Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore, there are plenty of things to serve at dinner that don’t include meat. These filling foods are also incredibly nutritious, and surely not a waste of your calories or time to fix them. Many meat-free dishes are actually very satisfying, despite them lacking a dense source of protein. I actually prefer feeling full, yet still light and energized after a meal that has no meat, which is what the dishes below can do for you. Try some of my favorite things to serve at dinner. Perhaps include a few of them to round out the meal and make it more filling. These can be stand-in dishes for meat, or can be combined into one meal if you like too. Enjoy!
Let’s start with one of the most popular vegan things to serve at dinner besides meat- quinoa! Quinoa is one of the most well known vegan sources of protein that is also grain-free. Though it cooks like a grain, it’s actually the seed of a plant, not a grain. Quinoa is a wonderful food, and so versatile! You can make it savory or sweet, and with 10 grams of protein per ½ cup, it makes such an easy stand-in for meat at dinner. It’s also full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and has a very low glycemic index.
2. Sweet Potatoes
I just love sweet potatoes, and they’re so filling! Sure, they don’t have protein, but they do have plenty of calories, are low-glycemic and actually keep you fuller longer than other vegetables. They can even lower your blood sugar, despite being higher in carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes make the perfect “bed”, if you will, for any toppings of your choice, such as veggies, salsa, yogurt or eggs if you’re vegetarian, and even nut butter for a really nice, sweet treat! Sweet potatoes are also full of Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
I’m not a huge fan of soy, but some organic brands of tofu are very popular today, and do make a great meat substitution. With a high protein content, tofu is actually a very lean food. It’s also easier to digest than soybeans for many people. If you buy tofu, do buy organic and non-GMO, since soy is one of the most processed foods in the food industry today and is often genetically modified. Tofu contains a wide array of nutrients as well, starting with phytoestrogens that can improve hormones, though this is a controversial issue for many people. Tofu is also pretty mild, so it can be flavored however you like. Many people like to chop it into a stir-fry and cook it with tamari or liquid aminos for a soy-sauce like flavor.
Have you ever made savory oatmeal? It’s actually really good! I had it for the first time a few weeks ago when I wanted something filling for dinner, high in protein, yet also meat-free of course. Oatmeal can be made savory or sweet for dinner, as many people enjoy having breakfast for dinner, so if you want to go that route, feel free! If you cook it savory, I suggest using a little black pepper, turmeric, and some basil, parsley, and tossing in a few onions slices or a garlic clove. It sounds strange, but is really good! Pair savory oatmeal with any veggies you like, or if you serve it sweet as in traditional recipes for dinner, add in some fresh berries, nuts, and seeds to round out the dinner.
If you’re vegetarian, most likely you eat eggs. Eggs can be a great way for traditional meat eaters to lean into plant-based eating more easily at first. Eggs are full of vitamins and minerals, have a decent protein content, and some varieties contain omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to buy organic and/or certified humane for the most nutritious, and best raised variety of eggs on the market. If you can afford pastured eggs, they are even better. The more humanely raised the egg, the better it will taste, and the more nutritious it will be.
When all else fails, just throw in all the veggies you’ve got into a large pot, add in some seasonings and make soup! Who needs the meat with filling veggies like sweet and red potatoes, kale, red peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, peas, squash, green beans, and tomatoes? Add in some olive or coconut oil to add flavor, some sea salt and some black pepper, and even toss in a bit of oregano to add some heartiness. You’ll cozy up to a delicious meal that’s meat-free, yet so filling and satisfying.
7. Veggie Stir-Fry
Another veggie-filled meal idea is to make a stir-fry using only veggies and possibly some seeds like quinoa or amaranth. You could also sub in brown or wild rice. This is a great idea to make a dish that fills you up, is hearty in flavor, and by using either seeds, or whole grain rice, it would be the perfect replacement to a meat-based dish. I do suggest adding some healthy fats like olive or coconut oil, or even some sesame or sunflower seeds into the dish too.
Remember, just because it’s meat-free doesn’t mean you have to opt for a bowl of cold cereal for dinner. There are plenty of healthy options out there too! If you eat meat-free dinners on occasion, what’s your top picks for a healthy meal?