With more and more food products that mimic the taste and texture of meat, becoming a vegetarian is not as difficult as it used to be. Still, giving up burgers, bacon, and barbecue may not be easy for everyone. If you are considering eliminating meat, think about starting out as a weekday vegetarian. This allows you to incorporate more plant-based products into your diet but still allows for the flexibility of a weekend meal with meat. Here are five reasons why chronic pain patients should dip their toe into vegetarian waters Monday through Friday.
1. Do it for the money
If you are eating organic, free-range, and pastured meats on a daily basis (or multiple times each day), becoming a weekday vegetarian is going to bring tremendous relief to your food bill. Even factory-raised meat can really add dollars to your budget. Give your wallet a rest with weekday vegetarian meals that include high-protein whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat, along with other great proteins like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Many of these can be found cheaply in the bulk food section or in Asian grocery stores for much less than a regular store. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan can all be frozen, so if you need to stock up on a sale, that’s possible, too.
Cooking once for the week or cooking for your crockpot are other great ways to save money while easing into a new routine.
2. Do it for the pain
Of all of the anti-inflammatory foods generally recommended to help relieve pain, only one is animal-based: oily fish like salmon, mackeral, and sardines. Everything else on the anti-inflammatory diet is plant-based and includes proteins such as legumes and almonds. Other anti-inflammatory foods include things like tart cherries, leafy greens, tofu, and dark chocolate. Save room for dessert!
In fact, most diets for inflammation include very little animal-based protein. The Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest and most recommended diets for a variety of health issues, including chronic pain, includes very little meat (with the exception of seafood that is responsibly caught) and focuses on healthy fats, grains, and vegetables. This is similar to the Okinawan diet, and it must be working: Okinawans live longer on average than virtually anyone else on the planet!
3. Do it for your family
Vegetarians live longer. Their hearts are healthier, their risk of Type 2 diabetes and other preventable disease decreases dramatically with every year they remain meat-free. If you have children, remember that they are watching everything you do. As adults, your kids will carry childhood habits with them. Help your kids develop healthy eating choices, then stick around long enough so they can cook you dinner.
4. Do it for the cows
On a very basic level, becoming a weekday vegetarian is a great way to do less harm to our fellow creatures on earth. If, when resuming omnivore habits on the weekend, the meat you do consume is free-range, organic, and pastured, then you are helping to ensure that the animals have happier, healthie lives. Plus, the meat is better for you.
5. Do it for the environment
Speaking of better for you, what could be better for you than a healthy planet? Meat animals raised traditionally require tremendous resources from birth to the dinner plate. In return, they are some of the worst polluters on the planet, just based on their numbers alone. Becoming a weekday vegetarian reduces the demand for meat and may, in time, reduce the environmental footprint footprint of these animals.
It is important to note that there are some people who believe that animals can be raised in a more environmentally responsible way. Joel Salatin runs an experimental farm in West Virginia that is trying to change the way meat animals are raised. Instead of feedlots running with excrement and animals crowded together in unventilated barns or buildings, Salatin rotates animals across pastures and pastures different meat animals together to try to minimize the environmental impact. Each animal gives and receives something different from each pasture, and the relationship becomes symbiotic.
Still can’t quite commit to becoming a weekday vegetarian?
Try these simple suggestions to incorporate more plant-based foods into your daily diet:
- Make vegetables and grains the star of the meal: Keep animal protein portions to their recommended size (about four ounces), and load your plate with greens and grains. At least ¾ of your plate should consist of plant-based proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
- Try Meatless Mondays: Can’t make it an entire week? Go meatless one day a week to start. You can always add a day or two for meat-free meals as you are ready, working up to all five.
- Make one meal meatless: Can’t skip meat all seven days? How about starting with just one meal? Plan to eliminate meat from every breakfast, every lunch, or every dinner.
- Pay attention to where your meat comes from: Supporting local small farmers is best if you can, but if not, only choose meat that is organic. Factory farms are notorious polluters who may skirt environmental laws regarding the health of animals at slaughter and the disposal of waste products. Cutting down on the demand for factory-farmed meat is good for people, for animals, and for the environment.
Before making any dietary changes, it is important to speak to your doctor. Each pain condition is different, and each treatment plan is personalized to the patient. It’s important to make sure that this choice is a healthy one for you.
Becoming a weekday vegetarian: what do you think? Would you consider making this change?