Health & Fitness Supplement

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Saying the occasional sayonara to steak

Sabrina Nemis | Fulcrum Contributor

Illustration by Brennan Bova

OBESITY-RELATED illnesses cost the Ontario provincial government $1.6 billion a year. To cut costs and promote a healthier lifestyle, the government is implementing an action plan for Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL). One of the recommendations made by EatRight Ontario, a service funded as part of HEAL and run by registered Canadian dieticians, is to forgo beef, pork, fish, or poultry once a week—what some are calling Meatless Monday.

Going meatless once a week can be a cost-effective way to improve your health. According to EatRight Ontario, eating as a vegetarian just four to five days a month can help reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; increase your levels of vitamin B12, which keeps your blood and nerves healthy; and lower your cholesterol.

The idea of going vegetarian, even for a day, can be terrifying to the average meat eater. Even if they are aware of the health benefits of avoiding meat, some find it hard to say no. Vegetarian food can seem boring, complicated, or better suited to your rabbit’s hutch than to your dinner plate. But the carnivores out there needn’t worry; continue reading and you’ll be able to easily navigate strange-sounding ingredients, delicious possibilities, and local restaurants so you need never fear vegetarianism again.

One way to ease into Meatless Mondays is to try eating out at a vegetarian restaurant. Ottawa has several, and a couple are within walking distance of campus. Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise is only a couple of minutes away at 167 Laurier Ave. E, and Govinda’s is at 212 Somerset St. E. These vegetarian restaurants offer a variety of filling and delicious dishes, so you can put the image of limp lettuce and stringy celery sticks out of your mind. Going out to experiment will give you the chance to try something new without the frustration of spending an hour making kale chips only to find out in the first bite they make you gag.

As you peruse the menu, don’t be intimidated by ingredients you’ve never tasted or even heard of before. Restaurant staff are knowledgeable and happy to help patrons explore new food choices, so don’t be afraid to ask.

One of the main staples of vegetarian eating is soy, which is rich in protein and iron. Many people imagine soy as a tasteless block of mush in tofu form. However, one of the reasons soy is so popular is that it comes in many forms, so you can pick the one that fits your taste the best. Maybe miso soup will float your boat, or tempeh bacon will make you salivate. Plenty of meat-based dishes have vegetarian counterparts that are just as delicious; you still get variety and can simply modify your favourites, like pizza, curries, wraps, and more, to ensure they don’t contain meat. And hey, desserts are almost always vegetarian too!

Use the experience of trying new dishes to get ideas for cooking meatless for yourself once a week. There are thousands of websites with healthy and easy recipes to choose from. You don’t need to give up meat entirely to appreciate eating in a new way, improve your quality of life, and work toward decreasing your chances of developing life-threatening illnesses. You may even find something you really like. Pass the channa masala!