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You won't miss the meat with these vegetarian recipes and meal ideas.

I call myself a "part-time" vegetarian because, while I do eat meat, I like to eat vegetarian meals often. I even like to order vegetarian entrees at restaurants, just to get new ideas for making meatless dishes. I still eat fish, chicken, lean beef and pork, but I would guess at least half of my meals are lacto-ovo vegetarian (meaning they include eggs and/or dairy products).

There was a time when all my meals were meatless (can you say University of California at Berkeley graduate school?). Oddly enough, the one thing I totally craved every so often was a good lean cheeseburger (that was before they had all these great vegetarian burgers.)

Two decades and two kids later, I have evolved into a happy, part-time vegetarian. Becoming a part-time vegetarian comes with a slew of benefits. It often costs less to prepare meatless dishes, it helps the environment when we eat more plant-based meals (some would argue), and then there's the health advantage.

Besides reducing the saturated fat content of your diet, a meatless day or two each week, has other benefits, says Julie Upton, MS, RD, with the Environmental Nutrition Newsletter. Upton says vegetarian diets are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. They also tend to include more of the beneficial nutrients found in plant foods, like vitamin A and C, potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene.

There's never been a better time to eat meatless meals, whether you do it part time or all the time. Today's supermarkets have many healthful and creative options, including meatless convenience Items you can keep in your freezer for those action-packed weeknights. Here are a handful of quick options to consider:

1. Burger Alternatives. Soy and veggie burgers usually contain less saturated fat than beef burgers, some feature high-quality soy protein, and most have at least a couple of grams of fiber, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Boca Burger -- Vegan (110 calories, 2 g fat, 13 g protein, 5 g fiber)
  • Gardenburger Flame Grilled Soy Burger (120 calories, 4 g fat, 14 g protein, 4 g fiber)
  • Gardenburger Savory Portabella Burger (100 calories, 2.5 g fat, 9 g protein, 4 g fiber)
  • Morningstar Farms Grillers Original (140 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g protein, 2 g fiber)
  • Amy's All American Burger (120 calories, 3 g fat, 10 g protein, 3 g fiber)
  • Whole Foods 365 Organic Classic Veggie Burger (100 calories, 2.7 g fat, 14 g protein, 4 g fiber)

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