Before you decide to give up meat and become a vegetarian, there are some facts you need to know. When you become a vegetarian your body has to readjust to the nutrients it’s receiving and the ways it digests the new food types.
There are some myths associated with vegetarianism – one, that it’s an easy and foolproof method to lose weight. The fact is that some vegetarian foods are very high in calories and can add pounds unless you watch portion size.
Another myth is that being a vegetarian is boring and tasteless. Actually, nothing is boring about being a vegetarian unless you want it to be. Tofu can be turned into many tasty dishes where meat-eaters would think they’re eating meat.
There’s chili, burritos, falafel, veggie pizza, hummus, stir-fry and other great meals that can be created to round out the meal menu without using meat products. An online gold mine exists for all types of vegetarian dishes.
You should know that there are various types of vegetarianism. The most common types are:
Vegan – A diet based on veggies, oils, nuts, seeds, soy, legumes and fruits, this type of vegetarian avoids all animal products.
Lacto-Ovo – These vegetarians enjoy dairy and eggs as well as all vegan foods.
Lacto-Vegetarian – Consumes dairy products, plus foods contained on the vegan diet.
Ovo-Vegetarian – Consumes eggs, plus foods contained on the vegan diet.
If you’re new to vegetarianism, you should begin at the Lacto-Ovo level, consuming both dairy products and eggs, plus the vegan diet foods. If you want to progress to another level, do it gradually as your body becomes adjusted to your new way of eating.
Restoring or keeping yourself in good health is definitely a consideration for almost everyone when making the decision to convert to vegetarianism. Vegetarians enjoy a low-fat diet that helps reverse heart disease and lowers blood pressure to prevent strokes.
There are other considerations too. Reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and some types of cancer can be the results of a plant-based diet plan. Some vegetarians are motivated by religious and ethical reasons – others because of environmental and the moral issues having to do with killing animals for food.
If you’re planning to embark on a vegetarian diet plan, talk to your health care provider about any problems you might have associated with changing your way of eating. Then, get the facts about vegetarianism and how it can help you regain or keep to a healthy lifestyle.
Studies have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that a well-balanced vegetarian diet can improve your health by lowering the risk of high blood pressure (stroke), diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer – plus add years to your life expectancy.
When vegetarians suffer from health problems, it’s generally because they’re eating too many processed and sugar-laden foods and are experiencing obesity and other health problems. A well-planned vegetarian diet can protect you against these problems.
Meat eaters tend to consume saturated fats and have a higher level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also suffer from high blood pressure and tend to have a shorter life span.
While adapting a vegetarian diet can’t completely protect you against the major chronic diseases, you can better protect yourself with a plant-based diet. Evidence that vegetarians enjoy a lower heart disease exists as well as better long-term health.
Cancer is another disease in which vegetarians enjoy less risk. There have been hundreds of studies performed that advocate eating plenty of fruits and veggies can lower the risk of contracting various cancers.
Colon cancer is one of the main types of cancers which have lower instance levels than in meat eaters. It’s not yet proven that avoiding animal by-products such as milk and eggs have an impact on lowering colon cancer, but avoiding meat is a definite plus.
Type 2 diabetes is more often found in meat-eaters than vegetarians. A plant-based diet can significantly reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but obesity and the amount of exercise plays a significant part in the studies.
Bone health is a concern – especially for the aging population. Many people are reluctant to go vegetarian because they fear the loss of calcium may put them at risk for osteoporosis and other bone diseases. A typical vegetarian usually gets the necessary calcium requirements for bone health, but if you’re a vegan, you should monitor your calcium intake carefully.
While protein can be a problem in some vegetarian and vegan diet plans, the required nutrients can be obtained by consuming dairy products and eggs. Lentils, nuts, soy and whole grains are also excellent sources of protein.
Vitamin B12 (found in animal products) is included in eggs and other dairy products, so the typical vegetarian finds it easy to get the necessary requirements. Ask your health care provider about adding a Vitamin B12 supplement if you need extra help.
One main and simple reason why people usually become vegetarians is that they’re generally healthier than the rest of the population and statistics show they live longer too. A plant-based diet is known to make the immune system strong and slow the aging process.
A vegetarian diet is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and fiber, while meats may contain contaminants such as herbicides, hormones, pesticides and other hazardous poisons. Viruses such as salmonella and other parasites may also be present in flesh foods.
