#MeatlessMonday: The benefits of going vegetarian once a week

woman holding broccoli You may have noticed your friends on social media trading in their burgers for beans once or twice a week. This switch to occasional vegetarianism (also known as flexitarianism) has become so trendy that it’s even started up its own hashtag: #MeatlessMonday. Here are three benefits of eating less meat:

1. It’s good for your health. Meat, a plentiful source of protein, is also a sneaky source of saturated fats. Most cholesterol-raising saturated fats come from animal products, such as meat and whole-milk dairy products. If you decrease your intake of meat, chances are you’ll also decrease your cholesterol levels. Going meatless isn’t just about what you’re avoiding, but what you’re gaining as well. Experts say that eating more whole grains, fruits and veggies can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

2. Meatless meals cost less. In general, choosing vegetarian meals over meat may save you a significant amount in your wallet. The North American Vegetarian Society says that it usually costs less to purchase plant-based protein than an equivalent amount of animal-based protein. Vegetarian meals are often cheaper because they’re based on simple beans and grains, which are dietary staples in many cultures.

3. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint. Scale back your use of natural resources through vegetarianism! Meat production uses more fossil fuels than growing vegetables. Producing meat can also use as many as 1,800 gallons of water for just 1 pound of beef. By simply switching to a vegetarian diet one day a week, you can make a big environmental impact.

If you’re ready to take the plunge into #MeatlessMonday, follow these tips to ensure you make healthy choices:

  • Stock your kitchen with protein-packed meat alternatives such as beans, nuts, whole grains and tofu.
  • Try meat-free versions of your favorite meals, such as removing the meat in your favorite chili or ordering a veggie pizza.
  • Make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Iron, vitamin B-12 and calcium are abundant in meat products, but can also be found in other ways. Iron and calcium are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. While vitamin B-12 is not naturally found in plant-based products, you can get this nutrient from fortified cereals, nonfat dairy products and eggs.
Still curious about switching to a vegetarian diet? Consult with a nutritionist at Cheshire Medical Center, and check out our recipe for vegetarian chili.