Today we’ll be making some easy, delicious, gluten-free vegetarian dinner! Firstly let’s understand what is a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. This is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
A gluten-free diet is used primarily to treat celiac disease because gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Hence, eating gluten-free meals will help to control the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and to prevent any complications. Gluten-free food can also help with people who are gluten intolerance.
Nowadays, gluten-free diet is popular even amongst people who do not need to go on this diet. Most people are trying gluten-free diet in response to feeling tired, bloated, depressed and they find that by eliminating gluten helps to make them feel better and to even lose weight.
Chances are, it’s because they’ve cut out the excess hidden calories found in flour-based foods, and not due to eliminating gluten. If you aim to eat a balanced meal, you will also feel less bloated and it also will help towards your weight loss.
Another important point to note is that gluten-free foods do not necessary mean healthy or low in calories. In fact, gluten-free diet can be nutrient deficient – low in fiber, iron, vitamin B & D and many more other essential nutrients. That’s because majority of the ‘gluten-free’ products are made with refined, un-enriched grains and starches, which can be high in calories with very few vitamins and minerals.
So if you need to or intend to go on a gluten-free diet, you’ll need to make the effort to consume more fruits, vegetables, beans, lean mean and more naturally gluten free grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat, instead of buying prepackaged products with ‘gluten-free’ label on it.
My gluten-free dinners are cooked using mainly unprocessed, natural ingredients. Let’s start with my really quick and cheap recipe, which is also part of my ‘lazy’ dinner – Tomato Rice & Black Beans.
This dinner takes less than 15 minutes to cook. So when I’m feeling tired or lazy and I want something nutritious and feeling, I’ll opt for this! The ingredients you’ll need are:
1) Rice & Black beans (Serves 2)
1. ½ cup (100g) of uncooked White or Brown Rice / a combination of both – 355Cals **Weigh approx 240g once cooked
2. ½ can (400g) Chopped Tomatoes, juice reserved – 50Cals
3. 1 tsp Olive Oil – 40Cals
4. 2 cloves Garlic, minced – 8Cals
5. 1 large (170g) Bell Pepper, chopped – 45Cals
6. ½ can (130g) Black Beans, rinsed and drained – 74Cals
7. 1 tsp Ground Cumin – 8Cals
8. ½ tsp Chilli Powder – 4Cals
9. A little but of Salt for seasoning
Total Cals: 584 Cals
Per Serving: 292 Cals
1) The first step is to cook the rice according to instructions.
2) In a pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
3) Add garlic and bell pepper. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until fragrant and bell pepper starts to soften.
4) Then mix in the black beans, chilli powder, cumin, salt and cook for another 1 minute to combine all the ingredients together.
5) Next, add half a can of chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil under low heat. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the beans have absorbed much of the liquid.
6) Finally mix in the rice and combine all the ingredients, stirring for 1-2 minutes until the rice is warm and serve immediately.
Why do I like rice and black beans. Well firstly a cup of cooked black beans has 15g of satisfying protein and it doesn’t contain any saturated fat found in animal protein sources, especially red meat.
Black beans are also a low-energy-dense food, which means you get to eat more for less calories. This will help you to avoid overeating and to control your calorie intake, which helps toward your weight loss, or to maintain a healthy weight.
And by combining rice and beans, 2 incomplete proteins on it’s own, together they become a “complete protein”. This one serving has 292Calories. So try my ‘lazy’ and cheap dinner.
This next recipe is one of my favourite dishes, which is usually high in calories and fat – lasagna. So after gaining inspirations from several recipes and trying out my own combination with ingredients I like, I present to you my ‘Low-Calorie Vegetarian Quinoa Lasagna’.
It’s looks so unhealthy but this IS so healthy packed with vegetables! The ingredients you’ll need are:
2) Low-Calorie Vegetarian Quinoa Lasagne (Serves 4)
1. 1 cup Water
2. ½ cup (85g) Quinoa, uncooked – 313Cals
3. 2 tsp Olive Oil – 80Cals
4. 1 medium Onion, diced – 44cals
5. 1 clove Garlic, minced – 4Cals
6. 1 Jar (500g) of basic traditional Pasta Sauce or tomato sauce– 176cals
7. ½ block (175g) of Firm Tofu – 108.5Cals
8. 1 large Egg, beaten – 78Cals *Vegan: Feel Free to omit the egg.
