going meatless one day of every week can help shrink your carbon footprint. And it’s better for animals too!
Meatless Mondays Are Incredibly Healthy!
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with everything a healthy body needs. Fiber to keep your digestive system functioning properly and your gut bacteria happy, healthy fats for your hormones and brain, complex carbs for sustained energy and blood sugar regulation, and protein to build muscle. They and are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Whole plant foods are also low in saturated fat and completely void of trans fats and cholesterol. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for America “recommends that trans fat and dietary cholesterol consumption be as low as possible without compromising the nutritional adequacy of the diet,” and keeping saturated fat intake to “less than 10 percent of daily calories.” Making the move from animal products to whole plant foods is a healthy choice for you and your family.
1. Think of Three Meals You Eat That Are Already Plant-Based
You may be surprised to realize that some of the meals you regularly eat are already plant-based! Most people eat the same handful of meals week in and week out, and not everyone eats meat with every dinner. Especially if you bake things like casseroles or eat on a budget, meat may not be the ingredient you base the rest of dinner around. Make your Meatless Monday dinner simple by cooking up plant-based meals your family already enjoys.
2. Think of Three Meals You Eat That Could Easily Become Plant-Based
Before I was vegan one of my favorite meals was spaghetti with marinara and meat sauce, topped with Italian meatballs. I loved this meal so much that it was one of the first I made vegan.
The change was simple! I found some meatless, beef-style crumbles and “veggie balls”. I checked to make sure the marinara sauce I chose didn’t have milk in it (Newman’s Own is definitely my favorite), and I was all set! This meal is made even better today using Beyond Meat’s meatless ground and Nate’s Zesty Italian Meatless Meatballs.
My kids are 3 and 6, so we usually go for penne pasta since it’s easier to eat than spaghetti. They love it with marinara and veggie balls on the side.
Other simple substitutions are tacos with mock meat, bean burritos with vegan cheese, or a 5 bean chili, skip the carne.
There are hundreds of products on the market that can replace meat in your favorite dishes. Some excellent options include:
- Tofu (my favorite!) – Tofu is inexpensive, packed with protein, easy to work with, and takes on any flavors you cook with. The word tofu used to make me gag, literally. Now it is just about my favorite thing to eat!
- Beans – Beans are a fantastic, tasty protein. They’re versatile and can be cooked in many different ways.
- Beyond Meat (or Impossible, or any other store brand that is jumping into the market these days) – Beyond Meat started with a hamburger patty that looked and tasted like a beef burger, but made entirely from plants. They’re now making breakfast sausage patties, ground beef crumbles, meatballs (my family calls them Veggie Balls), and dinner sausages. Got big “meat-eaters” in your family or love grilling in the summer, give this option a try. I love to marinate the Beyond Meat Burgers in Vegan Worcestershire Sauce for 30 minutes prior to throwing on the bar-b-cue. Delicious!
- Chick’n Nuggets and No-Fish Strips! My kids love these, and so do my nieces and nephews (who aren’t vegan!). Simple to make, and if you don’t say anything, your young ones won’t notice the difference.
3. Discover New, Plant-Based Options
If you’re already making a change, take this opportunity to find some new family favorites. I’ve got you covered here with several vegan meal recipes that are simple, inexpensive, and are takes on traditional meals that your family will love.
4. Get Creative With Sauces and Dips to Add Flavor Without Meat
Hummus is a great dip for pretty much any vegetable (carrots, celery, green pepper slices, cucumbers). My three-year-old loves hummus mixed into grains and pasta. I started doing this for him with quinoa and rice dishes because my new little eater was making such a huge mess. The hummus clumped everything together, cutting down on the mess my new little eater was making 🙂 Hummus not only tastes delicious, it adds protein to your meal as well!
Guacamole is always a family hit, and it’s easy to make an entirely plant-based version (just skip the Mayo).
Ever tried pumpkin pie spice on your veggies? It provides that sweet and savory flavor without any added fat or sugar!
Avocados! while this may not be a sauce or dip, it’s filling and can be used as a meat substitute (that’s right!) on salads, toast, or as a side!
