Meatless Mondays have become the new norm for many organizations, schools and homes and many are turning to vegetarianism as a weight loss diet plan or simply healthy living and reducing our ecological footprints on the planet.
In your research for how a meatless diet plan works and what it can do for you, consider how much meat means to you and your meal planning. You may want to try a one day (or one meal) per week plan to do without meat before you dive into a complete vegetarian lifestyle.
Basic Principles of a Meatless Diet
A meatless diet plan means that you abstain from consuming meat, which includes seafood, red meat, poultry and any other animal flesh and it can help you lose weight when done properly.
An extended form of vegetarianism includes shunning any by-products that causes an animal to be slaughtered. You can lose weight by going meatless even once a week, but the main concepts of a meatless diet are to reduce the risk of diseases and to protect the earth’s resources such as fresh water and fossil fuels.
We now know that consuming meat can increase many chronic and sometimes preventable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Consuming more vegetables has been found to decrease the risk of coronary disease and strokes.
That, alone, is enough to make you want to switch to a meatless diet plan. And research has shown that even having one meatless meal per week can significantly help your overall health.
Your wallet will likely get fatter if you go meatless. Weekly budgets can be reduced by adding meatless meals to your menu planning. Meat is more expensive than beans, grains and vegetables that you would typically substitute for meat.
There are so many extra expenses for producing meat – and it’s passed along to you, the consumer. Raising meat for food requires feed and other necessities, plus the transportation costs to get it to market.
Healthcare is also a good reason for going meatless. You may be able to curb the onset of expensive health care since consuming meat adds to your risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as coronary, stroke and cancer.
Strong evidence shows that eating a diet that limits red and processed meats can increase your longevity. Plant-based proteins such as legumes give you a higher percentage of fiber, magnesium, iron, folate, protein and zinc and also lower your saturated and total fat intake.
Another principle of following a meatless diet plan is that it helps the environment. It takes many more gallons of water to yield only one pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of vegetables.
You can minimize water usage by eating vegetables and grains. Reducing fuel dependence is another reason to think about a meatless diet plan. The meat industry uses tons of energy to have enough grain to feed livestock.
Who a Meatless Diet Works Best For
Those who are concerned about the environment, the treatment of animals or who might be at high risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary disease, stroke and cancer can reduce the risk by eating a meatless diet.
As research progresses on eating meat versus eating fruits and vegetables, evidence shows that going meatless can be a significant factor in staying healthy and feeling better.
Obesity can also be helped or avoided by adhering to a meatless diet plan. Studies show that people who ate a diet of plant-based, vegetarian meals have a lower body weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) than those who eat diets with heavy amounts of meat.
If you’ve been told or know from your family history that you have a high risk for cancer, coronary disease and other chronic diseases, you should think about reducing the amount of meat in your diet – or going completely vegetarian.
Studies show that almost any health problem can be helped by reducing meat intake and concentrating on a diet of vegetables and fruit – rich in fiber and other nutrients and minerals.
A meat-free diet can also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other mental health problems. Mental acuity is especially important to be concerned about as you age.
Vegetarians are often concerned about getting enough protein in their diets. It’s easy if you’re just abstaining from meat, but also eat dairy products such as milk and cheese. Vegans are a branch of vegetarians who also abstain from any animal by-products but can still get enough protein from plant-based foods such as soy and quinoa.
If you’re a person who loves meat and would find it very difficult to give it up, try the meatless meal one day a week – and experiment with recipes. You might find that you want to add more meatless days to your regimen.
Cutting down on meat consumption can definitely do wonders for your health – helping you lose weight and get fit – and make an impact on the environment at the same time.
How to Get Prepared for a Meatless Diet
First, you need to research the diet thoroughly if you plan to dive in and become a vegetarian or vegan. You should know all of the good and bad about taking on a meatless diet.
Thorough research can help fend off the negative comments from those in your life who may not approve of the diet or who think it may be bad for your health. When you know how a vegetarian diet can enhance your overall well-being and help you lose weight, you can successfully state your reasons for switching to a meatless diet.
Fortunately, there are some great vegetarian foods available on the market today. They’re available in supermarkets and health food stores. You might also want to frequent farmers’ markets to find some unique and nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Grains you can find that may be new to you include barley, quinoa, couscous, millet, orzo and alfalfa. They all make great additions to your vegetarian meal. You’ll also see faux meat items such as vegan faux chicken, veggie dogs and veggie burgers.
You may not like some of the faux-vegetarian meals, but try a few to see if they are possibilities you can add to your menu. Veggie faux hamburger meat can be used in soups, stews and sauces like spaghetti sauce. Most people won’t know the difference.
Take some time to learn how to read labels. Some products use additives, thickeners and other items that aren’t vegetarian. You’ll also need to know if you’re meeting your nutritional needs on a meatless diet.
If you decide to go meatless one day per week, don’t fall into the trap of eating unhealthy snacks and processed or fast food. A good vegetarian diet plan is based on fresh-cooked meals using grains, vegetables and beans.
