Mixed Plate – When Carnivores and Vegetarians Eat Together


cc (matt)

It’s hard enough when carnivores and vegetarians try to eat together—someone inevitably feels like they got the short shrift. Add diabetes to the mix and it gets even trickier.

David’s vegetarian. I am not. I’m diabetic. David is not. And yet we manage to sit down to dinner together most nights of the week. A single meal prepared for the whole family. How do we manage to plan and cook meals that satisfy everyone’s dietary needs?

We use the Healthy Diabetes Plate to plan our meals.

Note: David is ovo-lacto vegetarian so this process is based on that.

We start with the half of the plate that is non-starchy vegetables. This half of the plate can easily be the same for carnivore and vegetarian, diabetic or not. The possibilities are endless.

Pick your favorite non-starch veggies: asparagus, green/wax beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, greens, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, squash, tomato…

Make them into a salad, green or bean. Grill them with some olive oil. Steam them. Stir fry them. Or just have them raw. Whatever you like.

A couple of cautions:

  • If you believe everything is better with bacon, use it as a garnish to be added once the vegetable is on the plate. Or look at using artificial bacon bits. Some of them are made from soy and are actually vegetarian! Read the ingredients label.
  • If bacon as a garnish doesn’t do it for you, add some butter and salt while cooking the vegetable for the rich saltiness—just not too much.
  • Read the ingredient and nutrition labels on any prepared dressings or sauces used to dress, marinate or stir fry your vegetables. Avoid animal products and sugars.
  • Worcester sauce is NOT vegetarian.

Then we look at the quarter of the plate that is starch.

For everybody’s health the first thing we do is keep the portion size reasonable. The second thing we do is have whole grains instead of refined ones.

An easy way to keep rice, pasta and grains veggie-friendly is cook them in vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Vegetable broth is widely available in grocery stores. And, honestly, I can’t tell taste the difference between store-bought chicken and vegetable broth.

A couple more cautions:

  • Remember that the following vegetables are considered starches: potatoes, corn, yams, peas, winter squash. Be mindful of the serving size.
  • Check out the amount of fiber in beans, some have more fiber than others making them more diabetic-friendly.
  • If you’re having bread you have to slice, weigh the slices to be sure of the serving size.

Finally, we agree on the protein that fills the last quarter of the plate.

This section of the plate is often called “the main dish.” It is probably the part of the plate that usually results in the most disagreements between carnivores and vegetarians. You can simply make two proteins: one carnivore and one vegetarian. But you have other options.

Make an egg dish. Omelettes, frittatas, quiche are all familiar, filling, hearty options for main dishes. If you’re watching your cholesterol reduce the number of yolks used or use an egg substitute.

Explore the world of meat analogs, a.k.a. soy meat substitutes.You can find a variety of vegetarian patties in the grocery store nowadays. Be sure to read the nutrition labels, some of these patties are breaded and have more carbs than you might think. But if you don’t want to feel like your always eating some kind of burger look beyond the patties.

There are soy crumbles that are the vegetarian equivalent of ground beef. They can easily be added to pasta sauce, casseroles, chili, etc.

I’ve also used vegetarian “chicken” and “beef” strips. Added to dishes like stir fries or fajitas they make a credible protein.

All of these meat analogs have a mild flavor. So they take on the seasoning of whatever they are cooked in. They add texture to dish. But honestly I don’t think most will stand alone on the dish the way a cut of steak can.