These Vegetarian Trends are Going Mainstream

How many vegetarian meals do you eat weekly? In the United States, 30 percent of adults say they eat meatless protein alternatives (such as tofu) at least once a week, and 15 percent say the eat meatless burgers at least once weekly, per a report from the market research firm Mintel.

As a vegetarian registered dietitian nutritionist, I welcome this trend! Plant-based eating has been linked with all sorts of health benefits, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Even if you’re not vegetarian, you can think about incorporating more vegetarian meals into your week. “Ultimately, replacing a portion of the meal with healthy plant-based diet offerings will likely reduce saturated fat consumption while increasing fiber, as well as vitamin and mineral intake,” says R. Scott Rector, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology and medicine at the University of Missouri.

Reasons for jumping on the flexitarian bandwagon vary, but adults ages 35 to 54 say the biggest factors are reducing cholesterol and saturated fat intake, according to Mintel research. “It is becoming increasingly recognized that healthy plant-based diet offerings can be both nutritious and delicious,” says Rector. “Consumers are recognizing this, and restaurants are responding by offering more quality plant-based choices.” Looking to eat more meatless meals? Here are four new restaurant entrees to try:

Beyond Meat Burger at TGI Fridays (pictured above)

Great news for burger enthusiasts: You can order a 6-ounce plant-based patty that boasts 20 grams of mostly pea protein and less saturated fat than beef. The burger typically comes topped with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and sauce—but you can substitute it into any burger concept on the menu. For even more veggies, pair the burger with a side of Fridays’ new veggie side, a mixture of bok choy, broccoli, red bell peppers, and sugar snap peas steamed with fresh lemon.

Spiralized Veggie Pasta at Olive Garden

One of the newest members to the chain’s under-600-entrée lighter fare menu, this veggie-based dish clocks in at 560 calories and 16 grams of protein. You’ll get zucchini and yellow squash spirals tossed with whole-grain linguine, tomatoes, and garlic in a scampi-herb sauce. Vegans can swap the butter- and cream-containing sauce for a marinara sauce. Order it soon, as this menu item will be available through April 1, 2018.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust at California Pizza Kitchen

You may have played around with cauliflower crust at home. Now you can replace any classic hand-tossed dough or crispy thin crust at CPK with a vegetarian, gluten-free crust made of cauliflower, mozzarella, rice flour, herbs, and spices. The crust, which contains less carbs than CPK’s classic hand-tossed dough, first launched last November in select Southern California restaurants.

Broth bowls are all the rage this year — and enter an edamame-based one, with 380 calories and 16 grams of protein. The bowl features plenty of veggies: spinach, napa cabbage blend, and roasted mushroom and onion blend, plus fire roasted edamame blend, Soba buckwheat noodles, sesame seeds, and cilantro in a umami soy-miso broth. The edamame, aka soybeans, it contains are a fantastic complete protein providing all nine essential amino acids. The dish contains an ample amount of sodium (1,190 milligrams), so make sure to drink plenty of water and watch the sodium intake of your other meals. It’ll be available at least through April 30, 2018.

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including,, Runner’s World, and more. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.

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