I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 12 years now… yes, I made this big life decision in sixth grade. I’ve tried countless vegetarian recipes and meat substitutes since, and there have definitely been plenty of both good and bad results. Today I’m sharing a few easy and simple meals that I love to eat and tend to make quite often.
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Just to be clear: I am by no means a nutritionist, I’m just sharing the food I typically eat. Also, let’s keep in mind that this is what I would eat in an ideal week. Nobody’s perfect, and a lot of times I’m rushing out the door with a Clif Bar in hand for breakfast. I’m also a sucker for Taco Bell (which, by the way, is the most vegetarian-friendly fast food restaurant because you can order ANYTHING on the menu and substitute beans for beef).
I’m definitely a snacker as well, so this is definitely not all I eat in a day. Some of my favorite snacks are fruit, cheese sticks, pistachios or almonds, hummus and pita chips, popcorn, and dark chocolates.
I know that more and more people are choosing to cut meat out of their daily routine, but many don’t know where to start. Hopefully this list can be helpful in providing ideas for making a vegetarian diet manageable.
Spoiler alert: Trader Joe’s is your best friend.
Breakfast: yogurt with granola and blueberries
I am obviously not vegan, but I do like to use dairy substitutes when possible. I recently discovered Kite Hill almond milk yogurt and have been loving it! If I’m not having that, I usually go with vanilla greek yogurt. I add in a handful of granola and some blueberries for a nutritious breakfast. I also have a homemade iced coffee with oat milk and a splash of almond cream every morning!
Lunch: cheese and crackers, hard boiled egg, and fruit
I often find myself eating a collection of snacks for lunch, especially at work or on the go. One of my favorite things to eat is Crunchmaster Multi-Seed crackers with cheese (usually Swiss or white cheddar), a hard boiled egg, and some fruit. Think of it as an at-home version of those Starbucks snack boxes.
Dinner: falafel wrap
I have recently unearthed a new love for falafel, and this is my favorite way to enjoy it. To be honest, I usually will get this from a restaurant near my house, but I decided I wanted to learn to make it at home as well. I found frozen falafel at — you guessed it — Trader Joe’s. I prepare and put them on whole grain pita bread with hummus, tzatziki sauce, chopped lettuce, red onions, and feta cheese.
Breakfast: frozen waffles
This one’s pretty simple: you can’t beat frozen waffles! My personal favorite is blueberry — either the Eggo Nutri-Grain or Trader Joe’s brands.
Lunch: apple with natural peanut butter and pita bread with hummus
Another favorite collection of snacks for lunch: sliced apples with natural peanut butter paired with toasted whole grain pita bread with hummus for a fulfilling lunch — my favorite right now is the Lantana brand edamame hummus.
Dinner: Taco Tuesday!
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE tacos. When I make them at home, I do it one of two ways: traditional tacos or spicy potato tacos — I know it sounds weird, but trust me, they are delicious. For traditional tacos, I like either a whole wheat tortilla or a crunchy tostada with refried black beans, brown rice, shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, taco sauce or hot sauce, and plain greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute.
Now for the spicy potato taco option. I came up with this recipe a couple years ago after falling in love with the Spicy Potato Tacos from Taco Bell and wanting to make a healthier version at home. I start by preparing the potatoes — I just dice up small gold potatoes, add olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, and red pepper flakes, then throw them on a baking sheet in the oven until they’re crispy and golden brown. When they’re done, I put them on a whole wheat tortilla and add shredded cheese, sliced avocado, greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) and hot sauce. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
Breakfast: whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and banana
This is one of my favorite breakfasts because it is so filling and keeps me satisfied until lunch. I usually have two slices of whole grain toast, add natural peanut butter and a whole sliced banana, and then top with cinnamon!
Lunch: spring mix salad
My go-to lunch salad is very simple. I start with spring mix, then add a nuts and dried cranberries (with no added sugar) mix, and reduced-fat feta or goat cheese. If I’m feeling extra fancy I might add chopped fruit or onions. For a dressing, I like to use a balsamic vinaigrette or Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette.
Dinner: tofu lettuce wraps
My mom and I have been trying to perfect our tofu lettuce wraps for a couple years now, and I think we finally have it down. The key is in the preparation of the tofu: it has to be super or extra firm, and it has to be drained for a while. I slice the tofu block long-ways and lay the slices out on a plate wrapped in paper towels. Then I add another plate on top and stack heavy items on top of that in the fridge in order to get all the excess water out of the tofu. The longer you let the tofu drain, the more marinade flavor it will pick up and the better it will be (it’s best to do it in the morning and let it drain all day, otherwise an hour or two after work will suffice).
