The Scoop: Cooking at home can be a sweet and savory way for couples to practice social distancing on their date nights, and Meatless Monday can offer an assortment of plant-based recipes to help heat things up. Whether you’re tempted by tempeh or are nuts about coconuts, the website’s recipe index can offer many simple, tasty, and healthy dishes to spice up your at-home meals.

During the coronavirus pandemic, my boyfriend and I made a habit of ordering fried chicken sandwiches and burgers for lunches, dinners, and late-night snacks. We justified our bad behavior by saying we deserved a treat to break through the monotony of staying inside for months.

Of course, soon enough all those takeout and delivery orders came back to bite us. The scales started to tip unfavorably, and our credit card bills bulged more than usual. The day the elastic lining in a pair of sweatpants gave out, we knew it was time to make a change and mix more vegetables (and fewer burgers) into our meals.

Meatless Monday logo

Meatless Monday endeavors to decrease global meat consumption and bring more plant-based meals to the table.

Once we got into a new mealtime routine, our date nights really started cooking.

Changing your eating habits can be difficult, but Meatless Monday offers resources and recipes to make it easier to cut back on meat — at least one day a week!

Meatless Monday can trace its history back to World War I when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged Americans to eat less meat to aid the war effort. The campaign proved to be a successful rationing strategy, and it has evolved into a global movement to improve personal eating habits and slow climate change.

Today, as the U.S. faces a national health crisis and an economic downturn, Meatless Monday is once again motivating Americans to make a simple, positive change to nourish themselves in difficult times.

“Due to the pandemic, we are all in the midst of a new and strange time, and it can be difficult to navigate,” the Meatless Monday team said. “Many couples and families are cooking more at home than ever before. What better time to try new food and recipes!”

Fresh Vegetables Bring Added Color & Flavor to the Plate

As a whole, Americans eat too much meat. The average American consumes over 71 pounds of red meat and 54 pounds of poultry a year. That’s not a healthy statistic. The overconsumption of meat can have serious negative consequences for the individual and the environment, so it’s worth looking into cutting back.

The Meatless Monday campaign encourages people to take incremental steps toward a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Couples can incorporate Meatless Monday into their dating routine pretty easily. All they need is a few tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes to get started in the right direction.

Photo of a Meatless Monday dish

Meatless Monday highlights fresh vegetables in all its recipes.

Meatless Monday offers a catalogue of recipes that is perfect for vegetable-curious foodies willing to try something new.

Our dating experts recommend Kung Pao Tempeh Stir Fry, recipe by Jackie Newgent, RDN, for Monday date nights because it is fast and easy to customize to taste — plus, it only uses one wok or saucepan so you won’t have a lot of messy dishes ruining the mood at the end of the meal!

Couples who want to take on more of a challenge on their date nights can try making Mike Davies’ Pulled Mushroom Baos, a Chinese street food that’s stuffed with savory goodness. Making bao buns is similar to making bread in that it takes a steady hand and a lot of patience to get it right. While one person makes the buns, the other can work on the salsa macha and the mushrooms to complete this complex and delicious dish.

“Plant-based doesn’t mean boring,” the Meatless Monday team said. “These recipes provide something for everyone.”

Tofu Can Stand in for Meat in Your Favorite Dishes

Couples who embrace Meatless Monday can try a variety of new dishes or make plant-based substitutions into their favorite carnivore dishes.

For instance, I grew up eating homemade chicken pot pies, so the idea of a steaming vegetable pot pie appeals to me because it can offer those familiar flavors in a more healthful way. Meatless Monday got its veggie pot pie recipe courtesy of Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian.

Meatless Monday recipes suggest ways to avoid meat and still make a filling and delicious dishes. Sometimes that means adding double the amount of vegetables to a stew or stir fry, and other times the recipe calls for substituting chicken or beef with tofu or tempeh.

Photo of Vegetable Pancit

Vegetable Pancit is a light dish featuring thin noodles, veggies, and tofu.

Catrina Muolo’s Coconut Matter Tou is a vegan dish that pairs perfectly with rice and puts a healthful spin on classic North Indian food. The tofu, which stands in for paneer cheese, soaks up the curry sauce and adds extra protein and flavor.

If you like leftovers, then Vegetable Pancit by Christin the Veggie Chick is a great noodle dish to make on Mondays. This Filipino-inspired recipe calls for rice noodles, cabbage broccoli, and tofu, and it sits in a hearty broth that can warm a person right up. The recipe serves eight people — that means a couple who makes the whole batch can enjoy having it for lunches and dinners all week.

Vegetarian and vegan dishes can be just as filling as meat-laden dishes. You just have to make the right substitutions and find recipes compiled by the experts.

“A creamy, plant-based pasta is a great date night idea for chilly fall or winter nights,” the Meatless Monday team suggested. “Or try new international flavors with Coconut Mattar Tofu or Vegetable Pancit.”

Meatless Monday’s recipes can help couples and families spice up their meal times while sticking to plant-based foods. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a romantic candlelight dinner or a laid-back lunch in front of the TV — a vegetarian dish is the perfect way to enrich a meal and satisfy your cravings at the same time.

Meatless Monday: Try Something New Together

Eating more plant-based meals makes sense for your health, your pocketbook, and your taste buds, so it’s no wonder that so many couples and families have taken on the Meatless Monday challenge and started their weeks off on a nourishing note.

Whether you’re trying to lose the “quarantine 15” or just looking for a fun date activity at home, Meatless Monday can offer the recipe to success and bring a lot of fun into the kitchen. It’s a win-win situation for couples who want to make the best of their date nights at home.

“Going meatless one day a week is good for your health and the health of the environment,” the Meatless Monday team said. “It can also be a fun challenge for a date night at home with your partner, and a great way to explore new recipes together.”