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Meatless March: Are You Taking the Challenge?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Happy March, everyone! Are you participating in the 30-Day Meatless Challenge?  
In addition to being the month that spring officially begins, March is also the time of Lent and Purim (did you know that Queen Esther might have been vegan?).

Did you know that during in ancient times, fasting during Lent was much stricter--in some places, all animal products were forbidden--and in other countries, predominantly in the East, only vegan foods are consumed during Lent?

March is also National Nutrition Month, and March 20 is Meatout day.

And SparkPeople's first official e-book, "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet," published earlier this week. (Thanks to you, the book has been #1 in vegetarian and low-fat diet e-books on Amazon all week, and it also was in the top five of all vegetarian cookbooks--"real" and e-books. WooHoo!)

I can't think of a better time to experiment with meatless meals.

Many of you have had questions regarding the challenge. It's simple. We're using the Vegetarian Team as our home base, and I'm posting a new thread each week. (Click here for this week's thread.) Feel free to post your questions and comments there, and on my weekly blogs, which will run Fridays through the month of March.

I called this the "Meatless Challenge" because it allows for some flexibility in your food choices. Meatless includes vegan and vegetarian meals. You can define meatless however you please; I'm not hear to judge!

So what should we be doing?

If you're already eating vegan meals, use the month of March to clean up your diet. Some suggestions:
  • Track one of the key nutrients vegetarians and vegans need to watch. Check in on your calcium levels, plan to boost your iron intake, or ramp up your Omega-3s.
  • Take a cooking challenge. If you're a vegan who doesn't like to cook, take this month as a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen.
  • Keep your sweet tooth in check. Challenge yourself to smaller portions or less-frequent sweets if that's something you struggle with.
If you're new to meatless meals, start small. Some suggestions:
If you're someone who says you could never eat meat, I'm not going to pressure you to give it up. That's your decision. However, you could use this month as a chance to eat more vegetables and whole grains.
So what's the next step?
Blog about your experience as you go along. Share your tips, the changes you observe in your body, and your new favorite recipes on your SparkPage. And keep checking in on the veg team thread.

I'm taking this challenge as well. I feel so excited to have all of you supporting me along the way!  Since I already eat a meatless diet (a 100% vegan one to be exact!), I will use the month of March to clean up my diet.

My goals:
  1. Break my after-dinner sweets habit. I don't have a sweet tooth, but my boyfriend does. He brings out the chocolate, and I can't resist. I am determined to take a month off from mindlessly eating sweets after dinner!
  2. Increase my protein intake. I eat enough protein, but I usually end up in the low end of my range on SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker. Eating protein aids in satiety and helps you stay fuller longer. I sometimes struggle with maintaining my hunger levels, so I think that reaching for protein-rich snacks will help. I'll add more nuts and seeds to my snacks, double my portions of beans, tofu or tempeh at dinner, and I'll add brown rice protein powder to my post-workout smoothies.
I'm excited to see how this challenge affects me. Are you?
Today let's talk quickly about vegan snacks, which can be a lifesaver when you're away from home and there's no veg-friendly food in sight.
What are some tasty vegan snacks that don't require a recipe?
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal and soy or almond milk
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Fruit and nut butter (apples and almond butter are a favorite of mine!)
  • Hummus and whole-grain crackers or veggies
  • Salsa and baked chips
  • Smoothies made with fruit and non-dairy milk
  • Sorbet with fruit and granola
  • Smoked tofu slices with crackers or fruit (my version of cheese and crackers)
  • Instant or regular oatmeal
One of my favorite snacks is kale chips, a recipe for which I include in the ebook. I hope you'll check it out!

Some of you have asked whether you need a Kindle reader to download the book. No, you don't. You can download Kindle apps for your mobile phone or your computer (Kindle for PC and Mac are available).

Also, a Nook version and an iPad version of the e-book are coming soon! Please stay tuned for more info on those.

