By cutting down on the meat you eat, you can experience measurable health effects. You don’t need to go cold turkey and cut out all meat all the time – just a few meatless meals on occasion or plant-centric plates can go a long way to improving heart health.
Eating a plant-based meal every now and then can help you lower your risk of heart disease and obesity. Mixing in some meatless meals won’t require you to give up your carnivorous ways. We’ll let the experts explain.
Expert Tip #1:
Most of the cholesterol-raising saturated fats that Americans eat come from meat and full-fat dairy products such as whole milk cheese,” said Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University and an AHA volunteer. “If you decrease your daily intake of animal fat, you’re going to decrease your intake of saturated fat."
What’s in a meatless meal?
What does your dinner look like when you take meat off the menu? Your meal won’t be boring and there are more options than you’d think! For example – craving a burger? Try a savory grilled portabella mushroom burger. Look for plant-based alternatives which have limited added sugar, saturated fat and sodium.
Expert Tip #2:
Going meatless is as simple as moving vegetables and fruits from a side dish to a starring role. You should also seek out high-fiber whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and low fat and non-fat dairy foods. These tend to be high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients.
Start with small steps.
Expert Tip #3:
An easy way to get started is to eat one meatless meal a week. Sticking with it can quickly make you start feeling lighter and your wallet fatter: People who eat less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods such as beans, are one of the most cost-effective sources of protein available. Meat typically costs more per pound than other protein sources.
Gotta have meat?
When you do eat meat, choose the leanest cut available, reduce your portion size to no more than 3 oz cooked, remove all visible fat, and cook in a healthy way to avoid excess saturated fats. And remember, a meatless meal doesn’t automatically translate to less saturated fat. Saturated fat is also found in whole milk products, cheese, and coconut and palm oils.
Expert Tip #4:
"You can drop meat, but if you substitute quiche for steak, you’re not going to get any advantage in terms of heart health,” Dr. Lichtenstein cautioned. Make sure you’re making healthy swaps.
More tips for going meatless:
- Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with plant-based alternatives like vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
- Find recipes for meatless meals and get your cook on! The American Heart Association offers a variety of healthy, delicious plant-based entrees.
- Go veggie at work. If you have access to an office kitchen, keep a few convenient meatless foods you like, such as veggie burgers and vegetarian microwavable meals, on-hand for a quick, meatless lunch. Pack your lunch bag with hummus, unsalted nuts, low-fat Greek yogurt, hard-boiled egg, etc.