9. Juice from half a Lemon – 6Cals
10. 1 large Zucchini, sliced – 54Cals
11. 1 large Bell Pepper, sliced – 45Cals
12. 1 large carrot (120g), diced – 50Cals
13. Season with salt and pepper
14. ½ cup (55g) Grated Cheese of your choice – 216Cals
**Parmesan, Cheddar, Mozzarella or a Dairy-Free Cheese
Total Cals – 1174.5
Per Serving – 293.6Cals
1) In a pan, combine water and quinoa and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
2) While waiting for the quinoa to cook, in a food processor, combine the tofu, beaten egg and lemon juice. Blend for 20 seconds or until you have a smooth and creamy mixture and set it aside.
3) Once quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork and spread the quinoa evenly in an ovenproof dish.
4) Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.
5) Then in a pan, heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.
6) Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant and lightly brown. Add the carrots and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
7) Then add the pasta sauce or tomato sauce. Stir for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is hot, remove from heat and set it aside.
8) Next, Heat the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and set it aside.
9) Final let’s start to layer our lasagne. Spread half of the pasta sauce over the quinoa. Make a layer of half the vegetables, then all the creamy tofu mixture, then the remaining vegetables. Finish with the remaining pasta sauce and spread cheese evenly on top.
10) It’s time to place the lasagne in the oven! Bake the lasagne for 30-35 minutes, until it’s hot and the cheese is melted, bubbling and slightly browned around the edges.
11) Remove from the oven and allow the lasagne to cool down for about 10 minutes before serving.
Why you SHOULD try this:
1) Instead of using lasagne noodles which mostly isn’t gluten-free, I’ve substitute it with one of the world’s healthiest food, quinoa. Most grains are considered "incomplete" protein sources, because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa however, is a complete protein source containing all nine essential amino acids.
2) Besides that, quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. And combining all the vegetables in this lasagna, it’s indeed rich with fibre. So this dish will make you feel fuller for longer.
3) Instead of using the typical lasagna white sauce, which is extremely high in calories and fat, I’ve made my own “white sauce” with tofu and egg, which is nutritious, high in protein and low in fat and calories.
White Sauce - 100g = 110Cals
My White Sauce – 100g = 85Cals
4) Zucchini and carrots are low in calories and high in water content. So consuming these vegetables will add to your daily fluid needs.
Most traditional basic pasta sauces are gluten-free. But please do check the ingredients and label before purchasing. Alternatively, you can make your own pasta sauce with tomato puree, tomato sauce and mixed herbs.
So if you are craving for lasagna but you are concerned about the calories and fat, try my Low-Calorie Vegetarian Quinoa Lasagna and you can actually feel good when eating it. =D
My final dinner on the menu is an Asian dish, Chickpeas Spinach Curry. This is a basic healthy vegetable curry recipe, so feel free to change the vegetables according to your preference. The ingredients you’ll need are:
3) CHICKPEAS VEGETABLE CURRY (Serves 2 or 3)
1. ½ an Onion, diced – 22Cals
2. 1 clove Garlic, crushed – 4Cals
3. 1 tsp Curry Powder – 9Cals
4. 1 tsp Olive Oil – 40Cals
5. 1 can (240g) Chickpeas, rinsed and drained – 290Cals
6. ½ can Chopped Tomatoes, juice reserved – 50Cals
7. 150g fresh or frozen Spinach – 42Cals
8. 150g fresh or frozen Cauliflower – 51Cals
9. ½ cup (125ml) Water
10. Salt & Pepper to taste
Total Cal – 508 Cals
Per Serving: 169 Cals / 254cals
1. In a pan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and lightly stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly brown and fragrant.
2. Then mix in the curry powder and a splash of water and cook for another minute.
3. Next, add the chickpeas, cauliflower and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow all the ingredients to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Finally, stir in the spinach and remaining water. Cook for another 5-7 minutes or until spinach is fully wilted and warm. And serve.
If you like your curry and spice, I’ve made this with you in mind. You can serve this with a side of rice or even baked potato. This recipe is also part of my “90-Day Weight Loss Challenge Vegan Meal Plan”, so have this as part of a balance diet.
Again, remember that all my recipes are interchangeable, so you can make this for your lunch as well. You might ask me, should I go on a gluten-free diet? Well, personally, I’m not on a gluten-free diet because there’s no need to and I do like my occasional naughty food. I would say your dietary choice is up to you. If you think you might have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, do not self diagnose. Visit your local doctor instead to get an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms.
If you want to go on a gluten-free diet, do take the time to consider the extra food shopping costs and lifestyle changes and sacrifices you might have to make. Gluten-free or not, try these easy dinner out and let me know which is your favourite dish in the comments below.