If you’ve considered cutting back on the meat in your diet but are concerned about getting enough protein to fuel an active lifestyle, don’t be. It’s a common apprehension, but in reality a typical Westerner’s diet far exceeds their protein needs, even for people following a vegetarian diet.
Or maybe you feel that a meat-free meal is not filling or lacks appeal, in which case, I hope today’s recipe can sway your opinion. After all, I’m not suggesting we live on kale, here.
But why eat less meat? It’s no secret the Western diet—high in red meat, processed food and refined grains—is making us sick. Americans have astounding rates of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes compared with other countries less reliant on meat as a staple food. A diet focused on meat as a central part of every meal means higher amounts of artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol, and typically not enough fiber and antioxidants.
So what is a plant-based diet and how can it meet the needs of those who regularly exercise or train and have higher nutritional demands? A diet based on whole (unprocessed) foods like vegetables, tubers, nuts, legumes and unrefined grains still has plenty of high-quality protein, with the additional benefit of energy-enhancing vitamins and healing nutrients. Some athletes believe that avoiding the acid-forming effects of animal-based protein gives them an edge by reducing inflammation and stress in the body.
Scott Jurek—one of the greatest ultramarathon runners of all time—is a passionate advocate of the plant-based diet. In his book, Eat and Run, he explains how his diet has given him endurance, faster recovery and helped him win almost every elite race in the sport. Tony Gonzales is arguably the greatest NFL tight end player ever, and credits his long career to a mostly vegetarian diet. And champion MMA fighter Mac Danzig is an outspoken proponent of veganism.
Clearly we’re not all elite athletes, but these guys make a good point. And whether someone decides to go vegan, vegetarian, raw or paleo, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. The key is being in tune with your body and paying attention to how foods make you feel.
Your body can be your greatest ally when you treat it well, and this nourishing recipe does just that. Quinoa is full of complete protein and tons of fiber, making these veggie burgers a hearty meal. After a little prep work, all of the ingredients combine in one bowl and shape well into patties for baking. And with sun-dried tomato, cilantro, garlic and jalapeño, you won’t be missing out on any flavor.
-1 egg (or vegan egg substitute)
-2 Tbs. all-purpose flour (can use gluten free baking powder)
-2 Tbs. almond butter
-1 ½ tsp. white wine vinegar
-1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
-½ cup sweet potato, grated
-¼ cup fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped
-½ 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and dried
-¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
-2 Tbs. red onion, diced
-¼ cup cilantro, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees, coat baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper
-Whisk egg, flour, almond butter and white wine vinegar in a large bowl
-Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and mash mixture together until able to hold shape. Scoop out desired amount and pat into cakes with wet hands (1/4 cup patties makes 8 burgers)
-Bake on sheet for 15 minutes. Turn patties once, then bake another 10 minutes, or until browned
Image: jacqueline, CC-BY
Ashley Sigmund is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health and fitness.