Fitness + Well-being

The Weekday Vegetarian: Lose Weight, Live Longer?

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What started as a health movement called “Meatless Mondays” has evolved into a trendy strategy that aims to cut meat from your weekday diet. Cynthia Sass, a nationally acclaimed health and nutrition expert and New York Times best-selling author, calls it “going semi-vegetarian.”

“This isn’t a quick fix,” Sass says. “People looking for quick weight loss are more inclined to do a high-protein thing.” Going semi-vegetarian is for those looking for long-term and sustainable health and weight loss benefits.

Take Sass’s husband, for example, who’s lost over 50 pounds since they met. “He would never call himself a vegetarian, but during the week, even when I’m out of town, he’ll go to a Thai place and get tofu,” Sass says. “He says he feels lighter, better and more energized.”

There’s no calorie counting or points involved with going semi-vegetarian, and it’s not an all-or-nothing diet. When her husband really has a craving for meat, “he enjoys it and doesn’t feel limited.”

Sass credits much of the trend's popularity to the rising accessibility of ethnic foods. “You don’t need to be in New York or L.A. to get a variety of ethnic food anymore,” she says. Ethnic cuisines are more plant-based than the American diet, and “now that people are eating more ethnic foods, people are starting to get away from the thinking that you have to have meat on your plate at every meal.”

Sass calls it “a smart strategy” because “it generally leads to consuming a broader variety of foods, so you’re “getting more fiber, antioxidants and nutrients — and cutting back on saturated fat and cholesterol.” And, if you look at the health aspects, semi-vegetarians have a lower risk of almost every chronic disease, she adds.

Top foodies have jumped on the trend as well. “If you watch the Food Network, there are a lot more plant-based meals,” Sass says. And on Amazon, a lot of the best-selling cook books are plant-based. Take quinoa, for example. A few years ago, many people didn’t know what the gluten-free grain was, and now it’s available in almost every grocery and health food store in America. And, in October 2012, Camilla V. Saulsbury is releasing her recipe book, “500 Best Quinoa Recipes.” It makes us wonder what other superfoods we've yet to capitalize on.

Whether or not you give up meat entirely, incorporating vegetarian options into your diet can allow you to reap some of the positive benefits of the semi-vegetarian strategy.

“I think it’s a really exciting trend and it’s only going to grow,” Sass says.