Who Says Vegetarians Can’t Eat Meat?

flexclock27lf2Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Here’s the way it goes. You may have thought about becoming a vegetarian but got stuck at the idea of giving up that thick, juicy burger forever and ever. Or maybe you figured you’d never get the husband and kids to go along. Consider the FLEXITARIAN diet and fill your meals with mostly fruits, veggies, and whole grains while leaving room for the occasional meat diversion.

We all know by now that a diet based on food that grows in the ground rather than grazing on the ground offers huge health bonuses to our kids and ourselves. The jury is in, and it’s clear that animal food stuffs tend to make us fatter and fill our arteries with sludge. Vegetarians on average weigh 15% less than meat eaters, and they have a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. But if the all-or-nothing route isn’t for you, why not maximize the good and minimize the not-so-good?

We rarely cook meat at home, and our dinner menus include lots of stir-fry, creative salads, some fish and chicken, and an embarrassing amount of high protein pasta and quinoa … you gotta love quinoa (it’s a grain similar to rice, but with more protein and fiber). But every now and then there’s nothing like a perfectly marinated tri-tip on the grill or that cooked-just-right burger smothered with onions and guacamole. And there’s no need to feel guilty, from a nutritional standpoint anyway, if you treat it like a special occasion.

So here are some hints to get you started:

  • Decide how many days a week you’d like to take your family ‘meatless’ and designate them. The number depends on where you are now and where you’d like to get to. Maybe Sunday is BBQ day for your family. Save those burgers and grill ’em up!
  • Try some new sources of vegetable protein to fill the gap. Explore the natural foods aisle at the supermarket and check out all the interesting forms of tofu and bean products.
  • Explore grains. Wild rice, barley, whole wheat pasta, and the above-mentioned quinoa are delicious and a great place to start. Add some basil pesto made with heart-healthy olive oil and you’ve got an easy entree.
  • Keep enough dairy in your diet as an important source of calcium, vitamin D, and added protein. Everything tastes better with some cheese added.
  • For extra credit, try our friend Sue’s portobello mushroom burger. Marinate large mushrooms in equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cook on the grill as you would a burger. Serve on a whole grain roll with all the fixins’. YUMMM.
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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “Who Says Vegetarians Can’t Eat Meat?”

  1. mherzog

    Yeah it does sound crazy. If you watch a video like this: http://meat.org
    and you still eat meat I would say that’s crazy.

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