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Plant-based for the Planet

vegetarian meatballs

With our record-breaking hot weather this past summer and global warming on the news nearly every day, many people are trying to figure out how to help decrease the world’s carbon footprint. Luckily, there are things we can all do, such as changing the cars we drive, buying food in bulk, and eating a more plant-based diet.

Less meat and more plant-based foods result in better blood lipids, and often some weight loss. A plant-based diet paired with a low-sodium diet is a winning combination for your health.

Unfortunately, many meat substitutes and types of veggie burgers include lots of added salt, both as a flavoring agent and as a preservative, to make up for a lack of meat flavor. As always, cooking your own food from scratch is the healthiest and tastiest option.

Not sure where to begin? Try this recipe for lentil meatballs and/or lentil patties. Often overlooked, lentils can add a depth of flavor and a meaty texture to dishes like spaghetti, when added in place of ground beef. They are quick to cook, freeze well, and can be seasoned to any cuisine.

Add lentils to rice dishes, Moroccan vegetarian stews, and even cooked and chilled in a salad. You can take them backpacking. Serve curried lentils over instant rice and savor the outdoors while you save the planet.

Lentil Meatballs and Patties

1 onion, diced

1 pound mushrooms, stems removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dried brown lentils

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or combination of oregano or marjoram, rosemary, parsley, and thyme

1 teaspoon ground or whole fennel seed

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups Panko crumbs

2 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In saucepan, add 4 cups of water to 1 cup dried lentils. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 15–20 minutes until tender. Drain.

Chop mushrooms finely, in about ¼ inch pieces, with a knife or in food processor.

In a frying pan, add oil and onions, and cook until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook a few minutes more.

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mash with potato masher or in a food processor and pulse for several pulses. You want the mixture to be still somewhat chunky, not pureed. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

For meatballs, use an ice cream scoop to form about 24 balls. If making vegetarian patties, form 8 patties about 4 inches wide and one half-inch thick. You can also make half the number and save or freeze the rest for another meal.

Put on a baking sheet or use a silicone non-stick mat. Spray meatballs or patties with cooking spray or brush with a small amount of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Flip over and bake another 15 minutes.

Nutritional information (3 meatballs or 1 patty)

Calories: 271, Carbohydrates: 32 grams, Protein: 23 grams, Sodium: 226 milligrams


Katy G. WilkensContributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.


Eating Well, Living Well classes

Katy Wilkens leads a team of registered dietitians that teach FREE nutrition classes at convenient times and locations around Puget Sound. The Eating Well, Living Well classes teach people how to eat healthier to slow the progress of kidney disease and postpone dialysis. Studies show that working with a registered dietitian can postpone dialysis for as long as two years. Learn more at www.nwkidney.org/classes.

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