Eliminating Meat from Your Diet

Eliminating Meat from Your Diet

You may decide on a meatless diet for reasons including health, food costs or animal welfare. Although meat is a plentiful source of high-quality protein, containing all the essential amino acids you must provide to your body through the foods you eat, many other foods are also rich in protein. For optimal nutrition planning, seek the advice of a dietitian or health care provider before beginning any new diet regimen.

Types of Meatless Diets

You may choose among several options for your meat-free diet. As a vegan, you eat plant-based foods exclusively, but no animal products. A lacto-vegetarian diet includes plant-based foods and diary products such as yogurt, cheese and milk. A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet adds eggs to the lacto-vegetarian diet. You may or may not include fish in your meal plan, depending on whether you consider fish to be a type of meat.

Benefits of Excluding Meat

Eliminating meat from your diet offers health benefits. The more fruits, vegetables and grains you consume, the greater your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber may be. Vegetarians often eat fewer calories and fats than those who eat meat and they usually have lower blood cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Avoiding luncheon meat, sausages and other processed meat products may protect you against exposure to potentially harmful chemicals such as nitrates. Meatless sources of protein may also save you money at the grocery store, as many non-meat protein foods, including legumes, eggs and milk, cost less than many cuts of meat.

Cons of a Meat-free Diet

Your meatless protein diet may require careful meal planning to ensure you consume sufficient high-quality protein each day, especially if you consume no animal products at all. Most plant-based proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids you need for optimal health. However, with knowledge and planning, you can combine plant proteins in such a way that they make up for each other’s deficient amino acids. For example, eating lentils with rice supplies your body with all your essential amino acids. Additionally, over time you may become deficient in certain nutrients that are abundant in animal protein, such as calcium and iron, unless you supplement your diet or consume some animal products.

Other Considerations

To help keep your cholesterol and saturated fat intake at a healthy level on a lacto-vegetarian or lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, minimize your consumption of high-fat dairy products, such as cream and full-fat cheese. Soy milk, fortified with calcium, may serve as cholesterol-free alternative to cow’s milk, suggests the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consult with a nutrition specialist for questions concerning your specific meatless protein diet.

Categories: Diet, Health, Weight Loss