Thank you so much for your support of our first official e-book. I look forward to writing and sharing more with you, and I am really excited to share my passion for plant-based eating with you!
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or send me a SparkMail, and I'll answer them in next week's blog.

Go veggies!

What is your goal for the challenge? Why are you inspired to take the challenge?

What is your favorite vegan snack?

What is your goal for the challenge?

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MUSICNUT 9/11/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
2DAWN4 9/2/2020
I have celebrated meatless March every day for the past 23 years. Report
I've made a decision the first of the year, to quit eating all meat. With an occasional fish. By the first of next year as I go, I want to go solely plant base Vegan. Gradual works then trying to give up all at one time. I quit poultry, and red meat, a couple of years back, I only ate pork and fish. Pork is gone too. I've found really grand subs with Morning star, and other meatless items. I do know and I just told a vegetarian about the fact that any jello's gelatin, gummy bears all have animal bone in them. She did not know that, and had been a vegetarian for 10 years. Report
RYCGIRL 5/27/2020
thx Report
I belong to the Affordable Vegan, Vegetarian, and Flexitrarian team. I am disabled and am on fixed income and 2/3 of my food comes from food pantries. I joined this team because I found it less intimidating. I would LOVE this ebook but because of my limited income I do NOT subscribe to Kindle or own a tablet of any kind nor do I own a cell phone. Wish I could download this for FREE. It is not impossible to eat a healthier diet on a fixed income. But be advised that a lot of "perks" are going to be unavailable! Report
We rarely eat meat. Report
I have never meatless March., I would like to do it Report
Never heard of Meatless March! We do Meatless Mondays and probably about 70% of our meals are vegetarian. Will have to try this next March. Report
thanks Report
thanks Report
Lacto-ovo vegetarians exist too. You can use dairy and/or eggs & still skip meat. Report
I can do some meals without meat but I am carnivorous. Report
i've been plant-based vegan the entire time i have been on sparkpeople, and i see a comment below that it would be nice if the meal planner had a vegan option. did that ever happen? i did buy the e-book that is mentioned back then. haven't looked at it for a while, will check it out again! agree with the commenter that it is a shame to recycle a 2012 article as something new - surely someone could update this article? make it relevant for 2017, 2018 and beyond? Report
*I'm not here to judge

FTFY Report
I sure wish you wouldn't feature something from 2012 ... I read this whole thing & was trying to figure out the challenge and figured out the challenge as last year. Lets come up with some new stuff for 2013 to feature. Report
I have not had red meat for over 20 years. I do eat a little Chicken and alot of fish. Both my children are Vegans. I am planning on ordering the e book today. Report
I was trying to participate, but since I am a meat eater, I find it too difficult, so have given up. I love vegetables, but like a bit of meat with them. Report
I am not a vegan. I enjoy eating meat, but i have cut down on what meat i eat. Now i try lean meats poultry, fish, and chicken. Once in a while i will cook steak or lean ground beef hamburgers. I have recently tried eating more beans that give you a good amount of protien such as garbanzo ( chick peas), Black beans, soy beans, lentils along with brown rice. I also eat potatoes often.

