Embrace 'Meatless Monday' to Eat More Plants

"Be patient and gentle with yourself as you continue to learn new ways of eating and living," said Kathy Freston, a bestselling author and fellow plant-powered advocate during a recent interview for my Plant-Powered Blog. "There is no need for hard and fast rules or white-knuckle determination," Freston continued.

She's right. When it comes to a plant-powered lifestyle, we need to get comfortable with the grey area. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines defines a plant-based diet as a diet that "emphasizes plant foods." By simply cutting back on your animal intake and adding more plant-based foods to your diet, you're already on your way.

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That's why I'm such a big supporter of Meatless Monday. It encourages individuals to eat more plants. If you start going meatless one day a week—on Mondays to be exact—it gives you the opportunity to experiment with plant-based foods and recipes without having to make drastic changes overnight.

The Meatless Monday message is simple: By cutting out meat once per week, you can improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint. By simply substituting animal products in favor of more whole plant foods, you naturally reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat, while gaining more health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

More: The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to adopt Meatless Monday in recognizing both the health and environmental advantages of reducing our overall meat intake. With an entire city jumping on board, finding the motivation to incorporate more meatless side dishes or entire meals into your eating regime shouldn't be hard.

"Get excited that we are at the front of a movement that is about to reach a tipping point. I don't know about you, but I love being an early adopter," says Freston.

Making the shift towards more plant-based foods, even if it's just one day a week to start, is not as difficult as you may think.

More: The Pros and Cons of a Vegetarian Diet

Try one of these three simple plant-based tips and before you know it, you may be making friends with plants.

1. Pair plants with all dishes: Cooking up a plant-based meal isn't as hard as you may think. Top off salads, soups, rice, pasta, casseroles and stir-fries with a mixture of vegetables, legumes, nuts and tofu.

2. Renovate a recipe: Even though some of your favorite meat-based meals may be enjoyed in moderation, why not make a plant-based swap so you can enjoy these delicious flavors more often? "Instead of pasta Bolognese, have pasta with meatless meat crumbles. Instead of a beef burrito, have a black bean burrito with avocados and salsa. Instead of pepperoni pizza, make a whole grain pizza (crusts are readily available at supermarkets) with nondairy cheese and veggie sausage," advises Freston.

3. Bake with plants: Everyone loves sweets. Whether your cravings call for chocolate, cookies or cake, you can make simple plant-based substitutions. Swap avocado for butter in oatmeal cookies. And, add black beans to brownies or flax seeds to apple pie. Even better, fresh fruit makes for a delicious dessert when served by itself. When fruit is heated, the natural sugars caramelize and make for an effortlessly healthy and delicious result.

More: Figure-Friendly Fig Dessert Recipe

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About the Author

Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer is a registered dietitian, writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 750 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today's Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. Sharon makes her home with her husband and two sons in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles.
Sharon Palmer is a registered dietitian, writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 750 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today's Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. Sharon makes her home with her husband and two sons in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles.

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