Shop seasonally for vegetarian items like fruits and vegetables. You’ll pay less and get the benefit of eating fresh and healthy food. When you decide to adhere to a meatless diet plan, it’s an adventure in shopping, finding new recipes and trying new things.
Sample Meal Plan for a Meatless Diet
Whether you plan to quit meat cold turkey or just eliminate meat from your diet one or two days per week, it’s a good idea to plan your meals ahead of time so you won’t be tempted to eat unhealthy items such as a bag of chips or a candy bar for your nourishment.
There are so many incredible meals you can create without using meat that you’ll be amazed at the choices – and the taste. You’ll find that you don’t have to feel deprived, but instead embarking on a wonderful and tasty journey of eating and preparing foods and one that improves your health.
It’s not complicated and there are many healthy and simple meals you can try that don’t involve meat. You can get your protein with foods such as whole grains, nuts and beans and they also provide similar texture and calories as meat.
Other vitamins and minerals can be obtained by the vegetables and fruits you choose. Breakfast options are plentiful – oatmeal, skim or soy milk, honey, whole grain bagel with herbed cheese
Try vegetarian bacon or sausage with a scrambled egg and some whole wheat toast. Always include some fruit with your breakfast to complete the health circle. Strawberries, blueberries and peaches can perk up whole grain cereal and other choices.
Lunches can be hearty and satisfying and include everything from soups and salads to sandwiches and bean tacos or burritos. Vegetarian chili made with tofu (faux hamburger meat is also an option for soups and stews), cornbread and salad make a great lunch.
If you need to pack lunches for school or the office, try a veggie wrap or pita sandwich made with hummus, lettuce, cucumbers and include options such as avocados, cheese or beans.
Quesadillas and veggie burgers are always great options for lunch or dinner. For a quesadilla, simply melt some cheese between two flour tortillas and add some roasted peppers and tomatoes. You can purchase pre-packaged veggie burgers in several flavors or make your own.
Pasta, steamed vegetables, salads, veggie fajitas, soups and stews can all be exchanged in lunch and dinner options. Many slow-cooker options exist for the vegetarian that can provide hearty and healthy meals – and leftovers for lunches.
Experiment with some of your old meat recipes and substitute tofu-based meat substitutes or vegetables. With the great options available today it’s difficult to tell the difference.
Use your imagination for snacks and desserts, but choose healthy options like walnuts, fresh dates, fruit and veggie snacks dipped in hummus. Smoothies, seeds and dried fruit can also be great snacks, but watch out for high caloric content.
Tips to Increase Success on a Meatless Diet
Newbies to the meatless diet are usually enthused for awhile, but tend to become bored with being a vegetarian if it’s not satisfying to them or they haven’t found enough variety to keep them interested.
That’s why it’s a good idea to try going meatless one or two days a week and experiment with recipes before going entirely meatless. Making a gradual change can help you eventually succeed.
You may want to start by eliminating one type of meat from your diet. It’s recommended that you take pork off your meat list first, then chicken and fish after a week. The next week you might eliminate beef and finally, shell fish such as shrimp and crab.
After a couple of weeks the cravings for meat should subside or stop entirely. You’ll likely have a few relapses – that’s normal. You’ve been eating meat probably all your life and this is a whole new ballgame for you.
You can’t really call yourself a vegetarian until you stop eating animal flesh altogether. Eating meatless meals one or two days a week makes you a semi-vegetarian. If you’re trying to lose weight on the meatless diet, be careful about the calories you’re consuming.
Some vegetarian choices such as nuts and dates can add unnecessary calories to your meal if you over-indulge. Most restaurants and even fast food places today have vegetarian options on the menu, but be aware that some may be laden with calories.
If your family wants to continue eating meat, don’t make a big deal of it. Learn how to fix yourself a vegetarian meal such as a grilled cheese sandwich or pasta when they’re eating meat. Pre-packaged vegetarian meals can help give you some variety.
Those who want to embark on a meatless diet usually worry about getting a complete protein. Don’t worry – you’ll be eating legumes, grains, eggs and dairy and soy, which are also complete proteins.
If you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner and you know they will likely have a meat dish for the main entrée, call them ahead of time and let them know that you no longer eat meat, but can eat side dishes such as a salad.
It’s not good to blindside a host at the last minute after they’ve gone to some expense and time to prepare the meal. Letting them know ahead of time will help everyone stay comfortable.
When you make the decision to commit to a meatless diet, let your close friends and family know of your decision. You may get some opposition at first because people are sometimes misinformed about vegetarianism.
That’s where research beforehand can help you answer their questions and concerns. In the end, it’s your decision and others will get used to it eventually. They may even begin their own commitment to eat meatless at least once per week.
So many good reasons exist for eating a meatless diet – losing weight, lessening your impact on the earth’s eco-system, abstaining from animal flesh to keep them from being slaughtered, improving your overall health and lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
It may not be easy at first, but eventually you’ll be glad you made the choice to eat a meatless diet and your mind will reflect the positive changes of replacing meat-heavy meals with a plant-based diet instead.