Want to go meatless but don’t know where to start? I was a vegetarian starting when I was a teenager and continuing for 15 years. But, vegetables were not the centerpiece of my diet. Instead, I ate pasta, pizza, chips, desserts and other highly processed foods.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life advises: “Eating more plants is a great move for your health and the environment. But simply eating less meat doesn’t guarantee health benefits.”
Going meatless can be a healthy choice and the research demonstrates that plant-based diets are associated with heart health and longevity.
Want To Go Meatless and Do It In a Healthy Way?
Ms. Blatner has some suggestions. Here she details five mistakes when going meatless:
Mistake #1. Not replacing meat with other protein sources.
When you take something out of your diet, you take out the nutrients that food provided. Meat is a rich source of protein but also nutrients like iron and B vitamins. Good protein sources are beans and lentils, soy foods, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, and whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and sprouted grain breads.
Mistake #2. Too many processed faux meats.
There are more choices than ever for plant-based burgers, sausage, and ground “meat,” and they seem like a no-brainer good choice. But faux meats also tend to be heavily processed. More heavily processed foods like faux meats also contain ingredients that offer zero nutrition such as binders, preservatives, and coloring.
Mistake #3. Too much cheese.
Cheese is an easy way to get meat-free protein, but too much can end up adding a lot of saturated animal fat in your diet. Get most of your protein from plant-based sources and using smaller amounts of cheese to give flavor, then swapping in things like hummus, guacamole, and nut-based sauces made from cashews for the cheese in some dishes.
Mistake #4. Too many “beige carbs.”
Take a look at your plate before you eat. Is most everything tan or beige? Color is an easy and reliable marker of a healthy meal. More colors mean more phytochemicals or protective plant compounds you are getting.” Make sure your meals include plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. And when you do eat “beige carbs,” like pasta, bread, and wraps, opt for the whole-grain version to get more fiber and nutrients.
Mistake #5. Not enough vegetables.
The point of eating more plant-based is to eat more plants! But that doesn’t always happen.
Blatner has as a few tricks to help make it work:
Create a green base.
• No matter what you are eating, throw a handful of greens onto your plate/bowl & then top with your meal. Works for everything from lasagna to pasta to leftovers.
Do a 50-50 mix.
• When you eat pasta or rice, sub in half zucchini noodles, butternut squash noodles, carrot noodles, spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, or other riced veggies.
• Add coleslaw. Buy a pre-made coleslaw mix (typically shredded red and green cabbage plus carrots) and then throw it into any salad, stir-fry, or wrap to get an extra dose of veggies.
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