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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Go vegetarian…even if it’s just for a few meals a week!

By: Karen McPartland, RD

Today, it’s easier than ever to go Vegetarian … and many people are making the switch! The American Dietetic Association holds the position that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and can provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.  Vegetarians have been reported to have lower rates of death from heart disease as well as lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.  These are just some of the reasons why The Princeton Longevity Center supports individuals who choose to be vegetarian with appropriate dietary guidance to ensure that their nutritional needs are met.  We also guide non-vegetarians as they work to create a better balance between plant food intake and animal food intake so that their risk of disease is minimized. 

If becoming vegetarian is not right for you or your family, simply increasing your intake of plant foods as you reduce your intake of animal foods may still provide health benefits related to a diet that is high in fiber and micronutrients and low in saturated fat (from animal foods).  The term “flexitarianism” describes this type of diet where vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption is the focus.  Currently, there are no guidelines for how much or how little meat one must eat to be classified as a flexitarian.  So, if you use the 4 easy tips listed below, you can call yourself a flexitarian and can hopefully, reap in some of the benefits of a plant-based diet.     

  1. Think about 3 vegetarian meals that you like.   What are some meatless meals that you have enjoyed in the past?  Think about 3 vegetarian meals that you like to eat and aim to eat these 3 meals during the next 3 week period.  Look up recipes for the 3 vegetarian meals that you like and try making them at home.  If you prefer to dine out or grab take-out, pay closer attention to the menu and look for vegetarian options or even ask if they can prepare a vegetarian version of a menu item for you.  Interest in vegetarianism appears to be increasing; so many restaurants offer vegetarian meals and are willing to accommodate requests for vegetarian meals.  Some examples of vegetarian menu items include: vegetable pizza, a veggie burger, stir fry with beans or tofu, bean burritos or tacos, some Indian curries or samosas, Middle Eastern tabouli, salad bars with vegetable and bean components, etc. 
  1. Modify your favorite recipes:  Think of your favorite recipes and replace the animal food in them (chicken, beef, pork, etc.) with something vegetarian.  Beans can be used in soups instead of chicken, ham or beef.  Use vegetarian “crumbles” in place of ground beef for meatballs or taco meat, etc.  Try tofu in place of chicken in a stir fry.  Make pizza with tomato sauce and different vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, etc.) while leaving the cheese off.  The options are endless!
  1. Try one new vegetarian recipe each week:  Experiment with different vegetarian recipes by trying one new recipe each week.  Make note of the ones that you enjoyed and then begin rotating through them as you continue to try one new vegetarian recipe each week!  You may find that designating a specific day of the week that will be vegetarian is helpful.  Many people designate “Meatless Mondays” in their household so every Monday they eat vegetarian all day or just at dinner.
  1. Make a quick trade:  Try trading half of the meat portion of a meal for vegetarian protein.  Here are some examples:  replace some beef with black beans in your tacos, add kidney beans to your chicken soup as you add less chicken, add hummus spread to your sandwich as you use fewer slices of turkey, etc.  

References:
J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:748-765.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexitarianism (last accessed 6/16/09)

 

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