Making the Transition to Meatless? 13 Tips to Help You Stay Healthy
Ex-presidents, pro-athletes and even meat-loving foodies like Mark Bittman have embraced going meatless both long and short-term. Studies show diets rich in fruits and vegetables can improve health, vitality, and help decrease the risks of conditions like heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, and cancer—all common in diets high in animal products. Whether you’re just giving Meatless Monday a try, or going off meat cold-tofu, these tips can help make the transition easy and delicious!
- Add – Don’t Subtract: The fear of cutting out foods we love can make us forego even trying. So flip the script—by adding in lots of healthy and delicious meat-free options, you create less room to gorge on the unhealthy animal products.
- Stay Hydrated: We often eat because we think we’re hungry, when in fact, we’re actually thirsty. If you’ve been eating a lot of meat and dairy products, they can contain excess sodium, which can dehydrate you. Try drinking a glass of water and waiting ten minutes to see if you’re still hungry before you order that pepperoni pizza.
- Chew: For most of us, the last thing that may be on our mind while eating is the actual food! That can lead to issues, from poor digestion to over-eating. Pay attention to every bite; chewing slowly and carefully will actually help you eat less, eat smarter, and enjoy your food more.
- Go Green: Regardless of how much meat or dairy you eat, green foods like kale, broccoli, and spinach are incredibly important for our health. They provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more. If you’ve been eating processed meat and dairy, you may be missing key nutrients. Satisfying your nutritional needs with greens will boost your energy and bring your appetite into balance.
- Snack: Like quitting smoking, cutting out certain foods can make you feel awful at first. Instead of trying to hold out and eventually caving at the nearest McDonald’s—snack throughout your day so that even if the cravings come up, you’re full enough to avoid a full-on relapse. Nuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruits make filling and healthy snacks that’ll keep you going the healthy way!
- Don’t fear the bean: While some foods can give you a bit more gas, the more you eat those foods the less you’ll react over time. Not to get all science-y, but it has to do with enzymes in the body that proliferate based on what we’re eating. And there are many reasons to eat beans! They’re an excellent source of protein and fiber; they’re chock-full of vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. They are incredibly versatile and meat-free.
- Eat with others: Like the French Paradox, when we eat with people enjoying the same healthy foods, it’s fun. Taking the time to enjoy a meal, sharing exciting conversations, and enjoying companionship make the meal healthier all around.
- Eat real foods: Going meatless won’t do you much good if you replace meat with potato chips and candy bars. Eat fresh, whole foods. Spend time making meals from scratch and connecting with the wonderful simplicity of a berry, a carrot, a leaf of lettuce.
- Try superfoods: They’re nutritionally exceptional—the benefits are much greater than the calories, and many of them taste unbelievable. From pure raw chocolate to a dried mulberry, a whole world of flavor and nutrition is ripe for the eating!
- Know your GMOs: One of the best reasons for going meatless is avoiding the genetically modified grains fed to animals. And they’re also in a lot of meat-free foods, too. GMOs and the pesticides used on them pose serious human health risks. They’re bad for the environment, too. Stick with organic when it comes to soy, corn, and canola. Or better yet, avoid them altogether.
- Be stronger than your reactions: We act strange to new things. But don’t confuse newness with dislike! Acclimate yourself to new foods at least a dozen times before making a decision about it.
- Keep a journal: Looking at what foods you’ve eaten in a day can provide quite a bit of perspective on your health and your habits, and help you make the best food choices.
- Enjoy! Food is our most intimate relationship. But it also serves an incredibly important function—to keep us healthy. When you keep that awareness in your mind, every bite takes on new meaning.
About Jill Ettinger
Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles based writer and photographer. Her work is regularly featured on RealitySandwich.com and OrganicAuthority.com. Her focus on food, wellness, music, and world culture blends the mystical and modern as she explores what our shifting agricultural and healing systems will look and taste like in the future. Jill was published in the anthologies Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age and What Do You Believe? She is co-director of Evolver Los Angeles, a local community group supporting creative transformation through arts education, and social activism. Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger.