Meatless March

A few days before the 1st March I was given inspiration from a fellow Personal Trainer & Fitness Coach to partake in a meatless March challenge. For the challenge, I didn’t eat ANY meat what-so-ever. No poultry, beef, pork, or even seafood. I stuck with plant protein as well as SOME dairy and eggs as my protein sources. I continued to eat yogurt, eggs and cheese.
I hadn’t even THOUGHT about eating a vegetarian diet since I was 15 years old. I thought back then that it was healthier to not eat meat. I, in all honesty, had absolutely NO idea how to eat properly, let alone how to eat healthy as a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for about a year. I know I ate a hell of a lot of refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, dairy and SOME veggies. It wasn’t healthy at all. A little after a year I went to the Doctor and found out I had an iron deficiency. So, I hopped back on the meat wagon and really didn’t improve my diet, just simply added chicken, beef, fish and all that jazz back into the mix. Let’s fast forward to 2015…

I bought this Canadian Living magazine that had over 90+ vegetarian recipes. PERFECT! I was eager to start as I now have better knowledge in regard to eating healthy and how to properly fuel my body. I tagged a bunch of recipes I wanted to make/try and started making up a grocery list. I bought I TON of beans, quinoa, lentils and chickpeas and tofu.. I’ve never cook nor really ate tofu before. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go down. I’ve never even attempted a vegetarian diet since I was 15 – Maybe it’ll be easy or maybe I won’t last. I was ok either way, but I just wanted to test my craving for meat.. In a sense. I wanted to also try something different.

The first day was fine. I had made up these packed salads with black beans and quinoa and I was thoroughly satisfied. This lasted a few weeks.. but then I started to notice that I was turning to dairy more and more as a protein rather than my plant sources. More cheese or yogurt. Too much, so I decided to re work how I was eating. Turned more to hummus with my veggies over another yogurt and berries or an apple and almonds over ANOTHER cheese string and an apple. Small changes to tweak my diet to be a bit healthier. Still no chicken or pork cravings. I wasn’t a big red meat person before, so I knew that hamburgers or steak wouldn’t be an issue.

I was happy that I hadn’t been turning to refined sugars or simple carbs again. I had a smoothie most mornings or tofu scramble or eggs. Lunch was almost ALSO a delicious salad and dinner was either soup or a bean/rice dish.

I was not on a diet to lose weight, just one that eliminated meat. I had no weight loss goals in mind. My weight budged slightly by a 00.1% and 2.2lbs drop in a month. I’d call that maintenance.

  

 Overall, I never felt that I was lacking during this challenge. Considering I was teaching between 8 and 10 classes a week, I felt good. My recovery time was normal and I wasn’t feel starved.  

Below are the recipes I made during the Meatless March Challenge. Try them yourself and let me know what you think.

Crunchy Curry Rice and Squash

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Portion size: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1 L) cubed (1/2 inch/ 1cm) seeded peeled butternut, turban, acorn orkabocha squash
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cumin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup (250 mL) basmati rice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) curry powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) sodium-reduced chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) roasted almonds, chopped
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh pomegranate seeds

Preparation

On greased rimmed baking sheet, toss together squash, half each of the oil, salt and pepper, and the cumin. Roast in 425 F (220 C) oven, turning once, until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat; cook onion, garlic and remaining salt and pepper, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice, cinnamon stick and curry powder; stir to coat. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender and no liquid remains, about 12 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes; fluff with fork.

Discard cinnamon stick. Stir in squash, cilantro, almonds and lemon juice. Top with pomegranate seeds.

Nutritional Information per serving: aPPROX.
cal 353 pro 9g total fat 10g sat. fat 1g
carb 61g dietary fibre 5g sugar 7g chol 0mg
sodium 450mg potassium 659mg

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Broiled Tofu w. NO-Cook WOW-BUTTER Sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Portion size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg (454 g) firm tofu, cut in 8 slices
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large stalk broccoli, stems removed and separated in florets
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame seeds

No-Cook wow Butter Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) wow butter
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) Asian chili paste, (such as sambal oelek)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Preparation

    Between paper towels, pat tofu dry. Brush baking sheet with 1 tsp of the oil. Arrange tofu on pan; brush remaining oil over top. Broil, about 8 inches (20 cm) from heat, until crisp and dry looking, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in steamer, cover and steam broccoli until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes.

