This article appears in Summer Healthy Living 2018.
Vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians and vegans know how to successfully cut meat out of their diets, but many others question whether they can get a full day’s worth of protein without eating meat.
One of the greatest challenges for people who practice Meatless Mondays is knowing whether they’re getting enough protein, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
People don’t need to eat protein at every meal, said registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Palmer, “The Plant-Powered Dietitian,” SharonPalmer.com. Some top-tier athletes including Tom Brady and Venus Williams enjoy plant-based diets.
”People can swap animal protein on their plates for plant proteins, such as pulses (beans, lentils, peas), nuts (such as almonds), seeds (such as chia and hemp) and soy foods, like tofu, tempeh and soy milk. These are great protein sources,” Palmer said.
Try a variety of alternatives, said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Nuts, soy foods and beans can be used in thousands of ways including nutloaf (instead of meatloaf) or as parts of stews instead of meat, he said.
“Other cultures have found ways to make these highly flavorful and enjoyable. … Be adventuresome and you will find some great eating experiences,” Willett said.
It’s easy to make some of your favorite meals plant-based.
“For example, make your meat lasagna a veggie lasagna by skipping the meat and adding layers of vegetables; make your taco night veggie by swapping ground beef for mushrooms and black beans; and serve vegetarian chili,” Palmer said.
Adopting a diet with less meat can be a double win, Willett said.
“Reducing meat means less saturated fat and cholesterol, whereas plant protein sources come with unsaturated fat, fiber and lots of micronutrients and phytochemicals,” Willett said.