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Why Even Non-Vegetarians Should Try to Eat Meatless More Often

Lemony Pesto Pasta with Edamame & AlmondsEating less meat is good for both you and the planet. But that doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey. There are plenty of ways to boost your health by simple diet tweaks, such as eating vegetarian fare at least once a week.

In fact, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that advises the U.S. government recently reported that “Moderate to strong evidence…supports recommendations that the U.S. population move toward dietary patterns that generally increase consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, while decreasing total calories and some animal-based foods.”

No one’s suggesting you ban the burger or chuck the chicken completely, but simply reducing the amount of red meat you eat can make a difference.

Registered dietitian Dana Lilienthal, R.D., M.S., sees three big pluses in cutting down on meat in your diet. She told Plated: “By going meatless one day a week, you can help reduce your chances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and limit your cancer risk.”

“You also cut your weekly budget, as beans are less expensive than meat. And you save on health care costs, too,” she added.

Lilienthal’s third reason echoes the Committee’s recommendations for eating less meat: “It’s good for the environment–by reducing water use, and decreasing greenhouse gases and fuel use.”

So how do we tackle these issues in our own kitchen? Thankfully there are plenty of easy, delicious ways to lose the meat and keep the flavor. Hey, you may even discover new vegetables and proteins you love.

Meatless Monday is a movement that’s encouraging people to pledge to shake up dinnertime and focus on veggies and nonmeat proteins at least once a week. It has its roots in the two World Wars, when the U.S. government urged people to conserve resources. Meatless Monday launched its modern version in 2003on their website you can sign a pledge to go meatless on Mondays, read more about the benefits of bumping up the veggies, and find tons of tasty recipes.

Southwestern Pizza with Black Beans and Corn

Easy Ways to Ease Out of a Meat-Heavy Diet

Kemp Minifie, a freelance food writer and recipe developer who was the former executive food editor of Gourmet magazine, swears by this meat-free kitchen hack. She told Plated: “Make a big pot of golden-brown onions every week and stir spoonfuls of it into vegetarian dishes to give them a deeper, almost-meaty flavor.”

As well as adding dried beans and pulses such as lentils to your recipe rotation, Minifie suggests, “Learn to love mushrooms, both fresh and dried. Cook your mushrooms with a little soy and Sherry, and you will definitely not miss the meat.”

Dietitian Lilienthal adds, “You can replace the meat in a recipe with beans, tofu, tempeh, or any other non-meat food. And Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese foods all have great meatless options to cook or to try when dining out.

“Beef chili can easily become bean chili, and soups and stews can be made with vegetarian broth instead of beef or chicken stock.”

At Plated, we love meat, but we know that even the most ardent carnivores can benefit from adding vegetarian meals to their diet. That’s one of the reasons our chefs work hard to make sure we have at least two vegetarian options in our menu options each week that are just as filling and interesting as our meat and fish entrées.

Click here to see what vegetarian options are featured in this week’s menu.

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