Go flexitarian: A three-week plan to eat less meat

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Cutting down on animal protein does more than slash calories — it lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The vegetables, legumes, and whole grains that will replace the meat help shield you from developing these chronic diseases, too. “Plants are nature’s pharmacy,” says Kate Geagan, RD, author of Go Green Get Lean ($5, amazon.com). “They’re brimming with protective nutrients and antioxidants that you just can’t get from animals.” You don’t have to go full vegetarian — our plan ups your plant protein without depriving you of that Saturday-night steak.

    Week 1: Mix up your protein

    “Meat can have a place on your plate if you’re passionate about that — just shift the proportions,” says Geagan. Here’s how to nail the balancing act.

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    Convert your favorite dinner: If you drool over stir-fry, make it with tofu (or twice the veggies) rather than chicken. Burger lover? Ditch the beef for a quinoa patty. Try the quinoa-chickpea version in this quinoa burger recipe.

    Week 3: Make it routine

    “By week three, you should have cut your meat consumption in half,” says Geagan. Now root your new flexitarian habits into your life for good.
    Prep ahead: Having a few veggie meals ready to reheat takes out the guesswork when days get hectic. Penner’s tip: Make a big batch of vegetarian chili on Sundays.

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    Add umami: This savory flavor (found in tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, among other foods) helps bring plant dishes to life.
    Be a nighttime vegetarian: Aim to eliminate meat from dinner on weekdays. “It’s an easy way to tally up five meatless meals per week,” says Geagan.
    Keep it fresh: Going forward, sample at least one new vegetarian recipe each week so your taste buds stay hooked.

    Read more: www.cnn.com

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