Meatless Monday :: FIT4U Challenge Week 4

Most people have heard of the Meatless Monday trend, so for this week’s FIT4U Fitness Challenge, we wanted to see if our team could have at least 1 meatless meal this week. Seems easy enough, right? This week we’re taking closer look at the meatless trend to see if it really is healthier.
*For the purposes of this challenge, “meat” is referencing various types of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey. Fish was considered an acceptable meat to consume.

Health Benefits
You may have heard the news trends indicating that you should eat less red meat and more chicken and fish. But what happens when you eliminate meat from just one meal each week?
– When you eliminate foods rich in saturated fats (animal-based products such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin) for foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (plant-based oils, including soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil; fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout), this reduces the risk of heart disease by 19% and your risk of a stroke by 6%.
– Some studies have link processed meat and red meat consumption to the increased risk of colorectal, gastric, prostate, and breast cancer.
– Recent studies have proven that reducing intake of meat can prevent long-term weight gain.
– Increased life expectancy is seen in those who consume less meat.
– Plant-based proteins have less fat and no cholesterol.

How Do Asian Countries Compare?
In many Asian countries, fish and beans are seen as the main source of protein rather than beef or chicken (as seen here in the United States). Most Asian countries consume almost twice as much fish as Americans do. Eating certain kinds of fish can help boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of some cancers and help lower your risk of heart disease. In this diet, fish and meat are seen higher up on a food pyramid (pictured), while having an emphasis on rice, vegetables, and fruits. While rice may be high in carbs, it provides more than 15 vitamins and minerals. Rice is also glucose-, sodium- and cholesterol-free, making it an excellent heart-healthy choice. The American or “Western diet” however is based more around animal products and processed food. The typical American diet includes a large amount of red meat. Red meats are high in saturated fat, and eating them has been linked to the risk of developing heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes.

So how does their health compare to ours?  The prevalence of obesity in the United States has doubled among adults, due to the high-calorie, nutritionally-empty American/Western diet in combination with a sedentary lifestyle. While Americans do in fact consume moderate amounts of fruits and vegetables, such foods aren’t always in the foundation of our diet. Vegetables in the standard American diet are often not included in meals or are served as a side dish. Some could argue that this has led to Americans’ having a higher incidence of obesity, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and high cholesterol and blood pressure. Conversely, populations that have plant-based diets, which emphasize fish and keep dairy and meat consumption to a minimum, have a significantly lower incidence of these chronic diseases and conditions.

What about Protein?
One of the biggest concerns people have in regards to reducing their meat intake is getting enough protein. This is really not an issue of protein, but rather a subject that most people aren’t as familiar with. Greek yogurt, tofu, beans, eggs, almonds, oats, seeds, cottage cheese, broccoli, and quinoa are all full of protein, and in some cases they have more protein than a serving of red meat. Spinach is a great source of protein, so throw a handful in a smoothie or eat some more lentils at dinner. There are so many ways to get your protein in without the meat.

Here’s a fun recipe to try :: Sweet Potato Tacos with Black Beans
– Sweet Potatoes
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– ½ medium red onion, diced
– 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/4″ cubes
– ½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 chipotle in adobo sauce
– 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
– 1 tablespoon honey
– Juice from one lime
– 4 taco shells (hard or soft)
– extra cilantro, for topping

– Heat olive oil over medium heat in skillet
– Add onions and let cook until onions begin to soften, 3-4 minutes
– Stir in sweet potatoes and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes
– In a separate bowl, combine the chipotle, adobo sauce, honey, and lime juice
– Break apart the chipotle into small pieces
– Pour the mixture into the pan with the sweet potatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low
– Add beans and continue to cook until sweet potatoes have softened, 10-15 minutes
– Serve and add desired toppings like sour cream, avocados, and fresh salsa

See our previous FIT4U Fitness Challenges where we challenged our team to drink more water and eat more veggies, and reduce their sugar intake.

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