I cook alot so i make fresh foods and vegetables and stay away from prepared and frozen foods contain lots of sodium. I noticed I am slowly losing weight now along with increasing my excercise and walking now that spring is approaching. Also with the help of Spark people. Thank you. Report
BEEF! It's whats for dinner. Sorry, couldn't resist. Being GF it is really hard for me to eat meat free w/o really racking up the calories. That and my BF would revolt! Report
I would love to see a Vegan meal planner on the nutrition planner/tracker. I get more than an adequate protein intake but would love help balancing out my protein/carb ratio a bit more. With an allergy to milk (I discovered last year that I had a number of food allergies and gave up the dairy, eggs, and yeast and stopped the every-once in a while chicken habit I had fallen into) the Vegetarian planner seriously doesn't work for me. Symptoms have cleared up and the switch has been really helping. But it would be nice to see Vegan recipes for one/two people, and ones that fit busy lifestyles. I'm the only full-fledged vegan in our household with a committed meat eater husband and two kids who are happy vegetarians (but FUSSY and addicted to milk and cheese). I need things that don't create massive leftovers that get forgotten in the freezer and are quick and simple to fit into the frantic dinner time scramble between school and activities. I did buy the book and plan on trying it out this week. I already made the chocolate banana smoothie - YUM. Thanks! Report
No, I am not participating as I believe in good protein intake and that is through meats, eggs, dairy etc. I am not able to eat a large portion of vegetables due either to allergies or drug interactions. I was raised on a farm and meat was in every meal. Report
I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years and a vegan for the last 10 of these.
I am also a registered dietitian and know quite well the benefits of being a vegetarian.
Through my yoga practice which also began ironically 10 years ago, I learned the importance of practicing ahimsa or non violence, so practicing ahimsa made making the full commitment to go vegan a no brainer.Though I practice what I preach I NEVER sell veganism tomy patients/clients as this is my path and choice in life. Hopefully this 30 day challenge will inspire other to understand not only can being vegan be satisfying but the best choice for the planet.
Goodluck everyopne! Report
I had already decided to go vegan for a month before I saw this. I have high cholesterol, so in January I bought the Engine2 diet book, which is a vegan diet.
The book promise to get my cholesterol down in 28 day. I started on March 05,2012 because I have a doctor appointment on April 03. So far I have lost 3 lbs. I not so much focus on my weight as I am my cholesterol, but it would be great to lose 40 lbs, I do have some concerns about the fake cheese. They seem to be highly processed and some of the fake meats also. Does anyone know which vegan cheese to buy that;s healthy? Can you get this book form? I don't have a kindle? Report
MEATLESS,,,,,,, NEVER.......
Meat of some kind will be in my diet at every meal (or eggs). Protein is my staple without the added carbs that beans have. And I eat a great amount of low carb vegetables every day and oil that has Omega 3-6-9 in it...
I eat at least one egg every day.
I dropped my cholesterol 100 points eating like this and all my lab numbers are perfect....
NO vegan/vegetarian diet for me..... Report
I wish I would have seen this at the beginning of March, but better late than never right?! (Despite the fact I ate eggs this morning... haha!) This is a nice challenge for everyone to see how beneficial it is to have a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and legumes besides pasteurized dairy and overly processed meats. I consider myself a pescatarian (sticking to seafood and eggs), but lately I've also been exploring some grass fed meat choices at the local Whole Foods too. I'm down though for this challenge, even though I'm starting eight days late! Report
I am happy to have found this website, because it will give the kick in the backside i need to do something about my weight and my bad eating habits. Mind you i eat quiet my fair share of fruits and vegetables, but i love meat, and chicken. i have decided though to take the vegetarian for a month challenge. I have fish and chicken in my freezer, but i am going to leave them and try some quorn dishes. i am quiet a good cook, and will drum up some tasty vege meals. i was a vegetarian once, and i could tell you i was feeling much more healthy, and energetic, and i want to feel that way again. in this society where there are so much high sugary processed food, it would be a hard challenge, but i have made up my mind for the sake of me. GOOD LUCK TO YOU IF YOU HAVE STARETD ON THE CHALLENGE. WE CAN DO IT. Report
I consider myself a semi-vegetarian. I usually end up eating meat about twice a month. Chicken, turkey or fish. I don't eat cows or pigs at all. I feel too guilty about that for some reason. I know chickens, turkeys and fish feel pain too, but I just can't stomach the thought of eating a cow or pig. When I was in high school, about 18 years ago, I raised a pig for an FFA project to sell at auction. It ended up being a decision I regret deeply. The pig was so sweet and smart. He was more like a pet than anything. When it came time to sell the pig, I asked my dad if I could just keep it. He said no because I had borrowed the money from him to raise the pig and he wanted it back. Anyway. I ended up letting the pig go and sometimes I can't stand myself for that. Now, whenever I see bacon or ham or any pork product, I think of that pig and how terrified he must have been going through the auction process and eventually being killed. I am starting to mist up now just thinking about it. Anyway.