Once the tofu is drained, I cube it and let it marinate for a little bit in Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki sauce, then throw it all in a frying pan until it’s browned and crispy on the outside. My mom likes to sauté veggies in the same sauce. To prepare the lettuce wrap, I whip up some instant brown rice and then add that and the tofu to an iceberg lettuce cup, top with crunchy chow mein noodles, and add a little bit of spicy mayo!
Breakfast: instant oatmeal with a banana
Instant oatmeal is easy and delicious. Some of my favorites are the Quaker organic oatmeal packets/cups and the Trader Joe’s oatmeal cups. I love to add sliced banana to make the oatmeal extra delicious and more fulfilling.
Lunch: avocado salad
This super easy avocado “salad” has quickly become one of my favorite things to eat for lunch. I cut up a whole or half avocado (depending on how hungry I am), add halved cherry tomatoes and reduced-fat feta. Then I top it off with a light Italian dressing, sea salt, and ground black pepper. Mix it all together and you have the yummiest fresh lunch!
Dinner: whole grain penne with veggie sausage
This is probably my most simple dinner, for those nights when I really don’t feel like getting creative. I make whole grain penne with whatever marinara sauce I have and add in sliced up and sautéed Tofurkey Italian Sausage, topped with a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
Breakfast: avocado toast with an egg
This list wouldn’t be complete without a true classic of this generation: avocado toast. I mash up my avocado and add a little bit of lemon juice and olive oil, then either Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning or my own mix of sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Then, I top the toast with an over-easy or sunny-side-up egg and a little bit of feta or parmesan.
Lunch: tortellini pasta salad
Another one of my favorite things to eat for lunch is pasta salad. My go-to is cooked cheese tortellini (let chill in the fridge before preparing salad) with cherry tomatoes, chopped bell peppers, mini mozzarella balls, and light Italian dressing.
Dinner: Beyond Burger with roasted potatoes and asparagus
Since I’ve been a vegetarian, I’ve always loved a good black bean burger and never really thought about missing that traditional burger taste. However, a couple months ago I tried the Beyond Burger for the first time and they are so good! There is nothing better than a good old-fashioned cookout-style dinner in the summer. My ideal (and indulgent) meal is a Beyond Burger on a pretzel bun with Swiss cheese, avocado, onion, and dijon mustard with a side of roasted potatoes and asparagus. I like my roasted potatoes the exact same way I prepare them for the potato tacos, and my asparagus in the oven or on the grill with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little bit of parmesan cheese.
Breakfast: whole grain toast, eggs, veggie sausage
One of my favorite breakfasts to make when I have more time, like on the weekends, is a diner classic — two eggs (I like them sunny-side-up or over-easy), whole grain toast, and MorningStar Farms veggie sausage. All topped off with Frank’s Red Hot, of course.
Lunch: veggie salad
My other favorite way to make salad at home is with a romaine base and alllll the chopped up veggies. Some of my go-to’s are bell peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and onions. This is great for when you have a ton of vegetables in the fridge that you’re not sure what to do with. I’ll usually have it with light, zesty Italian dressing.
Dinner: cauliflower crust pizza
This one includes another Trader Joe’s cult favorite: the cauliflower pizza crust. I prepare mine with Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, shredded cheese, and whatever other cheeses I may have in the fridge (mozzarella pearls, goat cheese, feta, etc.), topped with halved cherry tomatoes.
Breakfast: bagel sandwich
My family has a not-so-healthy Sunday morning tradition: bagel sandwiches. My favorite is a fresh bagel from the bakery section of the grocery store with egg, a slice of cheddar cheese and a very light coating of light cream cheese. It’s Sunday, so treat yourself.
Lunch: Buddha bowl
This may sound scary, but I make it in the easiest way possible. Start with some instant brown rice (my favorite is the Uncle Ben’s brown rice and quinoa with garlic), add avocado, mixed greens, and roasted chickpeas — I follow this recipe. Then just add in whatever sauce you like! I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki and a little bit of spicy mayo.
Sunday night is THE night to have whatever leftovers are left in the fridge from the week. Pizza, pasta, more tacos… the options are endless. I love to take any leftover pasta and make it into a pasta salad for lunch that week.
If you’re considering trying out a vegetarian diet, I hope this list provides you with a good place to start! Of course, making all your own meals at home for an entire week is near-impossible, but a girl can dream. Thankfully, restaurants are starting to have a lot more vegetarian-friendly options on the menu, so being vegetarian is getting easier and easier.
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