I was really nervous to lead this past week's Weight Watchers meeting after I had learned that the topic was "going meatless". I am a carnivore with meat at almost every meal that I make and serve in my home. Mentally it is hard for me to see a meatless meal a satisfying main course. I would love to serve some of these dishes as sides, but I would not serve them by themselves.
As I planned and lead my meeting, I actually began to get really excited about all of the different meatless options that are out there! Not to mention meat is very expensive and going meatless a few times a week could save us some money in the long run.
If you are like me and you like your meat, please keep an open mind as you read the meeting summary from August 20, 2011.
You must know that getting your veggies is a must for good health, but consider this: Upping your produce intake may get you a little closer to your weight loss goals too.
Studies suggest that replacing animal fats with veggies (as well as healthy proteins like beans and nuts) may help you shed more pounds by reducing your calorie intake. Sure, veggies pack feel-full fiber, but those who rely on a veggie-rich diet tend to eat less fat and fewer calories than their carnivorous counterparts. In fact, studies suggest the estimated 5 million Americans who eat plant-based diets weigh around 15 percent less than meat eaters.
How should I get my protein?
Going veg doesn’t have to mean losing out on filling protein — non-meat proteins have plenty. Plus, they tend to be cheaper, lower in calories, and higher in feel-full fiber. Below are some options to help you meet the recommended daily allowance of protein (46g a day for women; 56g for men).
Dairy With more than 8g of protein in every cup, skim milk is a great pick; in fact, it has slightly more protein than whole milk. Low-fat and nonfat cheeses are also protein-rich, with between 4g to 6g per ounce. When it comes to yogurt, go Greek since it contains nearly twice the protein of nonfat plain (2.5g per ounce versus 1.5g).
Beans Some of the most concentrated sources of proteins come from beans. Soybeans have an impressive 29g per cup, while others (lentils, black, garbanzos, etc.) pack 14g to 17g per cup. To use, toss them into salads or soups or blend them into dips.
Nuts Although nuts average between 4g and 6g of protein per ounce, dieters beware: It’s often tough to stop at just one serving, and nuts tend to be high in calories. To stay in check, eat nuts you have to shell—like pistachios, since shelling 40 (3 PointsPlus™ values' worth) takes time and may force you to eat more mindfully.
Whole grains Yes, you can get some protein in the form of a carb. Just make sure the label says “100 percent whole grain” — “whole wheat” or “wheat” alone won’t cut it. Other nutritious protein-rich grains include the couscous cousin quinoa, which at 24g per cup has as much protein as four eggs.
Eggs Many vegetarians do eat eggs, which pack 6g of protein and just 5g of fat. Also, there’s good news on the cholesterol front: Recent studies show that eating an egg a day may not increase the risk of heart disease and stroke among healthy adults, as previously thought. So allow yourself one egg a day. If that doesn’t satisfy you, supplement it with extra egg whites, which are lower in fat and cholesterol than the yolks.
Tofu Soy is a protein powerhouse, with 8g per 3.5-oz. serving of tofu. Although there’s been controversy about the use of soy, particularly for breast cancer survivors or those at risk for breast cancer, the new thinking indicates that eating a small amount (about a ½ cup of tofu or edamame) daily may actually lower your breast cancer risk. Not crazy about tofu’s spongy texture? Try tempeh, which offers a similar protein punch with a meatier consistency.
Meatless meals Ready to boost your fruit and veggie intake without sacrificing taste or nutrients? Check out our suggestions below for three days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
If you want some other great vegetarian recipes check out Meatless Monday.