October 1st is World Vegetarian Day, a day founded by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) to kick off Vegetarian Awareness Month. Whether you follow a vegetarian diet or not, NAVS is hoping you will take a pause on October 1st to think about how a vegetable-based diet benefits your body, our environment and, of course, the animals we eat.
It is important for me to note that I am not a vegetarian. I do, however, commonly eat vegetarian meals and believe that we are a country that consumes too much meat. I was shocked last spring when writing about World Water Day to learn that our carnivore ways contribute significantly to our world water shortage.
The benefits from following a plant-based diet are significant, which is especially important at a time when 2/3 of Americans are in need of a diet intervention. With this in mind, I would like to make a case to you for why I think going meatless regularly is a good thing, even if you still plan to enjoy a great cut of steak every now and then.
People who follow a plant-based diet have been found to have…
Reduced risk of chronic disease
Vegetarian diets have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, including lower risk of developing hypertension and lower cholesterol levels. A plant-based diet is also associated with a lower risk of diabetes and reduced rates of cancer.
Individuals that follow a balanced, adequate vegetarian diet have a lower body mass index (BMI) and therefore are less likely to be obese…I want to stress that the key to achieving a good BMI is a balanced diet, which is more than just “not eating meat”.
More regular intake of essential nutrients
Balanced, plant-based diets provide more of those key nutrients our bodies need like fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, antioxidants and phytochemicals, all of which are essential for maintaining good health.
So how can you integrate more vegetarian meals into your regular diet?
Make meatless versions of your favorite meals.
Check out this helpful sheet that highlights tips for making more meals meatless. This informative piece from the team at Kids Eat Right reminds us that some of our favorite meals can easily become meatless meals, such as vegetable primavera, minestrone soup, bean burritos, potato soup and quesadillas. Begin incorporating more meals like these into your diet and you won’t even miss the meat.
Reshape your plate.
Reduce the protein portion and increase your vegetables so that even on evenings when animal-based proteins are on the menu, you are primarily consuming your vegetables.
Make your vegetables shine.
Our Guiding Stars Expert Chef, Erin Dow, did this with her Mediterranean Vegetable Stew. A recipe like this makes your vegetables seem like the main event and the meat take a backseat (or allows you to eliminate it all together).