    No-Cook Wow Butter Sauce: Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together wow butter, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and chili paste; slowly whisk in 1/4 cup hot water. Stir in onions.

    Serve tofu over broccoli. Drizzle with peanut sauce; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    Nutritional Information Per serving: approx.

    cal 347 pro 22g total fat 24g sat. fat 3g
    carb 15g dietary fibre 4g sugar 4g chol 0mg
    sodium 241mg potassium 461mg

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    vegetable quinoa soup

    Prep time: 25 minutes
    Total time: 25 minutes
    Portion size: 4 servings

    Ingredients

    • 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, (about 115 g)
    • 1 sweet potato, (about 340 g) peeled and diced
    • 2 cups (500 mL) homemade vegetable broth, or organic vegetable broth
    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa
    • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
    • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
    • 2 cups (500 mL) stemmed kale, thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar

    Preparation

    In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.

    Stir in sweet potato, 3 cups water, broth, quinoa, pepper and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until quinoa is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

    Stir in kale; cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar.

    Nutritional Information per serving: approx.

    cal 195 pro 6g total fat 5g sat. fat 1g
    carb 36g dietary fibre 5g sugar 7g chol 0mg
    sodium 194mg potassium 668mg

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Edamame Vegetable Soup

Portion size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 4 cups (1 L) vegetable stock
  • 1 red-skinned potatoes, (unpeeled), cubed
  • 1/2 pkg (454 g pkg) medium-firm tofu
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) frozen shelled edamame, (soybeans)
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh chives or green onions

Preparation

In large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat; fry sliced carrots and celery, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable stock and potato; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots and potato are tender, about 15 minutes.

Cut tofu into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes. Add to soup along with soybeans and hot pepper sauce; heat through.

Serve sprinkled with chives.

Additional information :
Tips: Edamame is the Japanese name for green soybeans, also known as sweet beans, vegetable soybeans and beer beans.

They are sold frozen both in the pod or shelled, but the shelled version is the most convenient.

Nutritional Information Per serving: approx.

cal 291 pro 18g total fat 12g sat. fat 1g
carb 32g fibre 8g chol 0mg sodium 1,053mg

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lentil, apple and radicchio salad

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Portion size: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 2 cups (500 mL) cooked green or brown lentils, cooled
  • 1 head boston lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head radicchio, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, julienned
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped toasted unsalted walnuts
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) crumbled goat cheese

Preparation

In large bowl, whisk together shallot, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add lentils, lettuce, radicchio, apple, celery, dried cranberries and walnuts; toss to combine. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

Nutritional Information per serving: approx.

cal 414 pro 15g total fat 23g sat. fat 4g
carb 43g dietary fibre 8g sugar 17g chol 6mg
sodium 495mg potassium 688mg

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grilled vegetable quinoa salad

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) quinoa
  • 1 sweet red pepper, quartered
  • 1 sweet yellow pepper, quartered
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise in 1/2-inch thick strips
  • 12 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) Light feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

Chipotle Vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

Preparation

Soak quinoa in cold water for 3 minutes; drain in sieve. In saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups salted water to boil; stir in quinoa and return to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until no liquid remains, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and fluff with fork; cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Spread on small tray and let cool for 10 minutes.

Chipotle Vinaigrette: Meanwhile, whisk together oil, vinegar, chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, honey, cumin, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In large bowl, toss together red and yellow peppers, zucchini, asparagus and 3 tbsp of the vinaigrette until coated. Place on greased grill over medium heat; close lid and grill until charred and tender, 4 to 6 minutes for asparagus, 10 to 12 minutes for peppers and zucchini. Cut into large chunks and return to bowl.

Add remaining dressing, quinoa, half of the feta cheese, the pumpkin seeds and cilantro; stir until incorporated. Sprinkle with remaining feta. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per each of 6 servings: approx.

cal 258 pro 9g total fat 13g sat. fat 3g
carb 28g fibre 4g chol 6mg sodium 343mg
potassium 476mg

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spinach and ricotta naan pizzas

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Portion size: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1 pkg (227 g) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
  • 4 garlic naan or plain naan
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra-smooth ricotta cheese

Preparation

In skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, stirring, for 1 minute. Add onion, salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes.

