Take a walk through your local grocery store’s produce aisle, and you’ll likely find a variety of meat alternatives. With fast-food chains jumping on the trend and offering vegetable-based patties in burgers and breakfast sandwiches, it is no surprise The Economist declared 2019 as the year of the vegan.
“Meatless meals are excellent for anyone, not just people who avoid meat for religious or cultural reasons,” Alberta Health Services (AHS) states.
According to research from Dalhousie University released in July 2018, 2.3 million Canadians consider themselves vegetarians – up from 900,000 15 years ago. Another 850,000 consider themselves vegan. That translates into 9.4 per cent of the population is embracing a meatless diet.
Healthy vegetarian eating offers a variety of benefits, according to AHS, as it can lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer, as well as help control weight.
And, with all the options available on the market today, it’s easy to switch out traditional favourites with healthy, meatless alternatives.
“Instead of meat, you can use beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, nuts or seed butter to make delicious, healthy dishes,” AHS states.
AHS offers six simple ways to update popular recipes with a meat-free twist:
- Replace the meat in chili, casseroles, stews and soups with beans, lentils or tofu.
- Use lentils or black beans in tacos or quesadillas.
- Top salads with beans or a hard-boiled egg.
- Add tofu to a vegetable stir-fry.
- Puree cooked black beans, white beans or chickpeas. Then add herbs and spices to make a fast and easy dip or sandwich spread.
- Use nut, seed or soybean butters. Add them to dips, smoothies or spread them thinly on breads or crackers for a snack or quick protein boost.
Still, even with these simple changes, AHS said it’s important for vegetarians and vegans to plan out their diet carefully to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need.
“A healthy vegetarian diet provides enough key nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fats,” AHS states, adding, “You may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day to help meet your nutrient needs.”
Other tips from AHS include choosing whole, unrefined foods whenever possible, using milk products with a lower fat content and limiting foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt.
For recipes using meat alternatives or to find out more, go to healthyeatingstartshere.ca, and to find out more about vegetarian diets or alternatives to meats, ask your health-care professional to be referred to a dietitian.