Food

PHOTOS: Going meatless one day a week is healthy

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Seth Ayres blends up a chocolate smoothie at the vegetarian iCreate Cafe in Pottstown.

By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury

Get on the nutrition track by moving vegetables and plant-based proteins to center stage and leave the meat in the freezer one day a week.

Meatless Monday is a popular food trend that encourages people to go meatless at the beginning of the work week for both health and environmental benefits. Catholics go meatless every Friday during the religious tradition of Lent which started in February and lasts until Easter.

Registered dietitian Stefanie Williams, of Spring City, said going meatless, even for just one day, can decrease the risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“So anytime we’re planning a meatless meal, we’re hopefully increasing our consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” said Williams.

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There’s also a lot of research that connects consuming lots of red meat to certain cancers, she said. Adding more non-meat protein sources will help decrease the amount of saturated fats which can contribute to cardiovascular disease or weight management issues.

Ashraf Khalil, owner of the vegetarian restaurant iCreate Café in Pottstown, said he lost 17 pounds when he became a vegan. Khalil describes iCreate as a café that serves Mediterranean vegetarian food but said a lot of his dishes are completely plant-based making them vegan.

“After opening the café, I was really influenced by the health benefits of going vegan,” he said adding that when he stopped eating animal products such as dairy and eggs he also cut back on a lot of added sugar and fats.

Khalil decided to take meat out of his diet after watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives.” The film examines the impact of animal-based foods in people’s health.

Badruzzaman Alamgir, co-ower of Raw Can Roll Café in Wayne, said he feels much healthier since adding vegan dishes to his diet. He said that meat tastes well but then he doesn’t feel so great after eating it and he digest vegetables a lot better. Alamgir isn’t a vegan or vegetarian but said he eats at least one vegan dish every day. He said the café has a burger made from beets and rice that’s delicious.

“It looks much better than a beef burger and it tastes much better than a beef burger,” he said.

Alamgir said he opened a vegan café so he could provide the community with healthy eating options. He said what food people eat affects how they act in a society and that organic food creates an organic mind.

“I call it (vegan dishes) peaceful food,” he said.

Khalil said there are so many advantages to adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2006 and contributes remaining cancer free to changing his diet. He said going without meat for just one day will benefit the heart because that’s three whole meals you’re adding more plant-based foods. Khalil said when you start the week healthy then you will want to continue eating nutritious foods.

“You cleanse your body,” he said.

Khalil said not only is he healthier since adding more plant-based meals to his diet but he’s also significantly decreased his carbon footprint. He said vegans conserve a lot of environmental resources such as water and fuel.

Williams said people shouldn’t be nervous about going meatless for a day because it’s very simple and doable. Everyday meals can quickly become meatless, she said. People can do have a bean-based chili or Italian dishes such as pasta and leave out the meat.

“It’s opening people’s eyes so they see they might actually do more meatless meals in a week than they realize.”

Williams said people also shouldn’t worry about not getting enough protein when going meatless. Quinoa is a whole grain that has protein and soy beans such as edamame is a complete plant protein that can be used in salads and stir-fry, she said. Beans and lentils are another great option for proteins as well as nuts and seeds.

Khalil said once people start to go meatless for a day or two then they will notice the positive impact on their wallet. He said there’s a big cost difference between buying a pound of some meats and buying a pound of lentils. In addition to a lower grocery bill, people will have the opportunity to diversify the foods they eat, he said.

For more about Meatless Monday, visit the website www.meatlessmonday.com.

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