Stir in spinach; cook, stirring often, until wilted and no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; remove from heat.

Arrange naan on large rimless baking sheet; divide spinach mixture among naan. Top with tomatoes; dollop ricotta cheese over top. Bake in 425 F (220 C) oven until bottoms are golden, about 15 minutes.

Change it up:  Grilled Spinach and Ricotta Naan Pizzas
Prepare pizzas as directed. Place on greased grill over medium heat; close lid and grill until bottoms are crisp and golden, 5 to 8 minutes.

Nutritional Information per serving: approx.

cal 490 pro 17g total fat 14g sat. fat 5g
carb 74g dietary fibre 4g sugar 9g chol 19mg
sodium 1,436mg potassium 417mg

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silky mushroom and feta fusilli

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Portion size: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 340 g fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme
  • 450 g cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 1 bunch spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat; cook garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in milk and reserved cooking liquid; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Stir in pasta, spinach, lemon juice and lemon zest; cook, stirring, just until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in feta cheese.

nutritional Information per serving: approx.

cal 468 pro 21g total fat 9g sat. fat 5g
carb 77g dietary fibre 7g sugar 7g chol 24mg
sodium 545mg potassium1,058mg

 

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Five-Spice Tofu Stir-Fry

Prep time: 8 minutes
Cook time: 11 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 pkg (454 g) medium tofu, drained
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) five-spice powder
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) hot pepper flakes
  • 1 head bok choy, (about 1 lb/500 g), chopped
  • 8 oz (227 g) shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved

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Black Bean Rice Bowl

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 mL) long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced red onion
  • 3 green onions, (white and light green parts only), sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) lime juice
  • 1 small avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

In small saucepan, cover rice and 1/4 tsp of the salt with 1-1/2 cups water; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender and no liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat; let stand on burner for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Meanwhile, stir together chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, pepper and remaining salt; set aside.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook red onion and green onions, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in chili powder mixture and garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add black beans, corn and 1 cup water; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until almost no liquid remains and corn is heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Divide rice among bowls; top with bean mixture, avocado, tomato and cilantro.

Additional information :
Change It Up

Black Bean and Chicken Rice Bowl
Toss together 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 tsp lime juice and 1 tsp of the chili powder mixture. In large skillet, heat 2 tsp vegetable oil over medium heat; cook chicken, turning once, until no longer pink inside, 8 to 10 minutes. Cut into bite-size pieces; divide over rice.

Nutritional Information Per serving: about

cal 399 pro 12g total fat 10g sat. fat 1g
carb 68g dietary fibre 12g sugar 4g chol 0mg
sodium 672mg potassium 721mg

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Black Bean Quesadillas

Portion size: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 diced sweet green pepper
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 can (19oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) salsa
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) corn kernels
  • 4 large flour tortillas
  • 2 cups (500 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream, light
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) diced fresh jalapeño peppers or pickled jalapeño peppers, optional

Preparation

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, green pepper, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper until softened, about 8 minutes. Add black beans, salsa and corn; cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes; refrigerate until chilled. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)

Evenly spoon bean mixture over half of each tortilla; sprinkle with cheese. Fold uncovered half over top and press lightly. Place on large rimmed baking sheet; bake in 425°F (220°C) oven, turning once, until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream, and jalape?eppers (if using).

Nutritional Information Per serving: approx.

cal 644 pro 31g total fat 28g sat. fat 14g
carb 70g fibre 10g chol 64mg sodium 1,201mg

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I also tried some vegetarian pizzas at Boston Pizza that I’ve never had before.

I actually really enjoyed being on a vegetarian meal plan. I found the food so flavourful and fulfilling. I loved every meal. I found that my energy levels were high and that my muscles were recovering well between classes/workouts. I never felt bloated nor did I feel starved. All in all, it was a pretty easy challenge. In June I want to do a juicing challenge. One juice a day made at home. #JuicingJune 🙂

Would you ever try a vegetarian diet? Did you do the Meatless March challenge? What did you think?

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