Are you one of those people who claim they could never go completely vegetarian? I sure am. Honestly, I think I could easily give up all meat except for seafood . . . and bacon (Why is it so inexplicably delicious?). However, I do have many days where I “accidentally” go vegetarian, mostly because I’m not the best cook and because I hate dealing with raw meat.
For me, it’s much easier to eat meatless at home and harder to find an appealing vegetarian option on a restaurant menu. So I’ll save my splurges for the occasional meal out. One of my favorite work lunches is a DIY salad, in which I throw together mixed greens, berries (or watermelon in the summer), walnuts and feta cheese in a deep Tupperware container. Unless I’m supplementing with plenty of snacks, this usually isn’t very filling. I’m not a fan of cold meat, so I’ll add in slices of avocado and toss vinaigrette dressing in when it’s time to eat. This buttery green fruit is filling and full of “good,” AKA monounsaturated, heart-healthy fat. I’m also always looking for quick and easy dinners—tomato soup with whole-wheat cous cous and a little bit of grated Parmesan is an easy staple in my kitchen.
Experts say that going veg one day a week (or “Meatless Monday,” if you will) is better for you than you might think. It’s no secret that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of certain cancers. Reducing saturated fat-rich foods like meat and full fat dairy with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds can reduce your risk of heart disease by 19 percent, while high consumption of red and processed meat can significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It’s not as easy as simply eliminating meat, though. Assuming you’re not on an all-pasta and French fries diet, you are more likely to have a leaner body weight and body mass index if you follow a low-meat or completely vegetarian diet, as a reduction in overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain. While a vegetarian diet won’t be a weight loss cure-all, vegetarian protein sources like beans and legumes can be lower in fat and calories depending on how they’re cooked. As for supplementing nutrients, going meatless once a day isn’t much to cause concern. Iron deficiency in full-time vegetarians is actually quite rare, though vegans may need to supplement with B12.
Lastly, going fully or partially vegetarian will likely lead to a longer life, as red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality, as well as total mortality. By cutting out meat once a week, you’ll feel better physically and reap the benefits of a long, healthy life.