Nearly four years ago, I became a vegetarian -- not because of a love for animals, not for a dislike of meat and not because Beyoncé was doing it.
It was simply because of happenstance or, maybe, laziness.
I was a busy student living in Tel Aviv when meat slowly disappeared from my life.
I no longer had the convenience -- or spoke the language -- to call up and order a salad with grilled chicken for a healthy, quick dinner. Shopping for raw meat to cook was also not high on my priority list.
I began to rely on simple, nutritious and healthy combinations of protein, carbs and fat.
One day I realized I was a vegetarian, and I wore my new name tag proudly.
I never feel deprived; I never miss or crave meat, and I haven’t had the desire to return to a carnivorous lifestyle since moving back to New York three years ago.
Over time, especially as a dietetics student, I educated myself about my all-about-convenience vegetarian diet.
Once I learned about the health benefits and experienced how much better I felt (and how my body felt about my new diet), adopting a vegetarian diet for the past four years has been easy.
The SAD, Standard American Diet, largely consists of fatty fast food, sugary beverages, nutrition-stripped refined carbs and an overemphasis on protein.
A meat-free diet done right puts the priority on produce and real food: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and more.
While a full-time, plant-based, meat-free diet isn’t for everyone, here are the top 10 reasons you should go meat free today, in honor of #WorldMeatFreeDay:
1. Recover from the weekend.
Summer weekends are here, which often means late nights, boozy brunches and maybe an extra hamburger (or two) at last night's BBQ.
Going meat-free and plant-heavy today will give your body a flood of antioxidants and the nourishment it needs to help combat some of those extra indulgences from the weekend.
2. Strut your stuff in your summer suit.
Unless you’re a "junk-e-tarian," consuming a plant-based vegetarian diet even once a week will help you slim down without much brain power.
Just fill your plate with mostly veggies, plant-based sources of protein like beans, lentils and nuts, and don’t forget to top it all off with some healthy fats, like avocado. Press repeat and you’ll most likely effortlessly lose a few pounds.
3. Introduce yourself to your kitchen.
If your kitchen skills resemble Carrie’s in "Sex and the City," maybe going meat-free will be the impetus you need to channel your inner Mario Batali.
Wipe off that layer of dust, head to the grocery store and get creative. Looking for some inspiration? Check out my collection of meat-free recipes here.
4. Boost your energy (and save a buck).
A well-planned vegetarian diet is packed with antioxidants, healthy fats and way more vitamins and minerals than your typical SAD diet.
Try a dietitian-approved combination of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, like this bean, lentil and quinoa salad-stuffed avocado.
Filling up on these nutrient-dense foods will provide an instant burst of energy, so you can save your four bucks and skip your afternoon latte.
5. Improve your sex life.
Eating more veggies won’t help your game at the bar, but it can help between the sheets. Eating more water-based foods, like cucumbers and watermelon, improves hydration.
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in nuts, pumpkin seeds, avocado) have been shown to reduce vaginal dryness, both of which can improve natural lubrication for women.
According to PETA, plant-based diets can improve blood flow, specifically below the belt for men.
6. Increase longevity.
You might even make it a weekly ritual. Studies show that vegetarians outlive their carnivorous counterparts, so cutting back on your meat consumption, even by one-seventh (yes, one day a week) can help you live a longer, more prosperous life.
7. Show the Earth some love.
Scorching summer temps in June and months-long droughts out west prove that global warming is real.
Give the Earth a hug by going meat-free today. It takes 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to create a single pound of beef, versus 39 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables.
8. Prevent chronic diseases.
You may be able to chow down on Shake Shack day-in and day-out in your 20s, but one day, science dictates, it will all catch up with you.
I hate to pop the "we’re invincible" bubble, but taking better care of yourself now, even if it’s just a little, can hugely help you as you age.
Hop on the healthy train and just try cutting back on your meat consumption today.
9. Expand your palate.
Most of us are creatures of habit, which means you may mindlessly eat the same salad with grilled chicken, almonds and craisins every single day.
Get your head out of the salad bowl and try something new — meat-free! Head to that Thai place on the corner and try a veggie-filled pad thai or those press-grabbing, GMO-free sofritas at Chipotle!
10. Challenge yourself.
I’m a firm believer that personal growth and well-being can stall if we do not consistently challenge ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally.
And you don’t need a grandiose, “I’ll deprive myself of all things good” declaration (cough, juice cleanse, cough) to notice a change.
Eliminating meat for just one day will force you to put more thought into what you eat, which may lead to some surprising discovery about yourself.
If the thought of going meat-free for one day triggers panic, rest assured, you’re not alone.
But, you may [pleasantly] surprise yourself and enjoy the challenge of trying something new.
You will be bettering your health, have a more optimistic credit card statement and help the planet.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a win-win in my book.