Tomato soup grilled cheese: Two childhood faves in one (the soup is in the sandwich!) Click on photo for recipe. Photo via Flickr: Maggie Hoffmann

Tomato soup grilled cheese: Two childhood faves in one (the soup is in the sandwich!). Click on photo for recipe. Photo via Flickr: Maggie Hoffmann

Now, normally I don’t like to associate the word fun with food — of course, the act of eating should involve a certain amount of pleasure — but healthy, real food is delicious enough in its own right that it doesn’t need to be shaped like a Disney character or dyed a fluorescent color to convince someone to eat it.

But once in a while, even I (a broccoli raab-craving health nut) get a nostalgic craving for a little comfort food, a scrumptious — dare I say fun — meal from my childhood. I was reminiscing about this the other day: The Celentano stuffed shells or the Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese I was allowed to have on the rare occasion my parents went out and left me with a babysitter; the peanut butter and jellies my mom packed for my school lunches; and the buttery grilled cheeses that I would devour at The Lunch Box when we lived in Weston, CT.

Guess what all of these meals have in common? They’re vegetarian! So this Meatless Monday, why not revisit one of these old favorites and feel like a kid again? I’m not suggesting you should eat like this every day of the week, but if you use wholesome ingredients, even these meals can be a healthy, meat-free addition to your diet. A few faves to try:

English muffin pizzas. Loved this brilliant suggestion by loyal RWG reader Andrea Duwel, who eats vegetarian the majority of the time (and has the slim figure to prove it). She loves to make these for an easy veg-head snack. For a healthier version, use whole-grain english muffins and top them off with organic tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil.

Peanut butter and jelly. The PB&J Campaign is working to reduce greenhouse gases by promoting this protein-packed sandwich powerhouse. I say make yours with whole wheat bread, all-natural peanut butter, fruit-juice sweetened jam, and enjoy it guilt-free.

Mac and cheese. Sure, it’s a bit more labor-intensive than a PB&J, but macaroni and cheese made from scratch is arguably one of the world’s best comfort foods. Any time-tested recipe that doesn’t come from a box is top-notch in my book; for a slimmed-down version, try this recipe that uses butternut squash to cut the fat.

Grilled cheese. While we’re on the subject of cheese… Obviously, there’s nothing more delectable than a grilled cheese griddle-fried in butter (like the ones from my Lunch Box past), but I’ve found that making a less artery-clogging open-face version in the broiler is just as tasty: Add sharp cheddar to two pieces of whole-grain bread, top each with a few tomato slices, add a dash of oregano, and pop under a preheated broiler for a couple minutes until the cheese is bubbling and brown at the edges. Don’t forget to serve with a piping hot bowl of tomato soup (or try the recipe in the photo, above).

And the best way to feel like a kid again when you enjoy these Meatless Monday treats: Eat them with your own kids, too!

–Jennifer Grayson

Do this now: Click here to take the Meatless Monday pledge.

More Meatless Monday posts:
Easily adaptable vegetarian meals
WATCH: Meatless Monday goes to the farmers market

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