I have always felt guilty about the few times per month that I do eat meat and this will be a good time to change that. I am going to go 100% vegetarian for the month and try to do a few vegan meals per week too. I love eggs and cheese, so the vegan part will be tough, but I'll give it a shot! Good luck to everyone else who chooses to participate in this challenge too. There are so many reasons to go Vegetarian or Vegan and I hope everyone will do their research and keep an open mind before saying no to the challenge entirely. Report
I try to eat one or two vegan meals daily. Dinner is the toughest for me as my family are carnivores! If I get in two veggie meals a week for dinner I have made progress. Report
I love meat and I'm not religious or hindered by ethical beliefs. I try to eat organic foods as much as possible in my budget and availability, however. I do enjoy a meatless meal now and then, and I already get plenty of veggies (I just ate a whole zucchini for breakfast along with my 1 egg and greek yogurt). There is a great Indian dish with garbanzo beans, tofu, tomatoes and curry over brown rice that I particularly love. Even though I'm not participating in this challenge, I think it's a great idea for people to learn more about the food they are consuming, whether they eat meat or not. I just don't really like the religious overtones of the challenge. Report
I'd love to but....I love my meat to much LOL I did however give up any deepfried or breaded foods for Lent and eat only chicken on Fridays. (I truely HATE fish!!! unless it's fish sticks and well...they are breaded) Good Luck to all of the people in the Challenge :D Report
I personally will not be taking part in this challenge -- when my college roommate went vegan seven years ago, I gave it a try. I bought two vegan cookbooks and cooked out of them faithfully. Unfortunately, it was the fastest 5 pounds I ever put on in my life! As soon as I added meat back into my diet, my energy levels increased and the weight came off.

Having said that, sometimes I have a vegan meal either intentionally or unintentionally. A favorite breakfast is a banana with almonds butter or Sunbutter. I often grab fruits and nuts for snacks, and I'm allergic to dairy so I use some vegan cheese substitutes on occasion.

I do focus on eating a whole-foods diet, so I still eat tons of fruits and veggies -- I joke that at first, I was more of a vegetarian than my roommate, because she did it by eating pasta all the time! I think this challenge could be really good for people who need to get more produce in their diets, but for me, it just didn't work. Report
The only meat and fish I eat is in my Meals On Wheels. Can not afford to buy meat at stores. Prices are out of sight. Can not afford it. Maybe I will give it a try sometime. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Good Luck on all your vegan meals etc. Report
I, too, am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, so I am vegan (with occasional seafood) for Lent -- also for Advent (before Christmas). When the feast arrives -- Pascha (Easter) or Christmas -- how wonderful it is to eat simple non-vegan food! I never knew a hard boiled egg could taste so good, until I began to practice Orthodox fasting and my first egg after all of Lent was on Easter morning after the midnight service! Before I became Orthodox, I used to go crazy trying to concoct great holiday meals -- now after a vegan Fast, simply prepared meat, eggs, and cheese are feasting food! Report
It's not just other countries or ancient times. The Eastern Orthodox in this country also have Lenten rules that proscribe all animal products. I bought the e-book, not because I ever intend to "go vegan" or vegetarian, but because I can always use some good Lenten recipes. As a Diabetic as well as Orthodox, the Lenten diet can be too heavy on the carbs and too light on the protein. Ms. Romine's comments, as well as a couple of the reviewers on Amazon who cited a similar motivation to mine, give me hope that the book contains good recipes to address both my needs. Report
I think this is the first time I've ever read through all the comments on a blog. I kind of wish we had an option to "Like" people's comments like they do on Facebook. All of the positive, non-judgmental comments would get a like from me. Any person making an "I" statement, as in this is what I do, not what I think others should do, would also get a "Like" from me. Unfortunately, there isn't a "dislike" option for the negative, judgmental, inflammatory and non-productive comments.

