By Anthony J Sepe
From the editors of the July issue of Woman’s Day Magazine, can you be a part-time vegetarian? Known as a flexitarian diet, loaded with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, flexitarianism gives you the best of both worlds: You get your meat fix and the healthy perks of a vegetarian diet.
The 5 big reasons to do it:
- You’ll save lots of money. Vegetarian protein sources such as beans, low-fat dairy and eggs cost a fraction of the price of meat.
- It’s naturally slimming. “People whose diets are plant-based weigh15% less than meat-eaters,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and author of “The Flexitarian Diet” (McGraw-Hill,2009). “For the average woman, that’s about 25 pounds less.”
- It helps your heart. A flexitarian diet lowers your risk of hypertension because you’re eating lots of the blood pressure-lowering mineral potassium, found mainly in produce. Low in saturated fat and high in soluble fiber(which soaks up cholesterol and shuttles it our of your body,) this type of diet also cuts cholesterol.
- It protects against cancer. People who eat a plant-based diet and exercise regularly slash their risk of cancer by 30% to 40%, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
- It’s kinder to the planet. Animal protein requires 11 times more energy to produce than grains. What’s more, raising meat uses 26 times more water than growing vegetable protein.
- Set a goal of how many days you’d like to go meatless each week. Many people start with as little as two and eventually do four or more.
- Add, don’t subtract. Try eating new sources of plant protein such as beans and tofu instead of taking away meat. Adding beans to chili or tofu to stir-fry dishes will help your taste buds adjust.
- Try the 50/50 swap. Trade half of the meat portion of your meal for vegetarian protein such as beans, tofu or a high-protein pasta or quinoa. For example, try a half steak, half black-bean taco. Gradually work your way up to making the meal 100% meatless.
- Get the right grains. They’re an important, satisfying part of a plant-based diet. Go with whole grains, which have more protein, fiber and nutrients than refined ones such as white rice. Go with brown and whole wheat pasta instead of regular. Then venture into the exotic grains such as bulgar, quinoa, millet and barley, and incorporate them into soups, salads and pilafs.
- Don’t forget the diary. It’s an important source of calcium and vitamin D, and you need about 2 cups of reduced-fat milk, yogurt or cheese a day. If the equivalent with fortified soy or almond milk.
- Satisfy a meat craving. “Many people who crave meat aren’t necessarily wanting the actual protein as much as the meaty flavor known as umami,” says Blantner. “Foods including mushrooms (which are also meaty in texture), cooked tomatoes, and aged Parmesan and soy sauce have that super-savory flavor.”