Meatless March: Everything You Need to Get Started

Meatless March is an annual event that encourages people around the world to take part in a vegan or vegetarian diet during the month of March. Forgoing meat can be a great way to improve your health while doing something positive for animals and the environment.
However, going meatless may not be easy for some people. Additionally, you may have to be a little cautious to ensure you’re not compensating your not eating meat with other unhealthy eating habits. To make it easier for you, we’ve made a simple guide to help you stay meat-free this March.
Keep reading to find out how you can properly execute your meatless March and what you stand to gain. You never know, this could be the beginning of a new chapter as far as health and diets are concerned.

What Does It Mean To Go Meatless?

As the word suggests, a meatless March means not eating meat every day throughout the month of March. It involves building your meals around plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

While some people may decide to go animal-free altogether, it may be difficult for others. So, some may still consume eggs and dairy. Either way, let’s focus on getting the meat out of our diets this month

Tips for Going Meatless:

Eating meatless meals can be challenging at first, but with a little creativity and some handy tips, you’ll soon realize that it’s not as hard as you thought. Here are eight simple tips to help you go meatless march without feeling like you’re missing out on anything.

1. Plan ahead

One of the easiest ways to ease yourself into a meatless march is to take one day a week to plan your meals ahead of time.

It takes a lot of planning and preparation to go meatless. If you’re setting aside meat, it makes sense to plan your meals around vegetables, fruits, and whole grains rather than frozen pizzas and microwave burritos. This way, you’ll always have plenty of healthy meal options on hand that take minimal effort to prepare. Choose dishes that can be made in large batches, freeze them, and then thaw individual portions as needed throughout the week.

Planning your meals in advance saves time and money, which is especially helpful when you’re making meatless meals. Keeping ingredients around that are easy to throw together can be a great way to make sure you don’t order takeout. Always ensure you have staples like rice, legumes, and vegetables, including frozen ones at hand.

2. Experiment with new recipes

The best way to break out of your meat comfort zone is to experiment with new recipes. Search online or check out books from your local library—meatless meals are infinitely more interesting than they used to be, thanks to chefs and innovative cooks. See Healthier Steps Recipes

3. Monitor your cravings

For many people, giving up meat means giving up that specific food they can’t imagine living without. If that sounds like you, be aware of your cravings and take action before you lose control. For example, if there’s something you really miss about eating meat—like a particular flavor or texture—try replicating it in a meatless dish. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find veggie burgers that are made to taste just like beef patties or chicken nuggets.

4. Reorganize your kitchen to be more user-friendly as possible

If you want to be successful in cooking meatless meals throughout March, you may need a new set of pans or some more spices. Take an inventory of your kitchen supplies and reorganize them in a user-friendly way. Keep anything necessary and rearrange everything else, so it’s easier to find what you need when you want it. When your kitchen is better organized, it will be much easier to whip up a plant-based meal.

5. Take a B12 supplement

B12 is an essential vitamin that helps keep our nerves and blood cells healthy. Red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products all contain B12. Plant foods are, however, deficient in this nutrient. So if you’ll be going on a vegetarian diet (meaning you’ll eliminate meat but consume eggs and dairy), then there’s no need for the vitamin. But if you decide to ditch all animal-based foods throughout your challenge, you may want to include a B12 supplement.

What Should You Eat?

If this is your first time to forgo meat, you’re probably wondering what you’ll eat, especially your protein sources. But you don’t have to worry because plant foods are full of protein, with some containing all the essential amino acids needed in the body.

In addition, plant proteins don’t cause inflammation like animal proteins do, which can only work to your advantage.

But protein may not be your only concern, so what should your diet look like? Specific food choices may trickle down to your preferences, availability, preparation time, and even affordability. And that’s okay. However, ensure that each meal provides sufficient amounts of major nutrients, including:

a. Carbohydrates

Legumes: 

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas 

Starchy vegetables

  • Sweet potato
  • White potatoes
  • Rice
  • Green peas
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Turnips
  • Corn
  • Carrots

Non-starchy vegetables

  • Eggplant
  • Arugula
  • Celery
  • Cabbage
  • Red peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Purple cabbage
  • Black olives
  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

b. Healthy fats

  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil

c. Dietary fiber

Fiber is generally present in unprocessed carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables

d. Proteins

  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Soy and soy products (ensure your soy is organic)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Green peas
  • Amaranth
  • Oats

e. Minerals

  • Starchy vegetables
  • Leafy green vegetables like collard greens, arugula, spinach, kale, beet greens, and lettuce.
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits

f. Vitamins

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Winter squash
  • Avocados
  • Seeds

g. Vitamin B 12

Good plant sources include mushrooms, nutritional yeast, seaweed, and sauerkraut.

How Can a Meatless March Impact Your Health?

