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Monday, September 5, 2016

Beyond Meatless Monday: The Part-Time Vegetarian

Meatless Monday has an alliterative ring to it, but what are the health benefits behind it?  Swapping out meat in your diet with vegetable sources of protein will:
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Decrease risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Improve your digestive health
  • Positively impact the environment (fewer resources used in producing plants vs. animals)

You may wonder if it’s possible to get enough protein during the day if you go meatless.  The answer is a definite yes.  On average Americans consume 1 ½ times the recommended amount of protein, plus most food groups contain varying amounts of protein, so adopting a “part-time vegetarian” lifestyle won’t be a problem when it comes to your overall nutrition.  

Here are some easy swaps that will allow you to go meatless without losing your favorite recipes:
  • Beans - for meats in casseroles, soups, tacos, enchiladas and even pita sandwiches.   
    Try adding chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cucumbers, tomatoes, and greek yogurt with a little dill and garlic to a whole wheat pita.

  • Mushrooms – with a great umami or savory, meat-like flavor, this is an ideal meat substitute.  Try grilling a portabella cap instead of a hamburger patty at your next BBQ, or saut√© mushrooms in your favorite stir fry or pasta dish to take the place of chicken or beef.  Plus mushrooms are the only source of Vitamin D in the produce aisle. 
    Use sliced portabella mushrooms just as you would use sliced beef or chicken in a stir fry.

  • Veg-out – in your next sandwich or Panini, load it up with caramelized onions, and a variety of grilled vegetables and with the explosion of flavor, you’ll never miss the meat.  Take advantage of the money savings of going meatless by having a baked potato bar once a week, and loading up your chicken soup with veggies and pearl barley instead of chicken.  

Whether you choose to make taco Tuesday meatless, incorporate a hearty main dish panzanella salad or a soup loaded with veggies and beans not only do you boost your nutrition, but you save money and possibly the planet as well.

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