Occasionally having a plant-based meal can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
What’s the deal with meals without meat?
There is increasing evidence that leaving out the meat is good for you, and for the environment. It could help lower cholesterol levels and reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. Best of all, semi-vegetarian or flexitarian eating doesn’t require one to completely give up meat.
Most of the cholesterol-raising saturated fats that North Americans eat come from meat and full-fat dairy products such as whole milk cheese,” says Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, in Massachusetts, and an AHA volunteer. “If you decrease your daily intake of animal fat, you’re going to decrease your intake of saturated fat.” That seems simple enough, right?
What’s in a meal without meat?
When you remove the meat, what does your dinner look? It does not necessarily have to be boring, and there are many options! Craving a burger? Try our Veggie Meatless Burger patties.
Going meatless? Simply move the vegetables and fruits from a side dish to the main role. Seek out high-fiber whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and lower fat and fat-free dairy foods. “These tend to be high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients,” said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and AHA volunteer. It helps if one starts with small steps, and builds up a reservoir of choices and options from there.
“An easy way to get started is to eat one meal without meat a week,” suggests Dr. Johnson. Stick with it, and one quickly starts to feel lighter and the wallet just a little fatter. Those eating less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods like beans are very cost-effective sources of protein. Typically meat costs more per kilogram than other protein sources.
It helps to note that it’s not necessary to go cold turkey on meat to adopt a heart-healthy eating style.
“You can drop meat, but substituting quiche for steak is not going to provide an advantage in terms of heart health,” Dr. Lichtenstein cautioned. Ensure healthy swaps are made.
More tips for meals without meat:
Keep the kitchen stocked with plant-based alternative foods, and ensure there are always a good range of vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains available.
Find tasty recipes for meatless meals. There are countless resources online.
Go veggie at work if possible. If there is access to an office kitchen, for example, keep a few convenient meatless foods on hand, such as our veggie burgers or meatless balls, for a quick meal without meat!