Moving Toward Meatless: Simple Steps to Improve Your Health
A quiet revolution is taking place across this country. In more and more homes, meat and potatoes are fading into the background as plant-based meals assume center stage. If this conjures up images of your family sitting around the dinner table staring dejectedly at a big bowl of lettuce or piles of steamed broccoli, think again. Meatless doesn’t have to be miserable – and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. The path to a more vibrant, more vegetarian version of yourself can begin with just a few small steps.
The Case for Reducing Meat Consumption
There is a multitude of reasons for easing into a meatless menu. One compelling motivation to make this change is the mounting evidence of a very troubling shift in rates of colon cancer. Once considered a malady of middle age and beyond, this illness has been seen with increasing frequency in patients under the age of 50 – even as rates of diagnosis have dropped among people aged 50 and over. No one knows for sure why more and more young people are falling victim to colon cancer, but one thing is clear: there is a strong link between diet and risk when it comes to this disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, you can reduce your chances of a colon cancer diagnosis by:
- Exercising regularly
- Scheduling routine screenings
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Refraining from smoking
- Drinking little or no alcohol
- Increasing consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
Many of these lifestyle changes provide benefits beyond cancer prevention.
Easing Into Healthy Habits
Whether you’re looking to minimize your cancer risk or your waistline, you can establish new routines by committing to one or two changes at a time and sticking with them. You don’t have to eliminate meat suddenly or altogether in order to see big benefits. Make it exciting, keep it upbeat, and get your whole family involved. Some easy – and even fun – ways to kick start your shift toward meatless meals include:
- Eliminate the worst offenders: red meats and processed items such as sausage or deli slices should be the first to go.
- Hit the farmers’ market each week looking for a fruit or vegetable no one in your family has heard of, and learn to prepare it (or eat it raw!).
- Make a list of favorite vegetarian meal items and snacks you already love and post it in your kitchen; add to it as you explore new options.
- Create meat-free versions of your family’s favorite meals using alternate ingredients (e.g. spaghetti with veggies and marinara in place of Bologna) or meat substitutes to maintain flavor and texture consistent with your tastes.
- Observe Meatless Mondays, and have each family member choose one plant-based dish to serve for dinner.
With all of the quality vegetarian foods and online resources available today, joining the growing meatless movement can be a breeze.
What are some of your favorite vegetarian and vegan meals? Have you found a great way to make a traditional dish meatless? I'd love to hear about it!