Football fever may have died down after the Super Bowl, but March Madness is now in full swing – and that means it’s back to gathering with friends to watch the game and indulge in a lot of unhealthy – but surely delicious – foods. If you’ve created a bracket and entered into some friendly bets about the outcome of upcoming games, why not turn up the pressure and raise the stakes for yourself? How? By ditching the steak.
That’s right, go really mad this March and challenge yourself to cut out some meat.
While meat definitely has important nutritional value (protein, amino acids, B12, iron, etc), it’s easy to fall into the habit of eating way more than we need to (see bacon-wrapped pizza for example) – especially when we’re throwing a party to watch the game and pig out. When this happens, meat can go from part of a healthy balanced diet to a fatty calorie, cholesterol, and saturated fat-loaded wedge in our overall health.
Skeptical about making a swap? Understandable. But I assure you, I’m not here to make you ditch the meat-lover’s pizza for a bowl of raw kale. I’m all about healthy eating (I love my morning smoothies with spinach, berries, Greek yogurt, and hemp seeds), but I’m also okay with splurging now and again. I’m here to present some recipes from the middle ground of Splurgeland: meatless to save fat and calories, but not a salad.
So put your game-face on and delve into these meatless swaps the next time you get together to watch the game.
1. Four-Layer Bean Dip
It may not have meat, but this bean dip is hearty and satisfying. Beans are still a good source of protein (making them a staple in my diet as a vegetarian. Click to learn more about vegetarian sources of protein) and also have a “meaty” feel. They’re dense and savory so you fulfill those cravings that vegetables often can’t. And then you’ve got all the great toppings and fixings that make Mexican food so great, like avocado, salsa, and sour cream.
A note about the sour cream: this recipe from the Veg Kitchen calls for vegan sour cream or cashew cream, but use whatever you’d like.If you’re down for something a little more unique, great. If you rather stick with what you know and go with classic milk-based sour cream, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t forget the tortilla chips!
Get the recipe here.
2. Sriracha Beer Queso
Yup. You read that right. Queso. With sriracha and BEER. I told you I’d still let you splurge. Warm, cheesy, and spicy, eat it alone with tortilla chips or go crazy and add it to the four-layer bean dip. Rely on your own intuition and inspiration and try it out with different beers or even a different mix of cheeses.
View the recipe here.
3. Maple-Glazed Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas
Feeling in the mood for something sweet? Try these roasted, crunchy, satisfyingly-sweet chickpeas. Bonus: chickpeas (similar to beans) are a pretty good source of protein (I eat them a LOT). Perfect material for munchies, crunch and munch them by the handful.
Get the recipe.
4. Spinach and Cheese Bourekas
Okay, I had to get spinach in here somehow! I’m a vegetarian – I HAVE to make you eat some vegetables and this is a tasty, savory way to do it. What’s a boureka you ask? It’s a stuffed, savory Israeli pastry. Typically made with puff pastry, these use light, flaky phyllo dough brushed with olive oil. You can find sheets of phyllo dough in the freezer section of the grocery store.
And I know they’re in fancy little triangles with an oh-so-pretty sprinkle of sesame seeds, but I promise they’re not as complicated as they look. Brush the dough with olive oil, slice into strips, put a spoonful of filling at the end of each, and fold them up (imagine folding a square sheet of paper in half diagonally except each square is connected to another one so you keep going until you use up the strip). Try to work somewhat quickly as the dough is a bit delicate, especially as it dries. If they don’t turn out as pretty as the picture, they’ll still taste good. These addictive little things are stuffed with ricotta, feta, and spinach. They’ve disappeared pretty quickly each time I’ve made them.
This recipe comes from Vegetarian Times, which is full of other great ideas for vegetarian friendly dishes. You can subscribe to Vegetarian Times at Magazines.com and save quite a lot off of newsstand prices.
See the full recipe here.
5. Crispy Baked Green Bean Fries
Fries are delicious. And unhealthy. These baked green bean fries are also delicious – but less unhealthy. The mom who created this recipe says even her kids love them – and convincing a kid to eat green beans instead of french fries is no easy task. Trust me – last time I told a kid he couldn’t have french fries for lunch, he accused me of being “harsh.”
I’ve always loved asparagus fries, but the problem with asparagus is that it’s slippery when coated with oil and stringy, making it hard to take a bite without looking like you don’t quite know how this whole business of feeding yourself works. Green beans, on the other hand, maintain a nice tender crispness.
Want to jazz them up a little? Dip them in a little bit of ranch or other dip.
Get this genius mom’s recipe here.
6. Cauliflower Bites in Honey-Sriracha Sauce
There’s something about sports and wings that’s just natural. Have you ever been to a sports bar that doesn’t have wings on its menu? That would be like birds without wings – unnatural. So if you’re a true sports fan (and not a vegetarian), one of your biggest concerns about skipping the meat during the next game is probably how you’re ever going to enjoy yourself without wings. Well, hold on tight because I’m about to blow your mind.
The answer is cauliflower. You’re going to have cauliflower wings. Believe it or not, cauliflower is pretty versatile and people don’t just eat it with broccoli and carrots for a nice California veggie blend. I personally have used it as a base for a creamy Alfredo sauce and for vegetarian-friendly burgers. I’m a wizard like that – a veggie wizard.
Now, if you haven’t run away yet, let me tell you a bit about these cauliflower bites that are going to replace your wings. The key is what’s on the outside. After all, nobody eats plain chicken wings, they eat wings dripping in sweet, spicy, sticky sauce. And that’s what these bites give you. A little breadcrumb coating and then you drizzle them – or smother – with a blend of sriracha and honey. Experiment with different spices and seasonings for a variety of sauces.
Think you’ve got what it takes? Get the recipe here.
So there you have it. Meatless game-day snacks that still let you splurge. Let the madness begin.