Celebrity chefs do it. Paul McCartney does it. Heck, even school kids are doing it.
It’s an eating style that’s become a global movement. With all the commotion, I thought I’d take a look … and I’m glad I did.
Eating this way not only lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity …
It lightens the burden on a planet that must now feed more than 7 billion people.
Best of all, it’s easy.
The meat-reduction revolution
University researchers recently compared the health status of people who ate red meat to those who were vegetarian. Compared to the carnivores, those who went meatless were less likely to develop heart disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes. They were also less likely to be overweight, have high blood pressure or die prematurely.
Cutting your consumption of meat is not nearly as hard as you think.
For just about every meat item on the market, there’s a meat-free version that’s surprisingly good.
And with so much fresh produce available year-round, there is no shortage of alternatives.
Even if you don’t want to go full-out vegetarian, you can reap huge benefits from altering your carnivorous habits in small ways.
Results from 2 long-term studies indicate that increasing the daily intake of red meat — both unprocessed and processed — by as little as 1 serving a day increases the risk of premature death by up to 20%.
Conversely, the researchers report that reducing red meat intake to less than half a serving per day (about 1 1/2 ounces) can reduce premature death by about 9% for men and 8% for women.
A great example of reducing your carnivorous ways is a movement called Meatless Monday.
Meatless Monday is an international movement designed to help people give up animal-based foods for 24 hours in favor of vegetarian options.
For one thing, people think of Mondays as a day for a fresh start.
You’re more likely to start diets and exercise regimes, quit smoking and schedule doctor’s appointments on Monday than any other day.
And a Monday start helps you carry out your healthy intentions for the week.
Tweaking your diet for just a day shows you how easy it can be to make that change permanent.
Join the party
If you want to try your hand at Meatless Monday, experiment with some of these plant-protein options in place of meat:
- Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and other grains. It contains about 15 grams of protein per ½-cup serving. While tofu is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it denser. Because of that, braise tempeh in a flavorful liquid for at least 1 hour before cooking to soften it.
- Tofu is a soybean-based protein powerhouse. A ½-cup serving of firm tofu provides about 10 grams of protein. It’s a good alternative for cubed pork, chicken or beef. Throw it in a stir-fry, fajitas or salad.
- Hemp seeds provide 10 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon serving. It gives any soup or salad a nutty flavor along with a protein boost. Top a plate of zucchini “noodles” (peeled strips spiraled into a noodle shape) with a spicy pesto with hemp seeds.
- Quinoa, a “pseudocereal” seed, delivers an impressive 8 grams of protein per 1-cup cooked serving. Add it to your favorite veggie burger recipe, combine with fresh basil for stuffed tomatoes or add to your favorite bean chili recipe for a thick, rich texture.
- Peas (split and black-eyed) are go-to plant proteins for many vegetarians. Each 1/2 cup cooked serving provides about 7 to 8 grams of protein. Just the thought of a hearty bowl of split-pea soup warms the soul.
- Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are fiber- and nutrient-rich, with very little fat. At around 7 grams of protein per 1/2 cup cooked serving, they offer more protein than many other legumes. Throw some on a salad or in a stew. Or, make an easy and delicious hummus dip by combining with lemon juice, fresh garlic and sesame seed oil.
An old-time meat favorite … made over!
Almost everyone loves a good chili. But when it’s made with meat, chili can be high in saturated fat.
When we crunched the numbers for a traditional Texas-style beef chili recipe that serves 4 people, we found that a single serving packs over 800 calories and 52 grams of fat (mostly saturated). Ouch!
I found a great meatless makeover for it from the Meatless Monday website.
It lightens the calorie and fat load considerably with just over 200 calories and 8 grams of fat (mostly unsaturated) per serving.
Try it and let me know how you like it!
Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili*
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes with green peppers
- 4 teaspoons lime juice
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
Place the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add the butternut squash and onion and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the onion softens slightly.
Season with the garlic, chili powders, cumin and salt.
Stir to ensure the spices are evenly distributed and cook for about 30 seconds more, or until they become fragrant.
Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender.
Add the beans, tomatoes and lime juice to the pot.
Increase heat to high and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly.
Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and enjoy!
If you like this one, the Meatless Monday folks have compiled 9 other meatless chili recipes that are free to download here.
Try some of the recipes and let me know what you think!
Steven Sisskind, M.D.
*Reprinted with permission from The Mondays Campaigns, Inc..
1. Le LT, Sabaté J. Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts. Nutrients. 2014;6(6):2131-47. PMID: 24871675.
2. Pan A, Sun Q, Bernstein AM, et al. Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(7):555-563. PMID: 22412075.