“You were very stubborn as a child,” my mom recounts with a smile. There are some memories from my childhood that still remain at the forefront of my mind, one of them being those nights I sat at the dinner table with a book in-hand, refusing to eat the protein on my plate. “You never liked meat” recalls my mother, who often knows me better than I know myself. It wasn’t until my early 30s though, that I realized I don’t actually have to eat meat. Plant-based diets are not just healthier for you…they are healthier for the planet. Which is why I am participating in the One Meal A Day for the Planet Challenge.
I often assume that people understand what I mean when I say that I’m a vegetarian. But in fact, the number of diets that do not include meat varies tremendously and includes those who do not consume any animal products (vegan), those who eat dairy (lacto vegetarian) and/or eggs (ovo vegetarian), and those who consume fish but no other meats (pescetarian).
A plant-based diet can vary, but typically includes vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruit without any animal products. Research has demonstrated a decreased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers in those who regularly consume a plant-based diet. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and beans and legumes are rich in phytochemicals which are important to maintaining the health of the body’s systems. Phytochemicals can slow the growth rate of cancer cells, help regulate hormones, stimulate the immune system, and reduce oxidative damage to cells (American Institute for Cancer Research).
How to Get Started
If the thought of switching to a plant-based diet feels overwhelming, know that even taking small steps can make a sizable difference. When I decided to make the switch to a plant-based diet, my doctor asked me if I could cut meat from my diet for just two days out of the week. Think about what is realistic for your lifestyle and begin with small, achievable goals.
- Commit to an attainable goal: Can you eat a plant-based diet for one meal a day? What about 3 meals per week? Think about what is feasible for your schedule and lifestyle and make the commitment to switch to a plant-based diet for those days/meals.
- Plan your meals: The easiest way for me to stick to a plant-based diet is to plan out my meals for the week. If I do not know what I’m going to eat for lunch on any given day, I’ll likely resort to a meal out. And if I am not familiar with the restaurant, I may not have many plant-based meal options. One Meal a Day has a fantastic 7-day meal planner that can help you get started with making the switch to a plant-based diet. The planner also includes recipes which can serve as a guide for additional meals and ideas.
- Create a shopping list: Meal planning begins with my weekly trip to the grocery store. Once I have a general idea of the meals I’ll be preparing, I prepare a list to ensure that my fridge is stocked with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. If you snack or enjoy the occasional dessert, be sure to include healthy plant-based options on your shopping list.
The One Meal a Day Challenge
I met some of the team members from One Meal a Day at ShiftCon earlier this year and I immediately wanted to be a part of their challenge. When people ask me why I am not vegan, my answer is always the same…I would be vegan if I knew how to eat that way. While it does not feel overwhelming to eliminate dairy, eggs, and fish from my diet, my question was always the same…how would I get enough protein in?
The idea for changing the way we eat by starting with One Meal a Day was inspired by author Suzy Amis Cameron. With a goal of making the world a better place, she began the task of instilling a love of plant-based eating. But beyond that, her mission is to make plant-based foods accessible to all. By swapping out one meat and dairy-rich meal per day, we can cut our water and carbon footprint in half. She is inspiring communities to change the world and transforming their bodies, one meal at a time.
Will you join me this month to inspire change? Sign up for the OMD newsletter and take the challenge today!