Going mostly plant-based and teaching my clients how to cut back or completely eliminate meat from their diets, has encouraged me to learn new ways of making some of my favorite meals meat and dairy free. One of my favorite meals are tacos. But how do you make this dish meat-less you ask? I browsed the internet for a good while and found a couple recipes and played around with them. One of my favorite recipes that I derived this from, is from Oh She Glows.
The “meat” is made from lentils and walnuts so it’s got your healthy fat, protein, and fiber.
Whenever I derive recipes from other sources, I try to add my own spin to it and boost the nutrition a little bit more. My question I always ask myself when I cook is “how can I make this a little more healthy?” even to an already healthy dish. For this recipe, I added turmeric as its an anti-inflammatory and has been shown to have cancer fighting properties amongst so many other great things. I also added a small amount of Brewer’s Yeast, which you can find at any health food store.
Brewer’s Yeast is great for breastfeeding mothers as it may help increase milk supply. It’s also an excellent source of B12, which is so important for vegans to make sure they’re getting. Just 1 tablespoon of Brewer’s Yeast contains 1,506% of vitamin B12!!!! I’ve been using it in a lot of my savory dishes just to boost the nutrition.
What’s B12 you ask? B12 (also known as cobalamin), is a B vitamin that has a key role in the making of DNA, red blood cells, and the formation of the myelin sheath, which is an important part of the brain and nervous system. Your body is not able to make vitamin B12, so you must get it from food. All animal-based foods have it, so if you’re vegan or vegetarian, its a good idea to make sure you’re getting it from other sources. As a dietitian working primarily with pregnant and breastfeeding women who want to go plant-based, I strongly encourage them to take a B12 supplement to ensure that their baby will receive the proper nutrition they need for proper development. Without enough vitamin B12, your baby can have developmental delays and not grow like he should.
What’s in it for mom and baby?
Lentils are an excellent source of folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy; fiber, which helps combat constipation – a common side effect during pregnancy; iron, which transports oxygen throughout your blood stream; protein, which is important for every stage of pregnancy as you are creating a human being, and potassium, which helps proper circulation and helps control blood pressure.
For breastfeeding moms, there is no need to avoid lentils in the fear that it will make your baby gassy. Breastmilk is made from your blood, so what happens in your digestive tract, has no influence of what goes in your bloodstream. If you eat gassy foods, is your blood now gassy? No. Now allergens, alcohol, medications, etc do go into your bloodstream, but gassy foods do not.
The walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are crucial for baby’s brain development. It also contains anti-inflammatory components, which occurs both during pregnancy and even breastfeeding.
Lentil Walnut Taco Meat
- 1 3/4 cups cooked green lentils
- 1 cup toasted walnuts
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp brewers yeast *optional. I recommend this for breastfeeding mothers, as well as vegans as a source of B12
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
Boil one cup of dry lentils and reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until tender. This should equal 1 3/4 cups cooked lentils, which you'll use for your "meat"
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Place 1 cup walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Careful not to over toast and burn them. Remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes
Add 1 3/4 cup lentils and all the toasted walnuts into a food processor. Pulse it until it's a nice chopped/ ground beef texture. Stir or pulse in your oregano, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper, brewer's yeast, and salt. Stir in the olive oil and water. You may add a bit more olive oil or water if the texture is too dry.
Assemble your taco by either using corn tortillas, wheat tortillas, lettuce wraps and adding all your favorite toppings such as lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, salsa, avocados etc.