The idea of switching to a vegan diet is nothing new. Unfortunately, the Western diet centers virtually every meal around meat. This can have harmful long-term consequences, including an elevated risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and more.
Even if you have been an insatiable carnivore your entire life, it’s never too late to make changes to your diet and focus on sustainable foods that will improve your health without taxing Mother Earth. Keep reading for information on the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet and practical advice on how to get started.
Diet Does Not Replace Exercise
First and foremost, it’s crucial that you remember that simply changing your diet is not enough to completely improve your health. Although you may lose weight, look better, and feel healthier than ever after dropping animal-based products from your plate, you still have to take care of your body in other ways. This is especially important if you’re a senior citizen. Don’t forget that many Medicare Advantage plans provide no-cost access to more than 13,000 SilverSneakers programs throughout the country. If you don’t have Medicare and cannot afford a gym membership, walking, swimming, and biking are all excellent (and free) ways to exercise.
Why Go Green?
The benefits of a meatless diet are many — improved digestion, healthier skin, effortless weight loss and a natural boost in energy are all appealing perks. Furthermore, eating less fat can reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. And if all of this is not enough, eating more produce reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is overall better for the environment. If you’re still on the fence, this article from DoctorsThatDo.org dispels many common myths about plant-based diets.
Adding More Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
If you don’t like the taste of vegetables, you are not alone. Many people claim that certain lettuces taste like dirt while others are turned off by the texture of things like mushrooms. It can take time to retrain your brain to enjoy and even crave foods that have not been genetically modified to trick you into wanting them. But it is possible, and there are ways you can eat more vegetables and fruits while still enjoying the flavors that you love.
A few tips are to:
- Mix cauliflower with mashed potatoes
- Slowly increase the number of peppers, onions, and tomatoes in tacos and homemade Chinese food
- Swap peanut butter and jelly for garlic and avocado sandwiches (This recipe from Mom’s Dish is excellent)
- Sprinkle carrots, celery, or sliced radishes with dry ranch dip mix for a healthy crunch that’s full of flavor
- Leave the meat out of spaghetti and other pasta dishes
- Look at other cultures for inspiration — meat is not a central element of food in many other countries
- Check the label at the store, as many ostensibly vegan foods, such as bread, are made with dairy products
- Eliminate meat in steps — start with red meat and then move on to chicken and pork
- Give yourself a sweet treat by indulging in a frozen banana instead of eating ice cream
- Add vegetables to sandwiches
- Eat at least one food of every color of the rainbow each day
By changing your diet now, you are looking out for your future. More importantly, you model for your children that positive eating habits are sustainable for both your lifestyle and the environment. Remember, even if you can’t quit cheeseburgers cold turkey, there are plenty of ways to eat more fruits, grains, and vegetables while slowly overhauling your diet.
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