Most of us fear cancer. Studies now show that avoiding red meat significantly reduces the risk of some cancers and that a diet rich in fiber and vegetables may protect us from contracting that deadly disease.
Lower saturated fats and cholesterol is also a perk of a vegetarian diet. Research has proven that vegetarians have a lower (25%) risk of suffering from heart disease than those who eat meat and can even help to reverse coronary problems.
Vegetarians are generally more slender than those who eat meat. The diet is lower in fat and contains the fiber and nutrients needed to lose weight and keep it off. Diabetics may also benefit from the vegetarian diet plan.
Animal lovers are apt to develop a vegetarian lifestyle because of their spirit of compassion. Factory farms process animals with very little regulation on cruelty and these animals suffer pain the same as cats and dogs that are our pets.
Reduction of global warming is another reason that people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. Livestock on factory farms emit more greenhouse gases than the combination of all trucks and cars in the world.
World hunger is a problem that we deal with on a daily basis. Children are needlessly starving to death because much of the food we grow is used to fatten livestock. Facts show that if everyone adapted a vegetarian diet, we could produce enough food for the entire population to survive.
Vegetarians enjoy a wide range of tastes and textures in the foods they consume. As the world becomes more submissive to a vegetarian diet, more options are becoming available and even restaurants and fast food establishments are offering a nice range of vegetarian meals.
Even cutting back on meat-based meals can improve your health and reduce the risk of obesity and other problems. Make sure you check with your health care provider if you choose one of the more restrictive vegetarian diet plans.
A part time vegetarian is someone who doesn’t completely stop eating meat, but doesn’t eat it as often as they once did. It used to be that when someone stopped eating meat, they wouldn’t have any at all in their diet.
But medical studies have shown that even adopting a part time vegetarian meal plan gives you the best of both worlds. You can make delicious tasting meals without meat that are less expensive and can add years to your life because you’re eating healthier.
Small Nutritional Changes Have a Big Impact on Your Health
The biggest mistake that anyone can make when they decide to change their eating habits is jumping in with both feet. People get so excited about a new way of eating that they want to immediately give it their all.
But the problem is that making overwhelming, sudden changes don’t work because when you’ve been used to eating a certain way for years, your mind and body won’t always cooperate.
You’ll think about the foods that you used to eat. You’ll crave them, and when you start an all or nothing change in your life, you can bet the foods you stopped eating will be all that you can think about.
It’s always best to make your environment supportive of your lifestyle eating changes. You can’t simple introduce abrupt changes and expect that everything will go smoothly, because it won’t.
Being someone who is used to eating meat – where it’s been a part of your daily life – then suddenly switching to different foods isn’t going to be easy. It’s because people are creatures of habit.
We associate foods with certain feelings and activities. We have our routines and know what we like to eat. Taking that away in one fell swoop can cause unease and stress.
The best way to change anything about your eating life is through a trickle down method. If you do it slowly, your body and your taste buds will become accustomed to this new way of eating.
By the time you’ve completely changed to a part time vegetarian way of eating, you’ll be so used to it that it will go smoothly. If you’re someone who eats meat in all of your meals out of the seven days a week, then you start by replacing one meat meal a week.
This meal would need to be one of your lighter meals. You don’t want to start with a dinner meal because that meal can potentially be one of the most stressful meals of the week, depending what you have going on.
Start with a breakfast or a lunch meal. Replace the meat with a vegetarian alternative or with vegetables. Do this for a couple of weeks. Then the next week, remove meat from a second meal.
Make sure you do it on the same day. As the weeks go by, increase the amount of meals where meat isn’t part of the recipe. Or, you can get involved in a plan where you choose one day of the week and you don’t have any meat at all.
Then you add another day and then another. If you go slowly, you can switch to a meatless way of eating without hassle. Going vegetarian is easier than going vegan, because you can still enjoy things like eggs and dairy, giving you more options as you make the transition.
Meatless Mondays Are a Good Place to Start
Meatless Mondays are a way to make it easy to get into the swing of switching your eating to a part time vegetarian lifestyle. This term was coined as part of a movement designed to get people to stop consuming as much meat – not only for their benefit but for the benefit of the planet as well.
It’s a catchy term designed to be easy to remember. When you decide to start with Meatless Mondays, you can switch out your meat meals for ones that don’t have any meat easily.
Instead of having a chicken meal, have beans and rice with vegetables on the side. Rather than stopping for a fast food cheeseburger when it’s time to eat, make a delicious veggie burger at home.
You’ll save money and it’s better for your food budget and for your health. Many people relate not eating meat as often to improving their heart health. Medical studies have proven that people who don’t consume as much meat in their diet gain several health benefits over those who do.
Making Meatless Mondays part of your eating plan can help you lose weight, and can stave off obesity. Besides the improvement you’ll see with how much weight you carry, you’ll also lower your risk of developing certain health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes.
You can also lower your risk of developing dementia and other neurological health problems. Many people don’t realize that having a Meatless Monday commitment can lower their chances of getting cancer.
One of the risk factors involved in developing cancers like colon cancer is the consumption of meats such as lunch meats and red meat. Processed meats can be especially hard on the body and elevate your cancer risk higher than other types of meat.
You stand a great chance of being diagnosed with cancers like stomach cancer, lung or pancreatic cancer. Instituting a Meatless Mondays plan boosts your health and helps you lower your cancer risks.
Sneaking Meatless Substitutes Into Family Meals
Whenever you want to make healthy changes such as limiting the amount of meat that’s part of your meals, not everyone will be excited at the prospect. In fact, you’ll probably face plenty of opposition.
When it comes to the way that we eat, most people don’t like change. And if they know that something is different, they’ll often close their mind to the possibility of giving it a chance before they even take a single bite of the food.
That’s why, being a little sneaky can pay off. When you want to cut down on the amount of meat that your family eats for meals, you may have to replace the meat and just not say a word about it.
That is, at least until the meal is over and everyone has said how great the food tasted. When you’re planning to replace meat in a meal and not say anything to your family about it until after it’s done, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that.
Never spring a brand new recipe on your family that doesn’t have meat in it. Because the recipe will be one they’ve never had before, it already has the potential to not be pleasing to everyone.
So start with a recipe that you know your family already loves to eat. You’ll want to pick a meal where you can substitute meat with something like vegetarian crumbles.
These are meat substitutes that don’t contain any cholesterol or trans fat. These meatless products look like meat and have the texture of meat, but they’re not made with any meat products.
Instead, they’re made with healthy alternatives. Because of the texture, it’s easy to swap this food out in something such as tacos. The crumbles can be seasoned the same way with the taco seasoning and other ingredients, your family won’t be able to tell that it’s not beef.
You can do the same with any recipe that requires crumbled ground beef. It will work in casseroles and in soups, too. Many people also use this for dishes such as spaghetti sauce or beef stroganoff.
By using meatless meats, your family has the satisfaction of thinking they’re eating meat but with none of the downside effects. When it comes to using meat substitutes in meals, most people think of beef substitutes, but eating healthy meatless meals also includes substitutes like chicken.
For example, if your family is a fan of chicken nuggets, you can switch the real meat ones out for meatless chicken nuggets that look and are shaped like meat-filled ones but aren’t. This choice is a lot healthier for you.
Yummy Meatless Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Ideas
The good news about changing your eating style to part time vegetarian is that you gain a lot of new and delicious meals that you can have. While these recipes might not have meat, they don’t lack color, flavor or enough taste to please even picky eaters.
Vegetarian meals are easy to make for any meal – including lunch or dinner. And you can always make extra for dinner to have leftovers so that you can have a quick and easy lunch meal for home or the office the following day.
Tacos are always a family favorite and while you can add something like crumbles to this meal, you can also go completely vegetable with it. All you have to do is use a little bit of olive oil mixed with onion powder and chili powder for seasoning.
Stir in a mixture of diced squash, zucchini, corn and red bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft. Spoon into tortillas and enjoy. Any meal that you have that calls for meat, if you don’t want to use a meat substitute, you can replace the meat with vegetables.
You can also make vegetarian pizza using flatbread and topping it with vegetables like squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and onions. You cook the vegetables with oil, then put them on the flatbread and heat them until the bread is warm.
Any traditional meat dish can be tweaked and turned into a vegetarian one. If you love hamburgers but don’t want to eat meat and don’t feel like using a meat substitute, then you can use eggplant.
Top it with tomato and onion after it’s cooked and you can have a meal that tastes like burger but doesn’t have the unhealthy parts. There are tons of recipes online and in cookbooks that you can access to find great lunch and dinner meal recipes.
