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Recently I've been giving more thought to the idea of moving toward a more vegetarian diet. The trouble I've encountered, though, is that it seems hard to find recipes and eating suggestions that are not full-on vegan/vegetarian.

For example, I don't enjoy whole wheat bread or other whole wheat things, but those kinds of things are often worked into vegetarian recipes. Regular pizza with white flour is fine by me, at this stage. My theory is that if I try to change too much at once, none of it will stick. I want to eat more veggies, but I don't want the dogma that comes along with vegetarianism.

I'm not looking for strict vegetarian or vegan. I'm not planning on giving up steak or chicken at this point in the journey. I do want to eat a few vegetable-based meals per week to get more veggies in my diet.

What are some resources (books, blogs, etc.) to get started eating more veggie-based meals?

EDIT, in response to comments:

In regards to the why behind this question, I'm simply looking to eat healthier. It's not for the sake of the animals (sorry animals, but you taste nice).

I'm looking for a few "staple" recipes that I can make on a regular basis that'll be mostly made of veggies. I like (and make) lentil soup, for instance (with chicken broth in it), and I had a curried cauliflower soup recently that was very good.

Maybe what I'm looking for is a book of vegetarian-ish recipes that focus on ingredients from the local grocery store rather than specialty items from a health food store.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mien, Catija, Ward - Reinstate Monica, Stephie, Jay Mar 7 '16 at 21:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Can you describe more about the why you are interested in moving toward a plant-based diet? Context I think will help suggest resources more specifically. There are plenty of good reasons for eating more plants / less animals, but they vary widely (for the environment, personal health, animal welfare, ...) and resources might be biased toward one of those. Personal health might be the context in which you find whole grains in the recipes, for example. – hoc_age Oct 15 '14 at 1:32
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    If you think of all of your meat-centric meals to be 60% meat, 40% (vegetables, carb filler) then just adjust the proportions. If you have 300g steak and 200g vegetables on the side, then start by changing to a 200g steak and 300g vegetables, and keep adjusting as necessary. Do the recipes really have to change? Pasta with meat and vegetables, just put a bit less meat in and a bit more vegetables in. You can keep doing what you've been doing, just adjusting the ratio. – Ming Oct 15 '14 at 1:39
  • That's an answer I'd upvote @setek. – GdD Oct 15 '14 at 8:23
  • Buy a good (fuzzy logic) rice cooker. Learn to use it for brown rice quinoa, oat groats, soups, stews, beans, lentils (maybe cakes) etc. etc. Meat works well as a flavorant, rather than the main dish, in rice cooker recipes. – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 15 '14 at 14:10
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    This seems like it's veering broader and broader. As it is, it sounds like you want cookbooks, blogs, people's favorite go-to recipes, menu planning advice, and so on. No one's voted to close it yet, but based on the question and the kinds of answers it's attracting, I think it might warrant putting on hold to let you figure out a more specific, focused question to ask. (Or even to split it into a few.) – Cascabel Oct 15 '14 at 19:56
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Further to my comment:

If you think of all of your meat-centric meals to be something like 60% meat, 40% (vegetables, carb filler) then just adjust the proportions.

If you have 300g steak and 200g vegetables on the side, then start by changing to a 200g steak and 300g vegetables, and keep adjusting as necessary.

Pasta with meat and vegetables, just put a bit less meat in and a bit more vegetables in. I used to do 500g dry pasta, 1kg meat, 1kg vegetables, but now I simply do unchanged 500g of pasta, with 600-800g meat, 1.2-1.4kg vegetables.

Your recipes don't actually have to change, as long as you don't go completely off the reservation. Once you cut out meat completely, or have very little of it, you may find your food lacking in flavour, and it's then that you will have to do something else to add more flavour back in. As long as you still want to have some meat in your food, you can keep doing what you've been doing, just adjusting the ratio of meat to vegetables.

Good luck!

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    For the 'lacking in flavor' ... it may be worth looking into the concept of 'umami', which is basically our taste receptor for glutimates. Aged cheeses, mushrooms (especially when dried), seaweed, soy sauce and lots of other ingredients have it, not just meat. Growing up, my mom would add beef bullion to vegetable dishes instead of salt. And there's always straight MSG. – Joe Oct 15 '14 at 12:35
  • @Joe mushrooms are great because they have a meatiness to them, mmm I love mushrooms, especially with duck :P – Ming Oct 15 '14 at 12:37
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    Good quality bullion powder (I prefer chicken myself) is a great ingredient. Mushrooms though - not a fan of the fungus unless it's morels and chanterelles. So expensive mushrooms! – GdD Oct 15 '14 at 12:54
  • What of truffles, @GdD? :) – Ming Oct 16 '14 at 0:24
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    Oh definitely truffles too. Although are truffles mushrooms? – GdD Oct 16 '14 at 7:38
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There's a book (and it seems website, too) called the 'Gradual Vegetarian' that's exactly what you're asking about. The website's recipes seem to be vegetarian, but the book has a lot of recipes where meat is present, but not the main ingredient.

You could also try something like Mark Bittman's 'VB6' plan (and he has a book, but I haven't read that one) where he ate vegan meals through the day except for dinner.

Also consider that 'vegitarian' and 'whole grains' don't necessarily have to go together. They're both diets (in the sense of 'what we eat'). For instance, many traditional Italian dishes use meat as a flavoring (not the main ingredient) but then have lots of pasta. So much so that my grandfather actually refused to eat pasta (except for lasagne) after growing up in the depression.

