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Healthier eating is becoming more and more mainstream — even fast food chains are offering meatless burgers. If you’re a meat-eater, take the opportunity in October, which is Vegetarian Month, to see what makes vegetarian eating so popular. 

People eat vegetarian for many reasons: The health benefits, which include lowered risks of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, are a big one. Religious, ethical or cultural norms can all play a role in vegetarian lifestyles as well. 

The main types of vegetarian diets include:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry or seafood, but do consume eggs and dairy products.
  • Pescatarian vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, dairy or eggs, but they do allow fish.
  • Flexatarians eat a mainly plant-based diet but do allow some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy in small amounts or on special occasions.
  • Vegans don’t eat any animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy. A vegan diet is the most restrictive of all the types of vegetarian diets. 

Regardless of the type of diet, with a little planning it’s easy to make sure you get all the nutrients you need. Legumes, nuts, lentils, seeds and whole grains will fill your protein requirements, for example. And when you include plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, you can be sure your diet is well-rounded. Here’s an easy vegetarian recipe to try.

Corn and black bean burritos

Makes 12 servings

¼ cup scallions (green onions), rinsed and sliced into ¼-inch wide circles, including green tops 
¼ cup celery, rinsed and finely diced 
1¼ cups frozen yellow corn 
½ ripe avocado, peeled and diced 
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (or substitute 2 teaspoons dried coriander) 
One 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed 
¼ cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese 
¼ cup low-sodium salsa or taco sauce 
12 (9-inch) whole-wheat tortillas 

1. Heat oven to 350°F. 
2. Combine scallions, celery and corn in a small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover.  
3. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes until vegetables soften. Drain vegetables and set aside to cool. 
4. Combine avocado, cilantro and beans in a large mixing bowl. Mix in cheese and salsa. 
5. When corn mixture has cooled slightly, add to avocado mixture. 
6. In a large nonstick pan over medium heat, warm a tortilla about 15 seconds on each side. Place tortilla on a flat surface and spoon ⅓ cup of the mixture into the center. Fold the top and bottom of the tortilla over the filling, then fold in the sides to make a closed packet. 
7. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. 
8. Heat burritos in the oven for 5 minutes until all are warm and cheese is melted.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 189, fat 3 g, protein 8 g, carbohydrates 34 g, fiber 3 g, sodium 257 mg

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Burritos on a wooden plate
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