With that said, I try to eat a balanced diet that works with my health needs and that of my family. I bought this ebook and I'm looking forward to making some of the recipes. Report
Every month is veggie for me - has been for over 20 years now! For the meatless March challenge, I'd like to try new recipes that will satisfy my omnivorous husband and dad! I can't get more veggie, but I can help others in my household try to eat more veggie meals. Report
We are eating vegan for three months now, mainly for health reasons.
The eBook sounds interesting. Report
I have my own chickens and will continue to eat an occasional egg from them. I also love cheese so I won't give that up untirely. But other than that I already eat little meat for financial reasons and will have no trouble giving it up for the month. I live with my adult daughter and she is an avid carnivore. She seems to really need more protein than I do to stay healthy.
That is something we all need to keep in mind. We are all different with different needs. I don't need a lot of protein but I do need iron. I take a supplement, cook in cast iron, and use molasses for sweetening. My daughter's needs are completely different. Cooking a shared meal here can sometimes be a real challenge but we respect each other's needs and preferences.
I will enjoy this challenge and trying new recipes. Who knows? Maybe my daughter will like some of them. Report
I am not vegan or vegetarian. I raise meat animals and enjoy eating meat (and I disagree that pigs are mean - my pigs are sweethearts, as long as I don't disturb the babies near mama). I do plan vegetarian meals periodically, but mainly due to money reasons - beans and cornbread are a cheap and satisfying meal and I love red beans and rice! Also enjoy spinach lasagna (a vegetarian lasagna), but I won't give up my meat or my dairy.

Please all of you, get off your high horses on both sides of the issue. Lets agree to disagree and enjoy the recipes. If you don't participate in Lent, ignore the topic. If you are vegan, quit lecturing us as all you are doing is making us mad and more resistant to change. We are not forcing you to take part in our personal beliefs; please give us the same courtesy.

Laurel who is hosting omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans on her farm this summer Report
Whether you follow Darwinism or the Creationist Theory, you have to note that you have evolved or been created to be an omnivore.

I'm not going to claim I have an "absolute" answer because I am not a Super Genius nor am I crazy enough to claim that I absolutely know for a fact that one dietary plan or another is "the" right one.

Using logic (I think we evolved with a brain or were created with one), I have to assume there is a racial advantage to being an omnivore. Neither Evolution nor Creationism claim to have an ethical reason for being an omnivore and I can't even begin to come up with one that fits into a logical system.

"We don't eat our pets" may be true in our culture, but that doesn't hold in every culture. both dog and cat are added to the meals in many cultures.

When I was a boy, we lived on a farm and raised the majority of our meals. The pig area was over half an acre, and because pigs are among the meanest animals on earth, the closest I ever got to them was filling the feeder. The majority of our chickens (excepting the "layers" hung around the house and barn area because they had learned that was where the best food was and it was safest there (wild animals are really loath to come into a "human infested" area).

Our cattle were part of our crop rotation. We added "nitro-humus" from the barn cleanings to the soil to bring nitrogen levels up. We never used artificial fertilizers (the fish couldn't grow as well around farms that used chemical fertilizers).

We also hunted to control the deer population and helped keep their herds to a healthy size. They never overgrazed our miniature "wild lands", and wild deer have almost zero cholesterol.

As a boy it was cool to walk through the garden and get a handful of fresh peas (or a cantaloupe) when we needed a snack. My mom canned a great deal of the vegetables and fruits we grew, and we were among the first to start freezing some of those.

"Food" is good for your body. Most Americans have never experienced true hunger. When one is truly hungry, if it's digestible, you'll eat it. You wouldn't even care if it was a "pet".

Based on your health requirements, I think being an omnivore is the right diet for me and my family.

