This quinoa, white bean Mediterranean wrap proves you don’t need meat to have a filling lunch.
I’m getting so sick of chicken. While there are countless ways to prepare it, I’ve found myself no longer interested in any of them. Instead, Bry and I have been getting our protein fill without the meat thanks to a few pantry-staples that are awesome, meatless sources of protein.
While I fully believe you can have a healthy diet without going vegetarian, after all many fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, lean beef a great source of iron and B12, and poultry is so lean as well as versatile. But many Americans eat an excessive amount of meat and tend to get in the mindset that a meal isn’t a meal without it.
“Flexitarian” is a new term you may have seen on various media outlets and for good reason: countless studies have shown that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, and whole grains significantly reduces your risk of many chronic diseases and many forms of cancer. Essentially, a flexitarian is someone who does eat meat, but aims to have a couple meatless meals throughout the week with a focus on really bumping up the vegetable and fiber intake.
So why go meatless?
- For your health: decreased meat intake and increased intake of beans/legumes, whole soy, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are associated with reduced heart disease and stroke risk, decreased cancer risk, and improvement in glycemic control in diabetics. Plus studies show that individuals who eat more of these plant-based protein sources tend to have a higher intake of important nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, zinc, folate, and even iron, plus they have a much lower intake of saturated fat.
- For your taste buds: getting out of your comfort zone and trying out new vegetables can open your taste buds to a world of new flavors. Plus many vegetarian dishes out there incorporate fresh herbs and seasonings that you may not have tried before.
- For your wallet:
- soy, beans, and grains tend to be much cheaper per ounce than chicken, beef, and pork thanks to how expensive it is to produce meat (from feeding and transporting the animals to production and packing it all adds up!).
- Think fruit and vegetables are expensive too? If so, you aren’t shopping right. Instead aim for in-season produce (tends to be much cheaper) and utilize your freezer. Whether it’s buying bags of frozen produce or purchasing large volumes of on-sale fresh veggies then storing the extras in freezer storage bags, you can get your servings of vegetables in without breaking the budget.
- On a bigger scale, think of all the money we could save on healthcare if the incidence of chronic diseases went down! Hint: treatment of obesity-related conditions alone costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and the cost for treatment of chronic diseases is now in the trillions.
- For the environment: it takes a lot of water and fossil fuel to produce meat (again, we’re talking from needs of livestock up through production and distribution). Plus, beef is a much higher source of greenhouse gases than vegetables are.
There are many more reasons people choose to cut back on their meat consumption, such as animal welfare, but the point is that we can all benefit from trying to eat at least one or two meatless meals/week.
Now, let me point out that meatless does not mean no-protein. While I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of just having a bowl of cereal for dinner (my go-to comfort food) or a bowl of white pasta with jarred red sauce, it’s important to aim for balanced meals the majority of the time. So if you aren’t adding in meat, fish or poultry, where is the protein coming from? Here’s a list of some of my go-to’s, but in no way is this a comprehensive list:
- Tofu (perfect for a stir-fry, in a sandwich or wrap, or even scrambled like an egg)
- Tempeh (its nutty flavor makes it perfect to put in sandwiches this one or this one)
- Beans and chickpeas (add to salads and soups, pulse into a veggie burger or falafel patties, or make an enchilada casserole)
- Dried lentils (awesome in soups and grain bowls)
- Quinoa (anytime you’d use rice you can sub in quinoa instead! Also makes for delicious casseroles)
- Nut butters (add to oatmeal, smoothies, on toast or go savory and whip up a delicious peanut sauce)
- Eggs (my favorite lazy-night dinner! Scramble, steam, or poach your eggs along with any frozen or leftover veggies you have on hand. For a meal that feels a little fancier, try making shakshuka.)
- Greek yogurt (a perfect replacement for sour cream on baked potatoes or tacos. It also adds a great creaminess to casseroles and pasta dishes.)
This veggie wrap uses two plant-based proteins that we always keep in our pantry: quinoa and beans. Both are very shelf-stable and versatile. To save money, buy your quinoa in bulk and use dried beans rather than canned.
For a sauce, I whipped up a batch of tzatziki sauce from my previous Mediterranean flatbread pizza, which also has a protein kick thanks to the Greek yogurt!
To make my life easier, I assembled a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday so each night all I had to do was grab a wrap from the fridge and put it in our lunchboxes along with some fruit and energy bites. Healthy, easy, and (most importantly) filling!
So here’s a toast to going meat-free at least once this week!
Mediterranean Veggie Wraps
- 1 can white beans or chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 zucchini sliced vertically
- 2 tsp paprika
- Pinch salt and pepper
- 1 large tomato sliced
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
For the Tzatziki sauce (makes 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 English cucumber peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 cup plain 0% fat Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
- 1 sprig of Fresh Mint
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 400F and place 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water in a small pot.
- Bring quinoa to a boil then reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Once done, remove from heat and keep covered for at least 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice zucchini vertically and place on baking sheet. Spray zucchini with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Once oven is heated, place baking sheet in oven and roast 10-15 minutes or until soft.
- While zucchini and quinoa cook, make the tzatziki sauce. Place all tzatziki sauce in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.
- Once zucchini and quinoa are finished, begin assembling your wraps by evenly distributing beans,quinoa, zucchini and tomato between the 8 tortillas.
- If eating right away, drizzle tzatziki sauce over filling before wrapping up your tortilla.
- Serve with extra sauce on the side.
- These keep well stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Nutrition for 2 tablespoons of tzatziki sauce: 26 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein