Parents — you’re busy trying to turn off vacation mode, prep everyone for their much-anticipated first day of class and get back into a weekday routine. Does this sound at all familiar? In my opinion, back to school season could also be known as parental stress season.
As a nutritionist and eternal optimist, I like to think that getting back into a routine can be a positive thing. It’s an ideal time to put some new meals into your weekly rotation — meals that encourage the foods our diets often lack, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
A sure-fire way to get more of these nutrient-dense foods is to plan for 1–2 meatless meals per week. This is the simplest of tips and one that I usually suggest to families as they gear up for a new school year.
Why Go Meatless?
We all know that plant-based foods offer a plethora of nutrition benefits. As my colleague Carol Savage, MS, RDN shared in a previous post, plant-based diets often equate to lower levels of saturated fat and more fiber and phytochemicals. This nutrient profile may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Here at Nestlé we work hard to cater for a variety of dietary needs and food preferences, and include a range of options in our portfolio, from plant-based Coffee-mate Natural Bliss creamers to meatless meals like Lean Cuisine Spicy Penne Arrabbiata. It’s our way of making your grocery shop that little bit simpler, even if you’re making a change to your usual selections.
You don’t have to go meatless 100% of the time, but enjoying a few plant-based meals per week could make a difference in your diet quality and help you (and your family!) come closer to meeting your recommended intakes for fruit, veggies, legumes and whole grains.
That’s not the only reason, going meat-free a couple of times a week has a few other great benefits:
- Lower grocery bills
Meat, poultry and fish are often the most expensive items in the grocery cart, while plant-based foods tend to cost less. Saving a small amount of money during your weekly shop might help you out if you want to treat yourself at the end of the month!
- Plenty of protein
Concerned about still getting enough protein as you reduce meat intake? Don’t be! On average, most Americans are eating enough protein — including those that follow a plant-based eating pattern. Your daily protein needs can be easily met by eating a variety of non-meat sources such as beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy products, dairy and whole grains.
- No extra time required
Meatless meals can come together just as quickly as any other dish — so changing up a couple of meals a week won’t take time away from the things that are important to you. A favorite of mine when I’ve got to put together a quick meatless meal are Buitoni veggie-filled pastas, which take less than 10 minutes to cook.
- Great taste
While meat, poultry and fish provide great taste in many dishes, there are countless delicious, flavor-packed recipes out there — no meat required. Don’t be afraid to explore new plant-based foods and you’ll probably discover some new family favorites.
Making the Simple Swap
Perhaps I’ve sold you on the idea of eating more meatless meals, and you need some inspiration to get started? It doesn’t need to be complicated.
Creating a meatless meal can be as easy as making a simple swap. Just insert a plant-based protein and/or dairy in place of the meat in your usual recipe — so rather than cooking pasta with a meat sauce, swap out that meat for white beans and sautéed zucchini, mushrooms and peppers. A delicious meatless meal with absolutely no extra fuss!
Here at Nestlé we are excited to welcome plant-based nutrition foods company Sweet Earth to our collection of brands — making plant-based nutritional choices even simpler.
So if you’re a parent looking for great ways to get into a healthy school routine, or if you’re just looking for ways to improve your diet, giving meatless Monday a try could be the answer!
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