I need every advantage I can get, so I will continue to be an omnivore, overall. There are some meals when eat a vegetarian meal (vegetable soup and crackers), but there is never a meal where I eat 100% meat based protein. Report
Interesting comments. I have eaten very little meat for several years, for financial reasons, but am having a bit of difficulty getting enough protein, so I am actually adding meat occasionally now! And when I get a chance to eat out -- so very rarely -- I certainly enjoy fish or meat.

I do think Sparkers should try to avoid being so doggone critical in comments. We can share experiences and ideas, but let's not beat each other up. It's no big deal if some folks opt not to join challenges proposed. To each his or her own. Report
After reading this blog, I did some research on the healthful advantages of not eating any meat. It's downright scary what we're doing to our bodies by eating meat. I'll start out by cutting it out of 2 meals per day, but I'm convinced of the value of going to no meat, no dairy--whatever that's called. Report
@JEWELRIA11 (and a few other off-color commentors): Respect our differences. I will not validate your alternate lifestyle by converting.

I am not inspired to accept this challenge. (After reading some of the comments, I am no longer inspired to even read blogs on "plant-based" meals.) Meat will always have a place at our table. Report
I have been vegetarian for 6 1/2 years, but have difficulty with going vegan (cheese is often my only option when eating out). I will try for one meal a day. And no, fish is not vegetarian. That is pescatarian. Report
I am working on being entirely vegetarian, however, I still crave a piece of red meat every 4-6 weeks ); Report
Please - really tired of the "eating meat is selfish" commentary. Unless you are growing 100% of your own food, or buying 100% of it from locally grown sources using crop rotation to provide nitrogen to the soil, using the same logic, you are being selfish.

Transporting food consumes fossil fuels which contribute to greenhouse gases. Without crop rotation, supplying nitrogen to the soil can only be accomplished using animal products (manure, bone, blood, etc) or using fossil fuel derived fertilizer, which, for the organic-only crowd, is allowed to be used in the production of organic foods according to USDA guidelines. Therefore, the case could be made that eating a plant-only based diet is also selfish.

The other option is to stop pointing our fingers at "what" each of us chooses to eat and focus on "how" that food is produced. Beef and other meat sources can be raised in non-torturing conditions and with sustainable, environment-enhancing processes that contribute to planetary health - the research is out there if you choose to access it.

There's room for vegan, vegetarian and omnivorian diets in an ethical sustainable world. Let's focus our efforts on the overall food production practices and vote with our wallets. Buy the locally grown spinach, instead of the organic spinach that comes from 2,000 miles away and requires days of energy-sucking refrigeration and miles of energy-sucking transportation.

I love all types of meat to much to ever give it up. Report
My goal was not included in the vote. Even before reading this article, I was leaning towards trying to do one meatless meal per week. This blog has solidified my goal into trying that for the month of March. Report
My issue with most of the articles and blogs I have seen on SparkPeople on this topic seem to be using the term "vegetarian" and "vegan" interchangeably and they are NOT the same thing! I'm very confused which if these this blog is encouraging people to try.

I am mostly a vegetarian. Not for any other reason than I feel better when I eat a mostly plant based diet. I cook meat once or twice a week for dinners, and I also find it saves quite a bit of money. My toddler hates meat (for whatever reason, I don't know!) and my teenager could care less and my husband works second shift so he's never home for dinner... less meat in our meals works for us! However, I don't think it's right for everyone. I would gladly cook more meats if my family would eat them but we eat a lot of quinoa and other protein sources, so I don't feel so bad. However, an actual VEGAN is a strict and disciplined way of life and is not right for everyone.

I normally love the information I get on SparkPeople, but I really feel this topic needs to be clarified. I think it's misleading to those who may not know the difference! Report
I rather NOT eat any meat..
I really only ate chicken to begin with so going vegan was a easy thing for me to do..
LOVE my veggies & fruits whole grains..
Even don't drink milk, love almond or flaxseed milk. Report
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