October is National Vegetarian Month

Vegetarian eating has come a long way thanks to a long list of vegetarian celebrities, from Anne Hathaway to Carrie Underwood. In fact, according to the 2012 Vegetarian Resource Group Poll, 47 percent of the nationwide population reports eating vegetarian meals a significant amount of time. And programs like Meatless Monday are inspiring a whole new mix of plant-powered eaters that are today’s generation of plant-based omnivores — those that are not interested in giving up animal foods completely, yet recognize the advantages of reducing their animal intake.

Slowly the message that vegetarian eating is both healthy and delicious is seeping into mainstream thinking. It’s a common misconception that “eating veggie” is bland and restrictive. In fact, there is much more choice when centering your meals on whole-plant foods. When you plan your meals around plant foods, the sky’s the limit. Think of all the delicious fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds there are to choose from.

Another vegetarian myth? Prepping plant-based meals is laborious and complicated. It certainly doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as a making a black bean burrito or a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Try one of these simple tips and soon you won’t even miss the meat.

  • Convert your family favorites. Transform your beef tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, or turkey lasagna into healthier vegetarian versions by simply cutting back on the meat and piling on the fresh veggies. Love pizza? Top a pre-made whole grain pizza crust with broccoli, cashews, red onions and basil.
  • Invest in a crock-pot. One-dish meals are an easy yet delicious way to prepare plant-based recipes. Try chili, stews, casseroles, stir-fries and pasta dishes filled with whole grains, legumes, tofu and vegetables. Simply add all the ingredients to your crock-pot in the morning and then forget about it until meal time.
  • Prepare breakfast for lunch or dinner. With so many delicious and healthy breakfast foods — oatmeal, whole grain porridges, whole grain breads, trail mixes, nonfat yogurts, fruit, juices and even vegetables and legumes — making breakfast for lunch or dinner is a healthy yet easy way to prepare a meal in a cinch. Try my easy, delicious and healthy vegetarian recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Spice Pancakes below.

Pumpkin Pecan Spice Pancakes

Recipe by Sharon Palmer, RD

Makes 8 pancakes

Destined to be a fall breakfast favorite, this pancake recipe — fragrant with pumpkin, nutmeg and pecans — also makes excellent waffles. Who needs to wait for breakfast to enjoy pancakes? You can put them on your dinner menu, too. In Scandinavia, people eat pancakes with split-pea soup for lunch or dinner — never breakfast. Yum!

1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons egg replacer
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds


  1. Combine the plant-based milk, water, pumpkin, canola oil, maple syrup and egg replacer in a medium bowl.
  2. Add white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans and flaxseeds, and stir just until well combined, being careful not to overwork the batter. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a griddle on its low setting (or heat a skillet over low heat) and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/3 cup pancake batter onto the griddle and cook until golden on both sides and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.
  4. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter to make eight pancakes.

Note: To make waffles instead, heat a waffle iron and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup batter into the waffle iron and cook until golden. Repeat with the rest of the batter, making sure to spray both sides of your waffle iron with nonstick spray before each new waffle.

Nutritional info, per pancake: Calories: 132; Carbohydrate: 18 g; Fiber: 4 g; Protein: 4 g; Total fat: 6 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Sodium: 160 mg; Star nutrients: Vitamin A (42% DV), calcium (12% DV), selenium (17% DV)

Sharon Palmer
Sharon Palmer, RD, is a Southern California-based registered dietitian and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Read her blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian and follow her on Facebook.