1. Do I need to worry about getting enough protein on Meatless Monday?
A. No. Protein deficiency is very rare, even in full-time vegetarians. As long as you’re eating enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, and following the USDA’s healthy diet guidelines, you’re almost certain to get enough protein.
2. Do I need to combine certain foods during meals to ensure protein quality?
A. No. Although most vegetarian protein sources provide only some of the essential amino acids, it isn’t necessary to combine foods to create “complete proteins.’ If you follow the FDA’s diet guidelines, your body will have all the amino acids (and complete protein) it needs.
3. What about iron or B12?
A. Going meatless for one day a week is unlikely to create iron or B12 deficiencies. Iron is present in many vegetables and deficiency is rare, even among full-time vegetarians. People who never consume animal products of any kind (i.e. vegans) may need to supplement with B12.
For more on nutritional considerations of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, visit the Vegetarian Resource Group.
4. Is a meatless diet automatically healthier?
A. No. Eliminating meat doesn’t automatically make your diet healthier. It’s still important to eat the right balance of healthy foods and to limit your intake of unhealthy foods.
5. Will going without meat cause me to lose weight?
A. Not necessarily. Depending on how they’re prepared, vegetarian protein sources like beans and legumes can be lower in fat and calories. And people who eat less meat tend to have a lower body weight. However, meatless diets aren’t necessarily lower in calories. Follow the FDA’s guidelines to manage your calorie intake.
6. Should I avoid exercising if I’m not eating meat?
A. There’s no need to avoid exercise with Meatless Monday. A healthy meatless diet will provide more than enough energy, protein and other nutrients to fuel all of your usual activities including your workouts.
7. What if I’m on a low-carb diet?
A. Most beans and legumes are relatively high in complex carbohydrates (meat contains no carbohydrates). If you’re restricting carbohydrates, you may want to choose nuts and seeds, eggs and low-fat dairy products as your primary protein foods. Green vegetables, which are low in carbohydrates, can also be an important source of protein.
8. What about eating out?
A. As more and more people are choosing meatless lifestyles, it’s getting easier to find meatless options on restaurant menus. Most restaurants now offer at least one vegetarian entrée. Indian, Asian and Mexican restaurants usually have many meatless options.
9. Should I cut fats completely out of my diet?
A: No. While Americans eat too much dietary fat in general, fat remains a crucial nutrient. There are, however, fats that are beneficial to health and others that aren’t. According to the Healthy People 2010 Report, researchers have found that diets low in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol are associated with low risk and rates of coronary heart disease. Substituting foods high in these fats can help lower health risks.
The primary source of saturated fats are meats and dairy products that contain fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids do not raise blood cholesterol. Foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat include seeds, flaxseed, nuts, nut butters and oils including olive, sesame and canola.