Meat tends to be a center staple at mealtimes, and with the growing availability of different sources and varieties of meat, a carnivorous mentality can be hard to break. There are current misconceptions about vegetarian dishes because people view meatless meals as having insufficient protein. But it is possible to have hearty, protein-filled meals that are meatless. Recent studies have demonstrated that lessening meat consumption in favor of more vegetarian fare can have many benefits. You can improve your health, the environment, and even your wallet by swapping meat for plant-based foods at least once a week.
HEALTH: There is a soaring emphasis on health and prevention of chronic disease, and choosing plant-based meals has a wide variety of health advantages. Plant-based diets allow for a lower intake of saturated fat and consist of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and phytochemicals, which are all components of a healthy, balanced diet. Health advantages of a plant-based diet include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a lower risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes. By trading meat for plant options at least once a week, you are one-step closer to a healthier you!
ENVIRONMENT: Helping the environment is also a key reason for choosing plant-based foods. Meat production is a main contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases and could potentially have an effect on climate change. Land, water, fertilizer, and oil are all used in vast amounts to produce meat. It takes much less resources to grow other nutritious plant-based foods. The environmental impact of consuming nine hamburger patties in a household is equivalent to driving your automobile 100 miles. Therefore meat production takes a major environmental toll that you can help reduce.
MONEY: Want to get more bang for your buck? Meatless meals are also friendlier on your wallet! Increasing the number of meat products in your diet is related to significantly higher diet costs. Next time, instead of choosing meat at the grocery store, go for legumes, lentils, or beans, which are all great protein sources that keep you feeling fuller for longer. These can "hearty" up your dish without adding a dent in your budget.
Popular movements like "Meatless Mondays" have taken the world by storm! The "Meatless Mondays" movement promotes lessening meat consumption by starting the week off with meat-free alternatives. Its purpose is to "improve personal health and the health of the planet." Restaurants and schools in 23 different countries have joined this effort. Participating in "Meatless Mondays" is a perfect step towards planting up your plate!
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc.
Schwarzer S. Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Due to Meat Production. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Environment Program; 2012. Global Environmental Alert Service Bulletin.
Carlsson-Kanyama A and Gonzalez AD. Potential contributions of food consumption patterns to climate change. Am J ClinNutr.
Drewnowski A, Darmon N, and Briend A. Replacing Fats and Sweets With Vegetables and Fruits: A Question of Cost. Am J Public Health.
Meatless Monday home page. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine home page. Accessed November 14, 2012.