October means cooler temperatures, Halloween, and of course, football! But did you know that it also is National Vegetarian Awareness month? Back in 1977, the North American Vegetarian Society dubbed the first day of October as “World Vegetarian Day”. Since then, the day has been celebrated across the country as a kick-off for a full month of spreading information about the benefits of vegetarianism. The term “vegetarian” is broadly applied to those who do not consume any meat but there are actually different kinds of vegetarians. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are those who do not eat any meat or fish but do eat other animal products such as dairy and eggs. Pescatarians are those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. Vegans do not eat fish, meat or animal products of any kind including eggs, dairy products, or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. “Raw Foodists” believe that foods cooked above these temperatures lose nutritional value and may harm the body. Lastly, there is flexitarianism, which is probably the most accessible form of vegetarianism. Flexitarians are those that eat a mostly plant based diet but consume meat occasionally.
So, which are you? If your answer is none of the above, you might consider for a moment the compelling health reasons to gravitate towards a more plant-based diet. The evidence is clear that a varied, plant-based diet substantially reduces ones risk of virtually all chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease. Plant-sources of nutrition, that aren’t overly processed or refined, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds require more work for our body to digest, making them longer-lasting sources of energy. Plant-foods are also sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats whereas meat and other animal products are sources of unhealthy, saturated and trans fats.
Not everyone is ready or willing to become vegetarian. In these cases, the best animal foods choices are those that are as lean as possible. There are also so many delicious healthy vegetarian options available, that you may just want to include more in your diet. Here are some examples of ways you can incorporate more plant foods into your fall, football Sundays:
- Use a vegetable slicer to quickly slice potatoes thinly. Then, sprinkle with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper (or your favorite spices) and bake. Serve plain or with sides of salsa and fat-free plain greek yogurt. Tip: Leave the skin on for extra nutrients, fiber and to add crispiness.
- Make a bean dip for cut veggies. Mix an onion and herb spice blend mix into fat-free, plain greek yogurt for another dip option.
- Make homemade whole wheat, vegetable-topped pizzas with pre-prepared whole grain dough or whole grain pitas or tortillas.
- Munch on spiced chickpea “nuts”. Just toss one 15 ounce can of rinsed chickpeas with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, ¼ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon salt and bake on a rimmed baking sheet, at 450degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes (stir once or twice and remove once brown and crunchy).
- After you carve pumpkins, don’t toss the seeds! Instead, toss 2 cups of pumpkin seeds in 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
What do you think? Could you be a flexitarian and go vegetarian for a day? A week? A month?
If you can commit to a month of eating meat-free then you can enter to win some cash through the World Vegetarian Day Awareness campaign contest here: