Even if you’re not an eco-activist or animal rights defender, you may have given the idea of going meatless a thought. With an ever-growing body of research speaking in favor of the vegetarian diet’s protective effects against cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, it only makes sense to try this new way of eating.
You don’t have to turn vegan overnight. In fact, that’s not even necessary. But if you consider yourself a meat eater, reducing your intake can have some positive repercussions for your health. A good way to start is to try Meatless Monday, an international campaign that advocates not eating meat on Mondays as a way of adopting a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re thinking about cutting your meat intake, that’s great news! You are on the path toward better health and a more diverse diet. But there’s something you need to keep in mind when going meatless—your protein intake.
Going meatless without sacrificing your protein intake
You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of adequate protein intake for your body. Made up of essential amino acids, protein provides us with the building blocks our body needs. As you know, one of the cons of old age is the gradual deterioration of muscle mass, which in severe cases can be life-threatening. Depleted muscle affects your strength and stability and makes you more prone to falls and accidents.
In fact, the daily recommended protein intake for older people is the same as for those who lead an active lifestyle: about 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kg of weight. Of course, this is just a range, and you should consult your family doctor to find your specific protein requirements.
When you’re used to a diet that revolves around meat, you may find it hard to transition to a meat-free menu without losing any protein. To get you started, here are some great protein-packed products that are absolutely meatless.
Delicious protein-packed meatless options to try
- Tofu/tempeh (15 grams of protein per 1/2 cup)
- Lentils (18 grams per cup, cooked)
- Quinoa (8 grams per cup, cooked)
- Buckwheat (6 grams per cup, cooked)
- Eggs (6 grams per egg)
- Greek yogurt (8 grams per 1/2 cup)
- Cottage cheese (30 grams per cup)
- Beans (8 grams per cup)
- Edamame (16 grams per 3/4 cup)
Make sure you complement your meat alternatives with lots of different vegetables and grains to make sure your diet is nutritious and well balanced.
Some vitamins, such as the vitamin B complex, are found primarily in meat products. To avoid deficiency, you can stock up on good vegetarian sources of this vitamin, like nutritional yeast, yogurt, fortified nut milk, soy burgers, and eggs.
You should also pay attention to your iron intake if you aren’t eating meat. Iron plays a key role in transporting oxygen in the body and supporting your energy levels. Best consumed in food, iron is found in legumes, lentils, Swiss chard, spinach, fermented soy, and pumpkin seeds.
As you can see, with a little bit of research and planning, you can introduce a couple of meatless days into your week without incurring unnecessary damage to your protein intake and, consequentially, your muscle mass. It definitely pushes you to get more creative in the kitchen, but the results are totally worth it.