If your kids won’t eat the vegetables on their own, try adding them to sauces or topping with teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, or vegan pesto.
5. Keep It Simple
Your dinner doesn’t have to be a huge baked good or complicated meal.
Start with a grain, pasta, or tuber. If you’ve been trying plant-based for a while or if grains are a staple at your house, try branching into some new varieties. Sorghum, bulgar, and millet are all great options. For potato substitutes, sweet potatoes and squash are amazing! If this is all a bit new, go with the classics; rice, potatoes (any kind! Whatever your family likes!), and pasta are always a hit.
Next, pick out some veggies. Steamed broccoli will go with just about everything. Asparagus, tri-colored sweet peppers, carrots, beets, and tomatoes are also favorites at my house. They’re easy to prepare, add color and flavor, and are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals!
Finish your plate with a plant-based protein. Try out some of the plant-based meat alternatives I mentioned above, or go for beans, lentils, or tofu for high-quality protein sources that are easy to prepare.
For simple ways to set up any meal, check out The Plant-Based Plate Method.
6. Plant-Based Snacking is a Cinch
Veggie sticks with hummus is a great option, as is fresh fruit, applesauce, Lara bars (Watch out! These are almost too good!), celery with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a log), or non-dairy yogurt. While not the healthiest option, my family and I eat a lot of blue corn chips or pretzels with hummus and salsa.
Cut up veggies and fruits and have them sitting out today, or placed as the first thing you see when you open the refrigerator. People usually snack when they’re bored. Heading into the kitchen or opening the pantry or refrigerator door gives us something to do, and we usually grab whatever is convenient.
Pick whatever fruits your family likes best. or simply have some bananas, apples, and oranges sitting in a bowl on your table, counter, or island. Add in some baby carrots, celery sticks, and sliced cucumbers and you have a bunch of delicious options that are incredibly healthy and vegan.
7. Tackling Plant-Based Breakfasts Is a Breeze
Mornings, especially during the school year, can be crazy! Everyone’s trying to get ready and out the door at the same time. Mondays are great days to go meatless for breakfast because you’re probably not going to make a huge eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns meal. Everyone’s trying to get back into the swing of the week, so cereal is likely the name of the game here.
Use soy milk on cereal for a quick, normal breakfast (if you’re ready to make the move and Ditch Dairy), bust out the oatmeal packets or cook up a batch for the whole family, or get out the skillet and do up some delicious pancakes (substitute a “flax egg” and soy milk if necessary, or find plant-based pancake batters) with maple syrup or agave.
8. Don’t Overthink Lunch For Your Family
If your kids normally eat the “hot lunch” option at school, let yourself off the hook and focus on you and your spouse and the foods you’ll take with you to work (or eat at home). If you pack your kids’ lunch, make today easy! Most kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with apple slices, baby carrots, a banana, and ants on a log and they are ready to go.
For you, follow the same advice as for dinner. What do you normally take to work? Most people take the same two or three lunches every day to work. Even if you stay home during the week, think about your lunches. They probably don’t vary much! Start by simply substituting any meat with a plant-based option. There are a ton of meatless deli slices that are widely available. Tofurkey makes delicious ones! Throw them on your favorite bread with all of the normal fixins.
9. Don’t Forget About Dessert
There are a ton of delicious desserts that don’t include any animal products at all! You may not normally eat dessert after dinner on Mondays, but since you’re already changing things up today, make it fun!
I’ve got some dessert ideas your family will enjoy.
You’re Making a Difference!
Whatever your reasons are for wanting to give the Meatless Monday Challenge a try, I’m proud of you. You are making a difference! Share your reasons with your family and let them know why this is important to you, and then whip up some easy, delicious meals for the day that they’ll love.
Enjoy Your Meatless Monday
Now that you’ve successfully completed a delicious Meatless Monday, keep a list of your favorite plant-based recipes on the fridge for easy access.
Speaking of recipes, here are a few to get you started!
I’d Love To Hear From You!
Got any tips that I missed? Questions? Anything that has helped you make Meatless Mondays a regular part of the week for you and your family is greatly appreciated and helpful to our Community! Add them to the comments below and keep the conversation going!