Veggie Challenge: I actually had no idea this existed until someone on tumblr told me about! I think I'm going to try it
28 Day Eat Green Challenge: Veg Boot Camp
Teetering on the edge of veg or looking to fine-tune your daily eating habits? Our 28-day plan will have you eating your greens—and your reds, yellows, and oranges—for life.
We’ve all been there: It’s six months into the New Year and that gym membership still hasn’t been activated. And that resolution to kick the meat habit for good? It, too, fell by the wayside, thanks to the neighbor’s pepperoni-pizza-fueled Super Bowl party. You know you want to get healthy and clean up your diet, so which excuse is keeping you from going full-fledge veg? We know, we know. There are so many to choose from!
Dismantling the myths that stand between you and optimal health is no easy feat; after all, well-meaning friends and family have been hurling their unfounded fears at you since you first announced your intention to give meat the heave-ho. Hear them out, but also listen to what the experts have to say: vegetarianism is healthful, delicious, affordable, and time-efficient too.
It’s never too late to turn good intentions into action, and our 28-day plan supports you every step of the way. You’ll find tasty recipes to get you started and menus to tie it all together. First off, doctors and dietitians bust those diehard mythsyes, you’ll get plenty of protein.
THE PROTEIN MYTH: You’ll Wither Away Without Meat
Sometimes, it seems our families exist for the sole purpose of worrying about us, especially when we say nay to the turkey at Thanksgiving, pass on the pot roast at Christmas, or skip the brisket at Passover. “But you used to love my meatloaf,” comes the kitchen chorus. “You’re going to starve. Eat!”
The next time Grandma gives you grief for skipping the skirt steak and heading straight for the baked potato, salad, and grilled vegetables, tell her not to worrythe doctor says it’s OK. “As long as you are eating a variety of plant foods, you’ll easily get all the protein you need,” says Neal D. Barnard, MD, VT‘s Ask the Doc columnist and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
The exact amount of protein you need depends largely on your body weight, but it’s roughly 1 gram for every 2.2 pounds. “Protein should hit no less than 50 grams per day, so aim for meals that have at least 12 grams, and snacks with 5 to 7 grams.” advises Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN, who designed our 28-day Veg Boot Camp meal plan to deliver a generous 16 grams of protein per meal. With simple planning, vegetarians can easily access all the protein their bodies require to thrive, says Blatner, but remember to incorporate beans, nuts, and seeds into each of your main meals and most of your snacks: “Beans and lentils are the best sources of protein, and there are so many options.” And don’t forget the humble soybean in its myriad forms: edamame, tofu, and tempeh are satisfying sources of plant-based protein.
THE HUNGER MYTH: You Won’t Feel Satisfied
Someone, somewhere in time, launched a rumor that has stuck like superglue: vegetarians eat only rabbit food. To the contrary, one of the best things vegetarianism has going for it is its sheer variety. Take meat out of the equation and a new world of possibilities opens up: exotic greens, earthy grains, savory mushrooms. The key to feeling satisfied is to think not just quantity, but taste and texture too.
“The pleasure of food has as much to do with mouthfeel as it does with flavor,” says Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of Color Me Vegan andThe 30-Day Vegan Challenge. “For instance, if you’re looking to satisfy your craving for something chewy and meaty, try mushrooms, tempeh, seitan, or whole grains.” Explore new recipes that will allow you to experiment with less familiar foods, and make the process fun by sharing the experience with a friend.
As you ease into vegetarianism and begin to navigate the vast and varied world of vegetarian foods, you might find that some of the things you used to eat are now making you feel too full. Don’t be surprised if your cravings for oily chips and candy bars morph into a hunger for crisp apples and whole-grain crackers; it’s simply another benefit of adopting healthier eating habits.
THE MONEY MYTH: You Can’t Afford It
It’s hard to compete with those cheap, greasy value meals touted at fast-food chains, but creating satisfying, wholesome, and delicious meals from plant foods looks a lot more affordable when you consider the long-term health benefits. Americans spend more than $147 billion per year to combat obesity-related illnessnearly 10 percent of our total health care spendingand that doesn’t include the cost of fighting cancer and other lifestyle-related diseases.
“We are spending less than half as much of our incomes on food today than we did 40 years ago, but we spend three times as much on medical care,” says family physician Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of the bestselling book Eat to Live. “Instead of buying good-quality, healthful food, we eat ourselves into chronic diseases that cost a fortune to control with drugs, and the drugs don’t work very well and have side effects too.”
Budget-conscious shoppers needn’t feel compelled to shop at high-end natural-food chains; farmers’ markets are an affordable source for fresh produce, and buying beans, rice, and other staples in bulk lets you bypass the added expense inherent in packaging.
THE TIME MYTH: You’re Too Busy
If you’ve got a can opener and a knife, you can get a healthful veg meal on the table in the time it takes to check your e-mail. “Dinner can be as simple as heating a can of lentil soup with a bag of frozen mixed vegetables to increase its nutrient power,” says Jennifer Reilly, RD, a Washington-based nutritionist. “Have that with some whole-grain crackers and you’ve got dinner in less than 6 minutes!” Stock your fridge and pantry with go-to staples, such as black beans, pasta sauce, tortillas, avocado, and hummus. With a little practice, you’ll be mixing, matching, and eating better meals and snacks in no time flat.
THE NUTRITION MYTH: You Won’t Get All the Vitamins and Minerals You Need
If your version of vegetarianism is built on a base of French fries, potato chips, and fried mozzarella sticks, well, maybe there’s something to this myth. The junk food trap is an easy one to fall into; everywhere we gothe supermarket, the mall, the movieswe’re seduced by the call of high-fat, nutrient-deficient convenience foods and fast-food meals.
“Everyone should be careful to meet their nutritional needs, no matter what diet they are on,” asserts Fuhrman. “Vegetarians and omnivores alike often eat lots of junk food, white flour, and too much sugar and salt. We only get one body, and don’t get a new one after we screw it up. Consuming whole, natural plant foods and avoiding processed foods are the answer to achieving a long, healthy life.”
TOP 3 REASONS TO EAT VEG
1. For the Animals With every piece of chicken, cow, pig, turkey, duck, lamb, or veal calf you don’t eat, you are opting out of a system that slaughters roughly 10 billion land animals for food each year in America, according to estimates from the Humane Society of the United States. (That’s not even counting fish.) Vegan diets take the notion one step further by eschewing all animal products, including eggs and dairy.
2. For the Environment “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” an oft-referenced 2006 report issued by the United Nations, had some environmentalists choking on their cheeseburgers: The livestock sector generates more than 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farms are also major contributors to land erosion and water pollution.
3. For Your Health Vegetarians have a lower risk of colon and bowel cancers, and some studies suggest a link between plant-based diets and reduced instances of Alzheimer’s disease. Going veg also offers significant improvements to quality of life. “In our research studies, we see changes almost instantly,” says Neal D. Barnard, MD. “Within the first day or two, digestion improves. After a few weeks, blood pressure and cholesterol are noticeably improved, and if a person has diabetes, it is usually dramatically better too.”