Whether or not you’re interested in going entirely meatless, there are plenty of healthy vegetarian recipes that deserve a spot in your repertoire based on their deliciousness alone. There are just so many tasty ways to fill your plate with plant-powered goodness, using substitutes for meat like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and plant-based meat alternatives—not to mention, every bean, legume, grain, fruit, nut, and seed under the sun. Plus, animal-based products like eggs and cheese are still fair game in vegetarian cooking too.
A healthy and genuinely satisfying meal contains a balanced variety of flavors and nutrients from three to four food groups (starches, fats, proteins, and fruits or vegetables), SELF columnist Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., certified diabetes educator and cofounder of Food Heaven, has told SELF.
People sometimes worry about the protein component when it comes to vegetarian cooking, but it’s easier to nail than you might have thought. Though it’s true that animal products are technically more complete protein sources because they always contain all nine essential amino acids (which are like the building blocks of protein), plant proteins are usually missing only one or two amino acids, as SELF previously reported, and tend to complement each other (meaning, the amino acid missing in one plant food is present in others). So eating an array of protein-rich plant-based ingredients throughout the day is a generally reliable way to ensure you’re getting more than enough complete protein to meet your body’s needs.
We’ve got 50 yummy and healthy vegetarian recipes that will fill you up. Many of the meat alternatives used in these dishes can easily be swapped out to suit your needs and tastes. (If you’re avoiding soy, for instance, try using wheat-based seitan in the recipes that call for tempeh or tofu.) Other recipes here rely on a mix of protein-dense whole plant foods, like lentils and whole grains, to ensure the contents of your plate are always satisfying.
A note about the word healthy here: We know that healthy is a complicated concept. Not only can it mean different things to different people, it’s a word that’s pretty loaded (and sometimes fraught), thanks to the diet industry’s influence on the way we think about food. At SELF, when we talk about food being healthy, we’re primarily talking about foods that are nutritious, filling, and satisfying. But it also depends on your preferences, your culture, what’s accessible to you, and so much more. We selected these recipes with those basic criteria in mind while also trying to appeal to a wide variety of nutritional needs and taste buds.