Go Meatless

Meatless meals are not just for vegetarians. Meat alternatives such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds are part of a healthy diet that can be enjoyed often. However, many Canadians are not sure how to incorporate these foods into their meals and snacks.

Benefits of meat alternatives

Eating meat alternatives more often can improve health in a variety of ways. Each type of meat alternative provides a unique set of nutrients. Beans and lentils are sources of folate and fibre. Research suggests that consuming beans and lentils regularly can lower risk of heart disease, improve blood sugar control and increase satiety, potentially helping with weight management. Calcium-set tofu contains calcium, iron and isoflavones, which may contribute to health. Nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats that are important for heart health.

Eat like you live in the Mediterranean

Further encouragement to adopt meat alternatives into your diet comes from the Mediterranean diet, which is a pattern of eating that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and fish. Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce

Dealing with discomfort

Many people cite getting gas as a reason to avoid consuming legumes like beans and lentils. Try these strategies to minimize gas and discomfort.

  • Add legumes to your diet gradually and eat them regularly.
  • To deal with the added fibre, drink plenty of water and stay active.
  • After soaking beans in water to soften them, drain and use fresh water for cooking.
  • Use “Beano” supplemental enzymes to help break down the carbohydrates.

Meatless meal and snack ideas

Beans and lentils

  • Add beans or lentils to soups, stews, casseroles and pasta sauce. Add them whole or blend them first with water for a smoother texture.
  • Blend beans (chickpeas, red kidney beans, black beans, etc.), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil into a spread. You can also make hummus.
  • Make bean salads using a variety of beans and vegetables.
  • Have vegetarian tacos or burritos with beans, lettuce, tomato and avocado.
  • Make vegetarian chilli by using beans instead of meat.
  • Add lentils to brown rice.
  • Use chickpeas or lentils in a curry.
  • Have baked beans as part of your meal or on top of baked potatoes.
  • Try vegetarian burgers using lentil patties.


  • Use tofu in chilli, tacos or spaghetti sauce instead of ground meat.
  • Add cubed tofu to stir-fries.
  • Marinate soybeans in vinegar, olive oil and herbs, then serve on crackers.
  • Add edamame beans to salads, soups or stir fries. You can also eat them from the pod as a snack.

Nuts and seeds

  • Top salads, cereal or yogurt with nuts and/or seeds. Toast them in the oven to bring out their flavour.
  • Make trail mix using whole grain cereal and a mixture of nuts and seeds.
  • Try different nut and seed butters (peanut, almond, cashew nut, sunflower seed) on toast, celery, apple or banana.
  • Spread tahini (ground sesame seeds) on crackers or use it as vegetable dip.

Revised July 2015

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on May 24, 2011

Active Tip

Listen to your body and do not stretch so far that you feel pain in your muscle or joint. Over-stretching can result in microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers.