Thinking of going meatless — or at least reducing your consumption of animal-based foods? Here are two reasons to try it: your health and the planet's health.
An ever-increasing body of research identifies a plant-based diet as one that puts you at a decreased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and several types of cancer. This is because a plant-based diet typically includes foods with higher amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and lower amounts of saturated fat.
Or, maybe sustainability is your goal. The environmental benefits of eating a more plant-based diet are supported by countless research studies which show that animal and dairy food production is more taxing on natural resources (water, land and energy) than plant food production. According the Environmental Working Group, if everyone in the U.S. gave up meat and cheese for one day a week, over a year, it would have the same effect as taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
Now that you're motivated to eat less meat, you may have some questions.
Can I Get Enough Protein?
Absolutely. There are lots of meatless foods that contain a good amount of protein including lentils, beans, tofu, soybeans and edamame, soy products, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds and eggs. Eating a variety of protein-rich plant foods insures you’ll meet your nutrient needs.
How Will I Feel Full?
Protein and fiber are nutrients that help us feel full. And fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lentils, beans and seeds are all full of fiber. Incorporate more fiber into your diet by adding a second vegetable side to dinner, sprinkling chia seeds over your salad, or eating berries for dessert.
Do I Have to Purchase More Ready-to-Eat or Processed Foods?
No! Although the food industry has many processed meat-free offerings for quick meals, with a little planning you can create vegetarian meals from scratch.
Are Meat-Free Foods More Expensive?
Try this experiment. The next time you are at the grocery store, compare the price of a bag of dried lentils to the price of a pound of cheese or chicken breasts. Not only is the bag of lentils less expensive, it has a longer shelf life and yields more meals. So, you can add "budget-friendliness" as another benefit to going meatless!