10-Minute Vegetarian: It’s OK To Just Go Part-Time

Posted Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:17am by Denise Reynolds

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Last August, golfer Phil Mickelson announced during the 2010 PGA Championship that he had adopted a vegetarian diet in an effort to ease the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. At the time, he had been following his plan for about seven weeks and stated that he was feeling really good about it. This week, the three-time Masters winner announced that he was having trouble sticking to it, and after five months he had fallen off the wagon. He stated that the whole idea was "doomed to fail."

I have also had trouble sticking to a completely vegetarian diet 100% of the time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My main downfalls are cheese and fish. Once in a blue moon, I will cave and have a cheeseburger. I do fairly well when I'm at home and mostly struggle when I eat out. I used to feel immensely guilty about this, but lately I've come to terms with the fact that it's OK to be a part-time vegetarian.

Even just cutting out meat for one day a week, such as following the movement "Meatless Monday", you can still improve both your health and the health of the planet. Meatless Monday was created as a public health awareness program in association with Johns Hopkins with a goal of reducing preventable disease by cutting back on saturated fat. Why Mondays? It seems to be the day we have the most resolve to make changes in our lives. After all, how many of you have started a new diet or fitness regimen on a Monday?

Experts suggest that even reducing your meat consumption by 15% would significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. Consider this: A study from Harvard found that women who eat two servings of red meat per day have a 30% increased risk of heart disease compared to those who eat only three to four servings per week.

Reducing the amount of meat you eat also helps decrease greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Again, just lowering meat consumption by 20% would affect your carbon footprint as much as if everyone in the U.S. switched to driving a Toyota Prius.

There are also other benefits to make a concentrated effort to eating less meat. Phil Mickelson has said that even though he isn't a strict vegetarian anymore, he does "continue to eat a lot more vegetables than I have in the past and I'm trying to have a better balance now than instead of all protein."

So, even if you don't want to commit to becoming a full-time vegetarian, would you consider at least dedicating one day out of seven as a Meatless day? (Alicia Silverstone would call this "flirting" with a vegetarian lifestyle.)

Try some of the many meat alternative and dairy alternative products which can be found in just about every grocery store. Try a couple different brands, because honestly, not all of them taste great. My personal favorites are Gardein and Tofurky for meat replacements and Silk Soy Milk and Tofutti to replace some dairy products.

If you aren't as adventurous, just create a wonderful vegetable plate that replaces meat with beans, such as pinto beans. And don't be afraid to try something you might have hated as a child (Brussels sprouts!). Tastes change as you get older. It can't hurt to try, and if you find you actually do like them, you will have opened up your world to a whole new variety of flavors!

This is a part of my ongoing series, 10 Minute Vegetarian. I'm busy, you're busy. We want to be healthy, but we don't have a lot of time. In the 10 minutes it takes you to read this article, you can learn something about the health benefits of the vegetarian diet and how to implement it in your own hectic schedule.

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