October is considered Vegetarian Awareness Month and today, October 1st, is World Vegetarian Day!! In the words of the North American Vegetarian Society, "World Vegetarian Day was established as an annual celebration to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism."
I have been vegetarian for almost 2.5 years now and have not looked back. The other day at the grocery store, I realized I walked right past the refrigerated sections of meat, fish and poultry and didn't even notice it. I'm not focused on what I am missing, but rather, on all the other great fresh foods & produce I get to fill my cart with.
There are a number of different reasons to consider adapting a more plant-based diet, and you don't have to be a strict "vegetarian" or "vegan" to realize some of the benefits! In a 2009 position paper published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), it was determined that a plant-based, vegetarian dietary pattern can be nutritionally adequate for individuals of all ages and that advantages of such a diet include lowered cholesterol/blood pressure levels and lowered chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Why? Vegetarian or plant-based diets typically include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals.
The environmental benefits of eating more plants and less animal products are also pretty significant. In fact, estimates have shown that if everyone in the United States where to choose to eat no meat or cheese on just ONE day each week, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road in terms of our societal carbon footprint. Thus was born the Meatless Monday campaign.
I get that a vegetarian diet may not be for everyone, but DO consider incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet and experimenting with adding few meatless meals to your normal rotation. For healthy tips on meatless meals and recipe ideas, click on over to my previously written post on Plant Powered Nutrition or view my Prezi Presentation!
Interested in more reliable information on vegetarian diet or eating more plant-based? Check out:
vegetariannutrition.net/ or meatlessmonday.com. You can also download this fun (and free!) handout.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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