motivated by health, economic or environmental concerns, many Americans are
beginning to reconsider the traditional place that meat holds at the nightly
dinner table. But don’t worry about reshaping your entire diet overnight. You
can start to switch to a more plant-based diet with a few simple changes:
Decrease your meals’ proportion of meat. If you tend to eat meals composed
of separate foods rather than mixed dishes, start by cutting your meat portion
by about 25 percent.
If you normally eat
six to eight ounces of meat per meal, reduce portions to three to four ounces,
roughly the size of one to one-and-a-half decks of cards.
Reducing your meat portion even more (to two
ounces) can still satisfy your nutrient needs as long as you plate is balanced
with a selection of other healthful foods. Although this can seem like a big
change – especially if you are used to restaurant-sized meat portions that can
exceed 12 ounces – simple tricks like slicing the meat thinly and fanning out
the slices can make a smaller portion seem larger.
adjustments are even easier to adapt to in mixed dishes.
With stir-fries, stews, soups, lasagna and
other pasta dishes, follow the same idea of cutting back on meat, and simply
increase the amount of plant foods in the dish.
Start by adding at least 25 percent more vegetables; if you’re among the
many Americans whose vegetable intake is woefully low, go ahead and double the
Choose your type of meat wisely. One of the major recommendations
from the latest international report on diet and cancer risk is to limit red
meat (beef, lamb and pork) to no more than 18 ounces a week. Poultry and
seafood are heart-healthy options that don’t pose the cancer risk of red meat –
as long as they’re not deep-fried, of course.
If red meat has been a staple for you, reduce the amount you eat by: decreasing
portion size and filling the rest of your plate with more grains and
vegetables, choosing poultry and seafood more often, or trying meatless options
like protein-rich beans or tofu as alternatives.
Rethink “side dishes.” Increasing the proportion of plant foods on
your plate can be both boring and limiting if you continue to think of
vegetables and grains as “side dishes.” Make these foods the centerpiece of
your plate by adding new herbs and spices and create a more filling meal by
adding a touch of olive oil or a handful of nuts or seeds.
fruit, grated citrus peel or a bit of Parmesan cheese are other
simple ways to liven up recipes.
experimenting with new ways to serve beans and other legumes like lentils, tofu
and other soy foods. They can be used in place of all or some of the meat in
Or try completely new
dishes to avoid comparisons to the usual version.
Peruse the vegetarian and ethnic cookbook
sections at your local library or bookstore for new recipe ideas.
Tailor your plate to your own needs. Consider your current weight
as you think about reshaping your plate.
If you’ve been eating meals larger than your hunger dictates and
over-consuming calories, you can easily cut back on meat without adding more of
If you need more plant
foods for a satisfying meal, remember that whole grains are more nutritious
than refined grains.
Lastly, if you are
trying to lose weight, you might choose to bulk up your plate with nonstarchy
vegetables since many are half the calories of an equal portion of grain or
September 22, 2008
Contact: Sarah Wally, (202) 328-7744
The American Institute for Cancer Research
(AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of
nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets
the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has
contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at
universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has
published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the
field and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a
wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make
dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate
program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its Web site, www.aicr.org.
AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
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