The Great American MeatOut
Held every year on March 20th, Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) has coordinated and sponsored the Great American MeatOut since 1985 in an effort to reduce (and eventually stop) the raising and butchering of animals for food. The main aim is to inspire people to try a vegan diet and consider reducing meat consumption by going meat-free once a week. The truth is, that more people every day are increasingly looking for ways to reduce, or remove, meat from their diet for economic, ethical, religious, health or environmental reasons.
Markets today have definitely adapted to this need. Just a casual glance through the aisles of most supermarkets today reveals an astonishing variety of foods available for people with meat-free diets.
Why should I consider eating less meat?
Because it’s healthy! Eating a plant-based diet can improve your health. Eating more high fiber beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits and lots of vegetables makes a positive impact on your health. Vegetarian diets contain low levels of fat and little cholesterol. They are rich in fiber and they contain a high level of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
This withstanding, vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease; they have lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, and lower body mass indexes, as well as lower overall cancer rates.
Can a vegetarian diet can provide all the necessary nutrients we need?
The experts answer that a well-planned vegetarian diet can achieve this goal, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal meat, eggs, and dairy foods. That’s probably the reason why vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.
If designed properly, a meat-free diet, can be both healthy and nutritionally adequate, even for children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women.
The biggest risk of a vegan diet is the lack of vitamin B12; vegans must consciously consume fortified foods or B12 supplements. Vitamin B12 is important for the formation of red blood cells and the development of the central nervous system.
What can I eat instead of meat?
Soybeans. They provide protein equal to that of meat. Soy is also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Tofu. Made of soy, it’s an excellent substitute for cheese. Compared to cheese, it has the advantage that it contains no cholesterol and polyunsaturated fat.
Tempeh. That’s another soy product that provides vegetable proteins without causing gastrointestinal problems, such as bloating.
Pulses. Plant foods usually lack one or some essential amino acids. Meat protein, on the other hand, contains all the essential amino acids in a sufficient amount – that’s why meat is considered a “complete” protein. To overcome this “weakness,” the vegetarian should try to complete the missing amino acids of a certain plant food, by consuming another plant protein that has it. To give an example, legumes contain low levels of methionine (an essential amino acid). This can be offset by consuming cereals together with your legumes -cereals contain high levels of methionine.
Cereal. Cereal, on the other hand, contains low levels of lysine and should also be combined with pulses to provide “full protein”.
Nuts/seeds. Adding one cup of sunflower or linseed in your salads will give you 8.2 grams of protein. Beware of the portion size! However rich in valuable nutrients, nuts are also very rich in calories.
Portobello mushrooms. Providing 5 grams of protein per serving, portobello mushrooms are a delicious substitute for meat, in burgers and sandwiches. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium and folic acid.
Cheese. Half a cup of cottage cheese provides only 90 kcals and offers 16 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fat! However, not all kinds of cheese are that poor in calories! That’s why we should be very careful with the portion size when it comes to cheese.
Eggs. Offering just 70 calories, an egg can provide 6 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat.
Meat substitutes. These products possess certain aesthetic qualities (primarily texture, flavor and appearance) and/or chemical characteristics of specific types of meat. Many substitutes are soy-based (tofu, tempeh) or gluten-based.