Taste the Best Vegetarian Meals for Seniors

Key Points

  • A vegetarian diet includes plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

  • The best vegetarian meal for seniors includes all of the essential nutrients.

  • Incorporate the best vegetarian meals for seniors by making small changes.

  • Vegetarian diets include eggs, dairy, and even fish.

If "vegetarian cooking" still evokes an image of gloppy casseroles and bins of beans at the co-op, you haven't tried it lately. The best vegetarian meals for seniors feature flavors from around the world while also being good for your health, your pocketbook, and the planet.

Even better, the best vegetarian meals for seniors no longer require tedious hours in the kitchen to prepare them. Enjoy easy recipes and convenient, ready-to-heat meals for everything from a delicious lunch on the go to a gourmet dinner for a special occasion.

What Is a Vegetarian Diet?

A typical vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, and other animal products

People who follow a vegetarian diet usually eat a variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some other semi-vegetarian diets out there may include dairy products, eggs, and even fish, depending on your preferences and dietary restrictions.

Woman with salad meal

Check out the following:

  • A Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet includes dairy products and eggs.

  • A Lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but excludes eggs.

  • An Ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but excludes dairy products.

  • A Pescatarian diet includes eggs, dairy foods, fish, and seafood, but no meat or poultry.

  • A Vegan diet excludes all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey.

Vegetarian diets come in a lot of shapes and sizes, so you can choose the one that works for you.

What Are the Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet?

Plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk, and may lower your body weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Plus, they may protect against some types of cancer and lower the risk of death from heart disease.

Vegetarian diets are often lower in calories, which makes it easier to maintain your best weight. Plus, all those vegetables, fruits, and beans are packed with fiber, a healthy bonus for your digestive system.

If you are concerned about animal welfare, you have another reason to appreciate a vegetarian diet. Animals raised in “factory farms” often live in cramped conditions with poor quality of life.

Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthy for Seniors?

A well-planned vegetarian diet is an excellent choice for seniors. It’s never too late to reduce your risk of chronic diseases or improve your health.

Man and woman preparing to cook

You need more of some nutrients as you age, like calcium, iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Plant-based foods are a rich source of these nutrients:

  • Calcium: Calcium is found in figs, soybeans, dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, oranges, seeds, beans, some ancient grains, nuts, seaweed, and fortified drinks like plant milks and orange juice.

  • Iron: Iron-rich foods include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots, figs, raisins, quinoa, and fortified breakfast cereal.

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is found in mushrooms, orange juice, tofu, grains, and fortified foods like plant milk.

  • Vitamin B12: Make sure you get enough vitamin B12 from dairy products, eggs, yeast extract, and fortified foods.

  • Protein: Many plant-based foods contain ample protein, like beans, broccoli, lentils, whole grains, greens, nuts, seeds, potatoes, quinoa, seaweed, and soy products.

How To Get Started With a Vegetarian Diet

Habits are a tricky thing. It's easier to change your diet if you think about it in small steps. 

Add a Vegetable

Fill half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Enjoy vegetables as a snack with hummus, salsa, or guacamole.

Change the Way You Think About Meat

Eat smaller amounts of meat. Use it as a minor player in a meal, like chicken and veggie stir-fry, instead of as the centerpiece.

Enjoy Healthy Fats 

Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados are great sources of healthy fats. Plus, they add creaminess and rich flavor to your meals.

Eat All Veggies, Sometimes

Try a new vegetarian meal one night a week using beans, whole grains, and vegetables. When that’s easy, try two. Any time you can, add plant-based foods to a meal to reap the health benefits.

Plan Meals

You might not have the ingredients you need for new recipes just sitting in your pantry, and it’s no fun to make a special trip to the store. Be prepared by making a meal plan and shopping with a list. 

Couple eating vegetables

Go for the Grains

Enjoy whole grains in hot cereal or granola for breakfast. Cook up a bowl of oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, or barley, and add some nuts or seeds and fresh fruit. Serve a pilaf of rice or wheat with dinner.

Power Up With Greens

Green leafy vegetables offer a tasty variety — think kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach. Steam, grill, braise, or stir-fry to make the most of their flavor and nutrients.

Choose Fruit for Dessert

Fruit satisfies your sweet tooth without the sugar crash. A crisp apple, a ripe, juicy peach, or a refreshing slice of watermelon satisfies your craving for a sweet treat after a meal.

What Is a Good Menu for a Vegetarian?

