My beautiful and healthy wife, Mindy, has been a vegetarian, specifically a lacto-ovo vegetarian, for over 18 years.  She does eat milk-based cheeses and the occasional omelet, and this is how she falls into the lacto-ovo category.  As with everything these days, there are variations of vegetarian diet, from pescatarians (fish eaters), to true vegans, who exclude all animal-based foods.  (I have no idea where shrimp, crab and lobster eaters fit in, but they are tasty bugs.)

Why would anyone not want bacon?  There are many health benefits to a reduced meat diet.  These benefits include weight loss and management, decreased rates of cancer, and decreased risk of the big three diseases – diabetes, heart disease and elevated cholesterol.

Of course, eating only French fries and white bread could qualify as a vegan diet, but obviously would not be any healthier than eating fast food every day, so some effort must be taken to learn how to eat healthy and what to eat.  I recommend starting at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit www.eatright.com and search for the story named “Vegging out tips.”

Another great source of information, especially if you have or are at risk for the diseases already discussed, is to talk with your health care provider about a referral to a registered dietician.

But, let’s be honest, meatless Mondays just aren’t for everyone. But can you eat healthy, be more plant-based and still have the occasional steak?  Yes you can, and since it is a smaller portion than the 72-ounce challenge at the Big Texan, you can get a much higher quality cut. General rule of thumb is 6 ounces a day.  So, rather than spending $5 a pound on ground beef, get an organic, free range chicken breast, or a tenderloin (which are sometimes wrapped in a slice of bacon and that is OK).

Embrace the challenge: learn how to make a great, spicy vegetarian chili (secret is sweet potatoes and fresh hot peppers).  Start out by reducing one meal a week to meatless, add in some black beans for protein and you can get there.  Search for your favorite foods and add “vegetarian.”  You might be surprised how satisfied you can be with a homemade arrabiata sauce on whole wheat or veggie pasta. 

Have a great week, and be healthier today than you were yesterday!

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