Vegetarianism is loaded with health and environmental benefits. From lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, Earth’s plant-eaters reap many benefits.
But for some, the idea of committing to a full-fledged vegetarian diet can be a little daunting. If going full herbivore seems scary and unfulfilling: first of all, you’re on the right track. Listening closely to the needs of your body is always your best bet as far as living a healthy lifestyle. And secondly, there is an alternative.
By adopting a “less meat, more plants” lifestyle called Flexitarianism, you can reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet while still enjoying those animal proteins on occasion. How?
The three-quarters rule
Here are a few tips on how to adopt a plant-based diet:
If you enjoy large meals, use a big plate and fill the plate three-quarters full of veggies, saving the last quarter for protein. The more colors on the plate, the better. This will lead to a full, happy stomach — and in one meal, you’ll have gotten one-third of your vegetables for the day!
Swap out meat for a plant-based protein. Instead of eating a protein for all three meals, seek out plant-based proteins such as quinoa, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Be careful not to load up on pasta and breads. It is possible to gain weight when switching to a vegetarian diet if you resort to carbs to satisfy a growling tummy. When switching to a more plant-based diet, consider the goals of eating healthy, plant-based options.
For those times when you are craving meat, try to consume conscientiously and in moderation.
“Meat represents a lot of nutrients in a compact package,” says William Hart, PhD, associate professor of human nutrition at St. Louis University. “There is nothing wrong with eating a four-ounce steak,” he tells WebMD. “It’s the 12 or 16-ounce steaks that get us into trouble.”
In addition to eating meat in moderation, consider choosing ethically raised meat. The availability of ethically raised meats has been a game changer, even for vegetarians. When looking at the ingredients in meat replacements, many vegetarians are beginning to think that the ethically raised real meat may be better for health.
“When I was vegan, I was super weak,” says Mariel Hemingway, actress and author of Healthy Living from the Inside Out. “I love animals, and we should not support anything but ethical ranching; but when I eat meat, I feel more grounded. I have more energy.”
A “less meat, more plants” style of eating can help improve the quality of your life. In addition, it’s associated with higher levels of short-chain fatty acids in the gut, and research suggests that it lowers the risk of heart disease, inflammatory diseases, and type 2 diabetes.