Many cultures have food traditions that easily adapt to plant-based eating. You won’t have to give up much to eat vegetarian, except maybe some extra pounds and chronic illness!

Old-Fashioned Comfort Food Vegetarian Style

Enjoy all your old favorites, updated with plant-based ingredients. 

Pasta pairs well with cheese and vegetables. Think macaroni and cheese, spinach lasagna, or mushroom bolognese.

Mexican food also adapts easily to a meatless diet. Hits including spicy bean enchiladas, veggie quesadillas, and fish tacos are delicious and packed with plant-based goodness.

When you have a busy day ahead, or you're just in the mood for a farmer's breakfast, enjoy a steaming bowl of oatmeal like Bob's Red Mill organic old fashioned rolled oats topped with tasty dried fruit, nuts, seeds and your favorite plant-based milk.

Vegetarian Meals Ready To Heat

Sometimes you need a dinner that’s fast and easy or maybe the kitchen is just for show in your home. Delicious ready-to-heat vegetarian meals are widely available.

Woman cooking with veggies

Evol butternut squash and sage ravioli serves up savory pasta with the rich flavors of butternut squash and sage. Grab a southwest kick in an easy-to-heat pouch with Loma Linda plant-based southwest chipotle bowl.

Easy To Chew Vegetarian Meals

When you think about a meal of kale salad and broccoli, you probably imagine a lot of chewing. Nearly one-third of elderly people report difficulty chewing, which limits the foods they are able to enjoy.

A wide variety of vegetarian foods are easy to chew and swallow, so you still have many choices!

Beans and refritos, soft-cooked grains, mashed potatoes, fruit sauces, and soft steamed vegetables are just a few of your options.

Vegetarian Meals To Prepare for a Friend

What about when you want to prepare a meal for a special occasion or deliver dinner to a friend who needs comfort? Can a vegetarian meal satisfy the pickiest eaters?

The answer is yes, yes, and yes. Vegetarian meals can satisfy on all counts. 

Vegetarian meals can be the star of any occasion. Try Vegetable Wellington for a holiday centerpiece, slow-roasted butternut squash and garlic lentils for a home-style stew, or creamy carrot soup to soothe a sensitive tummy.

Vegetarian Meals for Seniors: A Seven-Day Meal Plan

Take the food decisions out of your week with this easy seven-day meal plan. Enjoy a delicious variety of plant-based proteins, hearty grains, and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables.

Day One

Breakfast: Oatmeal with sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon

Lunch: Spinach and feta cheese salad with balsamic vinaigrette and whole grain crackers

Dinner: Lentil soup with mixed greens salad and whole grain bread

Day Two

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries

Lunch: Grilled vegetable wrap with hummus and tzatziki sauce, and fresh fruit salad

Dinner: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas with salsa and guacamole

Day Three

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms and spinach with whole grain toast

Lunch: Quinoa and vegetable stir-fry with tofu, and steamed broccoli

Dinner: Chickpea and vegetable curry with brown rice and naan bread

Tofu and veggie stir fry

Day Four

Breakfast: Blueberry and almond butter smoothie with whole grain toast

Lunch: Roasted vegetable and feta cheese salad with balsamic vinaigrette with whole grain crackers

Dinner: Vegetable lasagna and a mixed greens salad

Day Five

Breakfast: Cottage cheese with sliced peaches and a sprinkle of granola

Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup and fresh fruit

Dinner: Roasted vegetable and quinoa stuffed peppers

Day Six

Breakfast: Veggie omelet with whole-grain toast

Lunch: Vegetable and tofu stir-fry with brown rice and steamed broccoli

Dinner: Chickpea and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice

Day Seven

Breakfast: Avocado and tomato toast with a boiled egg

Lunch: Lentil and vegetable soup with whole grain crackers

Dinner: Vegetable and bean chili with whole grain bread

Tomato and avocado toast with boiled egg

The Best Vegetarian Diet for Seniors

A vegetarian diet is satisfying, wholesome, and unique to you. Choose your favorite protein sources, whether that's eggs and dairy or a plethora of plant-based proteins, pair it with your favorite whole grains, and round it out with a rainbow of vegetables and fruits.

The best vegetarian diet is the one that you stick with and enjoy. Any changes you make to add more plant-based meals or incorporate more vegetarian options is a step in the right direction.

Try some new vegetarian foods today. Remember, every bite counts!

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