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With the economy pinching many families' food budgets, many moms are cutting back on fruits and vegetables. If meat and grains are the usual components of your family's meals, think outside your normal realm of culinary consumptions and dare to eat different. Take advantage of the changing seasons and their abundant cornucopia of fresh crops, and do some meatless menu planning. Research shows that people who eat vegetarian or flexitarian (limited meat in a mostly vegetarian diet) are generally healthier and weigh less than their meat-eating counterparts. If eating meat-free meals has you fearing tasteless, unsatisfying vegetarian fare, follow these five tips and put your fears to rest. If you only ate meat, you wouldn't be physically or psychologically satisfied, just like you won't be sated if you eat food from any one food group.
A healthful balanced diet should include a wholesome mix of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and other high-fiber foods. An annual survey by Produce for Better Health indicates that fruit consumption is down 12 percent and vegetable consumption is down six percent as compared to a year ago. Bringing forth warmer weather and breaths of fresh air, spring and summer are idyllic seasons to rejuvenate your family's eating habits. If a meat-free diet isn't for you, consider eating vegetarian for only a few meals a week, just to stretch your horizons on alternative protein sources and give your mind and body something new to chew on. Including vegetables and fruits in your diet - and replacing high-carb and high-fat foods with vegetarian alternatives - will revitalize your energy, deliver abundant vitamins and minerals, improve your digestion, and, if you are looking to lose some winter weight, fill you up with fewer calories.


Also, frozen vegetables and fruits often offer fabulous flavor simply because they are frozen soon after they are picked.
The key is to combine foods that give you a meal with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Simple carbohydrates like sugar, candy or refined-flour products with little fiber should be eaten minimally.
Eaten in moderation, however, eggs and dairy can provide high-quality protein and lend a delectable richness to any vegetarian dish.
However, there are many protein-rich meat-free foods you can include in your meatless dishes. Limiting fruit and veggies in your family's diet also limits their intake of disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and other phytonutrients. Fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs grow forth with vibrant, nutrient-dense flavor, and the sun's heat naturally feeds your zeal for lighter, healthier meals.
Instead of poultry, meat, and seafood, augment your fruit and vegetable choices with eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy. Grains and beans, scrambled eggs and sweet potato hash, pizza topped with vegetables and cheese, tempeh burgers on whole grain buns, seasoned grilled tofu and whole wheat pasta, or cottage cheese and fruit are excellent examples of mouthwatering meat-free choices. Regardless, the excess consumption of simple or complex carbohydrates can lead to weight-gain, as can the overconsumption of calories from any source. If you or someone in your family has high cholesterol, even though studies have shown that a moderate intake of eggs is healthy, talk to your physician about the number of eggs or amount of dairy allowed for your condition.


Eggs are the perfect protein in that they supply all of the essential and nonessential amino acids. And the truth is, buying in-season produce and stocking up on frozen fruits and veggies when they are on sale can actually be much more economical than serving grain and meat-heavy meals. Soybeans (edamame) and soy products such as tofu and tempeh are incredibly versatile sources of vegetable protein. One way to boost your family's fruit and vegetable intake is by serving delicious vegetarian meals.
You can follow tried and true recipes or use them as inspiration to create vegetarian meals of your own.
Beans or legumes, nuts and seeds not only provide lean protein, they add texture and taste to vegetarian dishes. Yummy nut butters can be stirred into smoothies and sauces or spread on whole grain breads. Also, quinoa, a high-protein grain, can be served as a side-dish or as part of a main meal.



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