Eating lean meats and fish in moderation is considered healthy, and many people in Canada do enjoy animal products in their diet. However, in recent years, a plant-based approach to eating has grown in popularity for its health and environmental benefits. There are many more plant-based foods available at the grocery store, so now is a great time to try going vegan or vegetarian for a week.  

There are many variations of a vegetarian diet, so be sure to choose one that suits you and your lifestyle. Here are a few things to remember if you’re going to take the meatless challenge for a week. 

1. Hit your protein targets 

When taking a plant-based approach to food, remember the importance of meeting your daily protein requirements. A meatless diet could make this slightly more challenging, but the good news is there are countless alternative protein options that are packed with nutrients and can be used in many delicious ways to build your meals. 

2. Look for meat replacements 

The variety and affordability of meat substitutes have grown in recent years. Instead of a hamburger for example, try a lentil or black bean burger. One of the heartiest alternatives to meat can be a barbequed portobello mushroom steak or burger as well. 

3. Use carbs in moderation 

Replacing meat with more carbs may fill the void, but isn’t really the best approach to a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet. Instead, focus on increasing your vegetable and fruit intake, and seeking out protein alternative like legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds, tempeh, tofu and quinoa. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy carbs in moderation – try this delicious vegetarian lasagna that’s high in calcium, fibre, healthy fats and antioxidants.  

4. Seek out vitamin and mineral sources 

Meats – especially lean ones like fish or chicken – are a good source of vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy body function. Thankfully, these vitamins and minerals can be found all over the food pyramid, but most notably in vegetables. By eating more green veggies you can add more of the important vitamins to supplement a low-meat or no-meat meal plan. 

Reducing your meat consumption is a great way to reduce unhealthy fats and lower your cholesterol. By turning to fruits, vegetables and nuts, you can pack more nutrient-dense foods into your meals without relying on the high calorie counts and longer prep-times of many meats and other animal products. 

Of course, going 100% meatless isn’t for everyone. If you’re hesitant to take the plant-based plunge, try incorporating a ‘Meatless Monday’ into your week. Alternatively, you can try a flexitarian or pescetarian diet that reduces meat consumption without cutting it out entirely.