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To Meat, or Not to Meat: Going Veggie

Picture yourself sitting at Boylan, staring at those ominous empty bubbles on the menu, just waiting for you to make the decision. Bun or no bun? Chicken or Beef? Maybe sweet potato fries? Well today I propose you take a whole new approach…skip all the meat options and make one straight drive towards bubbling the best option for you on the menu…the vegetarian burger. Those of you who are meat lovers like myself may gasp, what does a meal without meat even mean? Well researchers today have come to the conclusion that a meal without meat means a much healthier you. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, over 400,000 Europeans participated in a controlled study, comparing those who consumed meat for 5 years and those that went vegetarian. The results really make you want to jump for that vegetarian option. The study indicated that those who consumed meat, with the same amount of calories as the vegetarians, gained an extra 5 pounds of weight in 5 years. Researches have come to the conclusion that too much meat consumption is currently the culprit for the weight gain of many Americans.

Not worried about weight? Research has indicated that eating vegetarian has endless health benefits that meat eaters do not enjoy.

Heart Health: It has been found that replacing meat with nuts and whole grains results in high improvements of cardiovascular health. Vegetarian diets can reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Cholesterol: Taking meat out of your diet means taking out all cholesterol in your body. Your heart will love you a lot more and you will be bound to live a longer cholesterol-free life.
Breast Cancer: Studies indicate that women who do not consume meat have a significantly lower chance of getting breast cancer. Researchers in Germany and England even claim a 40% lower risk of breast cancer for those that chose a vegetarian diet as opposed to meat.

And lastly for those not worried about weight or health, vegetarian options even help you look and feel physically better:

Healthy Skin: Those switching to vegan diets found a reduction of blemishes in their skin, and the increase in intake in Vitamins A and E will inevitably make your face look younger and fresher.
Body Smells: Researchers have found that those switching to vegetarian diets have better smelling body odor and even found a reduction in bad breath.
Body Mass Index: Those switching to vegetarian diets have been recorded as having lower BMIs,  which is definitely helpful, as swimsuit season is right around the corner.

Whatever your reason for considering cutting down your meat intake, the bottom-line is: the less meat you eat the better you will look and feel. Reducing meat consumption to even 2 or 3 times a week can be beneficial, and can also be done in very delicious ways. Here are some great meal options that will make you feeling better in no time:

Yogurt and Granola Parfait

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
½ cup crunchy low-fat cereal or granola
½ Cup fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Start with yogurt at the bottom of the bowl
Add 2 tbs cereal/granola and ¼ cup fruit. Repeat
Top with 2 more tbs of the cereal/granola

Pita Salad Sandwich

1 Medium firm ripe tomato, finely diced
¼ Finally diced seeded cucumber and/or bell pepper
Shredded Lettuce, you pick how much
Natural Salad Dressing of your choice
¼ Cup hummus of your choice
1 regular size or 2 mini pitas, toasted and cut in half

Combine the Tomatoes and Cucumber in a salad bowl. Add lettuce and dressing to make the mixture moist. Toss ingredients together. Spread humus inside pita and fill with salad.

Chipotle Bean Burrito

1 tbs canola oil
1 Garlic Clove, minced
½ ts Chipotle chile powder
¼ ts Salt
1/3 cup Water
1 (15oz) can organic black beans, drained
1 (15oz) can organic kidney beans, drained
3 tbs refrigerated fresh salsa
6 (10-inch) reduced-fat flour tortillas
1 cup (4 oz) preshredded reduced fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
1 ½ cups chopped plum tomato
1 ½ cups shredded romaine lettuce
6 tbs thinly sliced green onions
6 tbs light sour cream

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in chile powder and salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/3 cup water and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salsa. Partially mash bean mixture with a fork.
2. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture into center of each tortilla. Top each serving with about 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 1/4 cup tomato, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 tablespoon onions, and 1 tablespoon sour cream; roll up.

Recipes from Cooking Light, Southern Living, Real Simple and Health

So the next time you decide to venture out to dinner or even to put together your own creation in your kitchen, think twice before eating the option that once used to enjoy a meal itself. Eating more vegan meals than meat will make you feel, look, and even smell better, and you’ll never again feel bad for what you put into your beautiful body.

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