Eating vegetarian breakfasts are wholesome, healthy, and can give you energy to last through even the busiest of mornings. Smoothies are a great way to eat a vegetarian breakfast while on the go if you need to leave the house before having time for a sit down meal.
You can have oatmeal or yogurt topped with granola and fruit slices. Pancakes are always a good idea and there’s also eggplant frittata. Avocado toast is a great choice, and so is quiche made with a variety of vegetables.
You can use cheese, too if you eat dairy such as Colby-Jack or mild cheddar cheese in the quiche. If you go the vegan route, then you won’t be able to have cheese or eggs.
Meatless Isn’t Always Healthy
Deciding to go meatless part time is a good thing for your health and you can make meals taste just as great. You won’t even know meat is missing from the dish.
But if you go meatless, you do have to do it the right way. If you don’t carefully plan out what you’re going to eat and pay attention to the meals, they can have some surprises in the ingredients that you won’t like.
Not paying attention to what’s in the food that you make, or buy can lead you to eating food that’s loaded with fat and calories, which counteracts the good you’re trying to do for your health.
If you decide that you want to use a meatless substitute in your recipes, check the label. Read how much fat content it has – if any. If the substitute has a high fat content, then it’s worse for you to eat than meat is.
Check out the calorie count as well and also look for other ingredients that won’t be good for your health such as a sodium count that’s much too high. Just because a food is labeled as meatless and claims to be vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Processed foods, even vegetarian processed foods, aren’t the healthiest choice to make. You’re always better off eating as much wholesome, natural food as you can.
But if you do eat something like a meat substitute, make sure the substitute isn’t altered with things like vegetable protein. There are chemicals inside these types of foods that are altered that make it not only unhealthy for you to eat but puts your future health at risk of diseases.
Do your homework and search for lists of vegetarian products that are not recommended because of the fat, calorie or other ingredients on the list that aren’t healthy.
There are some recipes that will tell you that the meal is low fat, low calorie and 100% vegetarian. But what can happen is that a sauce the recipe calls for can have meat by-products.
You can also end up with a full day’s supply of your sodium value by eating certain kinds of sauces. Learn what words on products can mean unhealthy fat content or animal content. For example, if you see gelatin on a product, it means that animal proteins are present in the food.
Perhaps you read Rip Esselstyn’s The Engine 2 Diet or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and want to reduce your risk of lifestyle related diseases and avoid factory farms, or perhaps it’s the recent U.N. study that said eating less meat is better for the planet — either way, there’s no doubt that reducing your meat intake and embracing a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health and the environment.
It’s trendy too, thanks to UC Berkeley professor and food writer Michael Pollan, famous for In Defense of Food and Omnivore’s Dilemma. His simple credo re-defined what it means to eat smart today: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan emphasizes the importance of knowing how one’s food was raised, eating locally and organic by “shopping the seasons” at the farmers market, and avoiding the growing number of “Frankenfoods” on the market — high in mysterious additives. “Don’t eat anything with ingredients your grandmother wouldn’t recognize!” he warns. His advice may sound like a joke, but when it comes to food chemicals, trans fats, and genetically modified foods, it could help prevent long-term health implications.
Many others have contributed to the “flexitarian” paradigm: from well-known garden-to-table chef Alice Waters, DYI urban homesteaders like Novella Carpenter, and the Oscar-nominated film, Food Inc. Keeping transportation and environmental costs in mind, this philosophy of eating says support your farmers market, eat whole foods, and limit your meat consumption to grass-fed, wild meats.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a diet that is quite different than the standard American diet, which is generally based around meat and animal products.
Think about the traditional breakfast; eggs and bacon, right? What about lunch? That’s probably a sandwich with some type of lunchmeat. And dinner… well, if there isn’t meat on the plate then it’s probably not dinner.
A plant-based diet focuses on vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. And oh boy there are so many different foods to choose from. You’re going to be amazed at the variety. Many people feel like a plant-based diet is going to be restrictive. The opposite is true. When you come around to eating foods that are grown, rather than born, your mindset shifts and you realize the bounty that surrounds you.
Adopting a plant-based diet can be a great move for your health as well as the environment. Take the Pledge to Go Plant-Based for 30 Days challenges you to try the diet for 30 days and see how you get on!