... and speaking of that, you can also look for depression-era recipes. There are some great videos (and a cookbook that I don't have) on Great Depression Cooking with Clara that can give you some good ideas on meals that don't use much meat and are inexpensive.

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    Good advice, although the phrase "Great Depression Cooking" conjures images of a darkened kitchen. A man cooks boxed macaroni and cheese in his bathrobe. His tears are the only seasoning he needs. – logophobe Oct 15 '14 at 3:23
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    He drops the spoon back into the pot dejectedly and abandons the endeavor before ordering two pizzas. – Preston Oct 15 '14 at 5:07
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I'm interpreting your question as "how do I make tasty low meat food" as asking how to eat less meat is simply answered - eat less meat in proportion to vegetables and grains. Have half the steak and more vegetable sides in a meal, job done. Substitute beans and pulses for meat protein.

Many people feel that less meat means less flavor in your food, which is so not true if you look to other cuisines from around the world where meat is less of a feature due to scarcity and/or religion. Meat features high in western cooking, often vegetables are on the side and prepared as an afterthought, yet there's plenty of opportunities out there, especially with Italian. Asia is where I look for good vegetarian dishes, for example Indian curries and stir fries with Chinese/Thai/Indonesian flavors like ginger, soy, fish sauce, etc.

  • If he's eating a typical American diet, then even 1/2 the meat may be more protein than he needs. (ie, no need to add in beans & pulses ... although I am a fan of lentil curries ... beans & rice, etc) – Joe Oct 15 '14 at 12:32
  • It's true @Joe, the amount of animal protein you really need per day is very small, a couple pieces of cheese will do for most people. – GdD Oct 15 '14 at 12:52
  • Or in more concrete figures, about a pound a week of meat is sufficient animal protein even when not consuming any dairy whatsoever. Side benefit: if your meat consumption is that low, it doesn't have to be all lean meat anymore. – MSalters Oct 15 '14 at 20:24
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I found I had most success doing like-for-like recipe swaps on my existing roster, one at a time. It's easy to keep up the habit of making these because they require little change to your current routine.

For example, if you make chilli con carne, make bean chilli. If you like ham pizza, try mushroom. If you make stirfry with meat, swap in 1-2 additional types of veg, etc. Switch chicken curry for a cauliflower one, or a dal. For recipes which really require meat, just fiddle with ratios as suggested above.

NB Don't get discouraged if the first attempt with a new recipe doesn't taste as good - tweak until you'd be just as happy to make the veg version (it took me about 4 goes to get enough umami in my bean chilli).

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Vegan for 8 years here, vegetarian before this. The big craving pot holes are FAT, SALT, PROTEIN and MILK. Everything else is pretty much the same. You are going to want to stock up on sauces (veganaise, fancy BBQ sauces, stuff with flavor. Miso is good). Best vegan friendly fat is HEMP oil. soy/tofu grains for protein (buy some tvp). Almond milk is the best milk substitute IMO.

  • This sounds more along the lines of what I don't want to do -- replacing my entire kitchen with vegan things and stuff from health food stores. I want to keep eating regular food that I can buy at regular stores, just more veggies and less meat. – Dave Ceddia Oct 15 '14 at 17:05
  • Miso and Tofu would be more asian grocery than health food store staples... and learning about asian foods and knowing your way around an asian grocery goes well with any non-meat-centric diet/lifestyle... – rackandboneman May 7 '15 at 13:41
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Albeit this question is around for a while, maybe my answer is still helpful.

I am a weekday vegetarian, inspired by a TED Talk by Graham Hill.

Do not get me wrong: I celebrate eating meat and I like it. It is just something rather extraordinary in my diet. Fish on Saturday, meat on Sunday, so that I have the time and can prepare it with the due respect. And I only eat "organic" meat – no meat from factory farming, only from farms which obey species-appropriate husbandry. Just following this rule will sooner or later reduce the amount of meat you eat – meat from those sources is 4 to 6 times as expensive as meat from factory farming. And it is not that you can get it in your average supermarket. I usually have to walk quite an extra mile to get what I want (Try to get a calf cheek for a four person dinner out of species-appropriate farming and you know what I mean).

What you will encounter is a time frame in which you will crave for proteins, as was noted before. Honestly, I never really understood what craving appetite meant until that. To counter this craving, you need to adapt the vegetarian part of your diet accordingly. Depending on what else is acceptable for you, eggs and cheese (cream and cottage cheese helped me a lot) and beans or legumes in general will reduce the craving. I have not found a way during those times which eliminated this craving. And I have to admit I sinned against my own intentions, as various butchers and Fast Food chains still hold in dear memory to this day. ;) It might happen to you, too if you follow that path – simply go on. As you correctly observed, it is a process.

This craving period lasted about 3 months, which might have something to do that I was what could easily be called an anti-vegetarian. During these three months, I gained 10 pounds, because I unconsciously substituted my craving for proteins with all the healthy stuff the munchies shelf in the supermarket offers. From what I know now, I would have created a trail mix out of various nuts and dates.

After I survived this craving period, I now take the rules of the imho excellent "Eat to win" by Dr. Robert Haas as a guideline. It may take a while to get hold of a copy, though.

With a lot of oversimplification, Dr. Haas postulates a diet providing your calories by 80% out of carbohydrates, 15% proteins and 5% fat. I know the disciples of low-carb/paleo/Atkins will now cry out in rage, but I can only say - works for me.

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