1. It may lower your risk of cancer

Cutting back on meat can help reduce your cancer risk. Research shows that processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meat are linked to colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest and the third most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in men and women in the United States. 

On the other hand, plant foods have been shown to protect against colorectal cancers among others. Processed meat, especially red meat, has also been associated with other types of cancer such as breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. Meat produces carcinogenic compounds during processing and high-temperature cooking, which in addition to its high levels of saturated fats, contributes to cancer development

2. Improves heart health

A meatless diet is low in saturated fat, the greatest contributor to heart disease and other cardiovascular-related conditions. This helps lower the risk of heart disease such as high cholesterol and increased blood pressure.

One study found that replacing saturated fats from animal products like meat with polyunsaturated food sources like seeds and nuts significantly lowered the risk of heart disease.

Another study found that giving up meat just one day a week can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke by as much as 25 percent. Imagine what will happen if you forgo it for a whole month.

3. Improved gut health

A healthy or poor gut has so much to contribute to your overall health and wellbeing, including your mental health.

When you eat meat, harmful bacteria in the gut multiply, causing problems like constipation and diarrhea. Plant-based diets have been shown to improve gut health by reducing bacterial growth, which helps digestion and general function. Also, leafy greens and legumes are beneficial for their high-fiber content, which can be soothing for your stomach and digestion if you’re struggling with constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The high fiber in plants also helps feed good gut bacteria, helping increase their number and thus their health benefits.

4. Increased energy levels

A plant-based diet can help boost your energy levels in three ways:

  1. It helps cleanse your body of toxins and pollutants that make you feel lethargic and sluggish.
  2. Plants are loaded with vitamin B, which plays an important role in converting food into energy.
  3. Eating foods that contain protein (think: nuts, beans, lentils) will help stabilize blood sugar levels so you won’t feel like you need a nap after every meal.

In addition, plant foods are high in fiber, an essential nutrient that slows digestion and the absorption of sugar, helping maintain your energy levels until your next meal.

5. Improves focus and concentration

Eating plant-based foods are rich in natural vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein which can make you feel alert and energized. 

Your brain uses more energy than any other part of your body, so it needs healthy fuel to function correctly. By eating plenty of green vegetables and fruits each day, you’ll keep your mind sharp and focused while also boosting energy levels and reducing fatigue.

Plant-based diets are also high in antioxidants, which help prevent inflammation and oxidation of brain cells. This helps preserve brain function while promoting focus and concentration.

In one study, vegans had an average of 11% higher global cognitive test scores than non-vegans. This is because of the various nutrients in plants that have been linked to better concentration levels and overall mental functioning.

6. You’ll sleep better

Staying away from meat, especially during dinner, allows you to relax and rest at night. That’s because there is less work for your body to do before falling asleep—and that means you’ll be able to turn off your mind quicker than if you were digesting food. 

In addition, plant foods are also high in magnesium, which regulates melatonin, a neurotransmitter that guides your sleep-wake cycle.

Plant foods are also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into a molecule used to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps regulate your mood, cognition, and sleep.

7. You may lose some weight

Research suggests that adopting and maintaining a plant-based diet may help you lose weight. In fact, studies show that meat-eaters consume 200 more calories per day than vegans, on average. So cutting out meat is an easy way to cut your calorie intake—you’ll likely end up eating less overall and falling into an energized slumber at night.

Foods to Avoid On a Meatless Diet

You should obviously not eat meat and all foods containing it and, in addition, avoid processed plant foods. Only consume whole or minimally processed plant foods to ensure you are obtaining all the nutrients therein.

Also, eliminate added sugar from your diet. This may come in various ways, including soft drinks, fruit juices, sweetened teas, baked goods, etc.

Sugar is a major inflammatory culprit, and during this month, we need to keep your inflammatory markers as low as possible. This will allow your gut to heal and reset, ensuring proper absorption of nutrients, a healthy gut microbiome, and improved general health. Eliminating sugar will also help you sleep better and increase your productivity, among other benefits.

Final Thoughts

One of the most significant lifestyle changes you can make to improve your physical and mental well-being is adopting a plant-based diet full of organic, whole foods and avoiding meat altogether.
You might think going meatless sounds like it’s more of a sacrifice than a benefit, but there are plenty of reasons to give up your favorite steaks, burgers, and barbecue in favor of delicious vegetarian or plant-based meals for just one month. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can do wonders for your health, both on the inside and out.

Some benefits to expect include increased energy levels, improved heart health, improved sleep, weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, improved gut health, and increased focus and concentration.
To make your meatless March easy and enjoyable, plan your meals ahead of time and continuously build your meals around whole, minimally processed plant foods. Ensure each meal contains sufficient amounts of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. This can be easily obtained if you include legumes such as beans, peas, and chickpeas, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruits, and fats like olive oil, coconut, and avocado.

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