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Nutritious and Meatless Protein Meals for Earth Day and Every Day

April 16, 2024
Nutritious and Meatless Protein Meals for Earth Day and Every Day

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In this article:

  • Earth Day is for celebrating the environment’s health, and your choice of protein matters.
  • Opting for more plant-based sources of protein and less red meat can support better health.
  • Consuming nutritious sources of plant-based protein can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
  • Plant-based foods are cholesterol-free and can be low in saturated fat and high in fiber, potassium, and other essential nutrients.
  • Nutritious meatless meals can be easy to prepare, satisfying, and tasty. You can add them to your routine gradually.
  • Keep reading to see ideas for delicious meatless meals and snacks.
  • Lark can help you manage weight with or without GLP-1s as you log food, get tips for eating healthier, and make small changes that can turn into healthy habits.

Earth Day happens every April 22nd to support the environment’s health, and you can also use it as motivation to support your health. When it comes to protein, choices like red meat can be harmful to human and environmental health. Similarly, many plant-based sources of protein are good for human health and are more sustainably sourced.

Eating more plant-based proteins can improve health and help with weight loss. Here’s what to know about the benefits of eating less meat and how to choose nutritious and tasty alternatives for any meal or snack.

Impact of Meat and Plant-Based Proteins on the Environment

Switching from a meat-based to a plant-based diet positively impacts the environment by producing fewer carbon dioxide emissions and using fewer resources.

A review article in the Journal Nutrition says that compared to each gram of protein from tofu, each gram of protein from beef can generate about 4-64 times the amount of carbon dioxide gas, which is a greenhouse gas linked to climate change. Additional resources for producing cattle include water for drinking and growing feed, land for grazing and growing feed, and labor and facilities for raising and processing livestock. Even more resources are needed for manufacturing processed meats like bacon, sausages, and luncheon meats.

Poultry has a far lower environmental impact than beef, with carbon emissions per gram of protein from chicken only 1-4 times the amount of carbon emissions per gram of protein from soybeans. Choosing chicken instead of beef can be a logical first step for many meat eaters.

Plant-based sources of protein are largely environmentally friendly. Soybeans, beans, lentils, and split peas are highest in protein, but you can also get protein from whole grains, nuts, peanuts, vegetables, and seeds.

Meat, Plant-Based Protein Sources, and Your Health

Reducing the carbon footprint of your protein sources can not only improve the health of the environment, but also improve your own health. The American Diabetes Association (ADA), American College of Cardiology (ACC), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the American Heart Association (AHA) all suggest dietary patterns that limit red and processed meat consumption, according to a review article in Diabetes Care.

Here are some likely effects of swapping plant-based proteins for red and processed meats.

  • Reduced overall inflammation
  • Reduced risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Lower risk for colon and certain other types of cancer
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and lowered risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat
  • Increased consumption of dietary fiber and potassium
  • Improved weight control

It’s important to note that you can get adequate protein from plant-based foods. Swapping plant-based foods for meat can also help increase fiber and other nutrients, while reducing cholesterol and saturated fat. Just be aware that plant-based foods aren’t natural sources of vitamin B12, so you’ll need to include fortified foods or take supplements to meet your needs.

Putting “Meatless” into Meals and Snacks

If you’re used to eating meat most days or at most meals, it can be easier to add meatless meals gradually. For example, you might start with a meatless Monday or meatless lunches a couple of days a week before adding additional meatless days or meals.

Here are some additional tips.

  • Meat substitutes like soy-based hot dogs and meatless chicken can be easy to use because you can just swap them for your regular meat item without changing the basic structure of the meal
  • Stews, soups, casseroles, and other mixed dishes can be good candidates for meatless recipes
  • Experiment with different spices and flavor profiles as you make meatless dishes

Here are some ideas for tasty and easy meatless meals and snacks.

  1. Roasted bell pepper halves stuffed with quinoa, black beans, and diced tomatoes
  2. Soy-based hot dog on a whole-grain hot dog bun with coleslaw mix with Asian dressing
  3. Colorful wraps with shredded purple cabbage, julienned bell peppers grated carrots, and peanut sauce in a whole-grain tortilla or wrap
  4. Whole-grain spaghetti with olive oil, spinach, garlic, lemon juice, and cashews or other nuts
  5. Three-bean salad with chickpeas, kidney beans, and green beans, dressed in a mixture of diced onion, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar
  6. Bean soup with vegetables
  7. Butternut squash soup with black beans, cumin, and cilantro
  8. Lentil soup with vegetables and barley
  9. Minestrone soup with beans, whole-grain pasta, cabbage, zucchini, and tomatoes
  10. Vegetables and toasted whole-grain tortillas with store-bought or homemade hummus with garbanzo beans, garlic, tahini or olive oil, and seasoning
  11. Bean dip made of cooked black or pinto beans, lemon or lime juice, garlic, cumin, and cilantro, served with raw vegetables or toasted strips of whole-grain tortilla
  12. Almond butter on a whole-grain rice cake
  13. Peanut butter on whole-grain toast with sliced strawberries
  14. Oatmeal with almonds and banana
  15. Tofu scramble with spinach, diced onion, and bell peppers

How Lark Can Help

Nutritious sources of protein can help support weight management, and it’s easier to find the right foods when you have the support you need. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for nutrition and physical activity coaching and tracking. Lark can help you make healthy choices and establish habits that fit into your lifestyle so you can lose weight and keep it off with or without GLP-1 medications.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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