This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Kayla Kaspari.
Many cultures (Mediterranean, Latin, Asian) and diets (vegetarian) are rooted in meatless, plant-based meals. Some individuals never consume meat, while others limit meat for health or personal reasons. In the United States, we are a very meat and potato society, where meat is often thought of as essential at every meal. I personally like the idea of dedicating one day a week as a meatless day (i.e. Meatless Mondays).
If you look at the USDA MyPlate, a little less than a quarter or our plate should be protein. The American diet traditionally always assumed that protein to be meat, but there are many other options and substitutions to change up your protein each and every day. In addition to meats like chicken, beef, and turkey, you could try substituting beans, nuts or seeds, all of which are packed with protein.
You don’t need to go vegetarian, however, research has shown that a well-planned vegetarian diet, or plant-heavy diet, can be healthful and nutritionally adequate for people in all stages of life. Plant-based diets have been found to lower your risk of chronic disease, including certain types of cancer, help with the obesity epidemic and with high blood pressure or diabetes. Plant-based diets often tend to be high in nutrients such as fiber, vitamin A, C and E, folate, calcium, and magnesium. If you are or do go vegetarian or vegan, you need to be mindful of vitamin B12, omega -3s, calcium, iron, protein, zinc, and vitamin D. Your diet should be purposeful and aim to meet the requirement of all the USDA’s recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for the various nutrients. You also need to remember that just because something says vegan or vegetarian, doesn’t necessarily make it healthy. Vegan donuts and pastries, for example, are not any healthier than a normal donut. There are many substitutions out there for meat products. Go meatless this upcoming Monday!
Southwest Salad (Printable PDF)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup canned, no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn, frozen and thawed, or canned, drained
1 orange bell pepper chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
Arrange all of your ingredients in a bowl and top with a dressing of your choosing (I prefer a chipotle ranch on this salad)
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 230 calories, 7 grams fat, 105 milligrams sodium, 39 grams carbohydrate, 13 grams fiber, 9 grams protein