Going veg can help you, the animals, and the planet. Whether you are trying to eat less meat or are opting for a full-on vegan diet, eating more plant-based meals is ideal for optimal health. Going meatless can increase your energy, while lowering cholesterol levels. It can help reduce your risk of heart disease and can help you reach a healthy body weight.

Adopting a plant-based diet can help stop health problems before they arise. It’s also good for the environment. Case in point: worldwide animal agriculture is the number one source of methane, the greenhouse gas that “is responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today,” according to EarthSave.

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Let’s try to reduce our health problems, the needless suffering of animals, and nurture our Earth together!

Remember, though: it’s always important to listen to your body. Only you will know when your body feels in sync and balanced while weaning off of meat and animal by-products. Some may take longer to adjust to a plant-based diet, while others may go “cold turkey” and become hard-core vegans overnight.

The following are ways to gradually wean yourself off of meat (the time it takes to reduce meat-eating is entirely up to you). Here are some baby steps to consider:

1. Meatless Mondays (A New Veg Recipe a Week)

If going “cold turkey” is not your thing, try joining the Meatless Monday campaign. Initiated in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, people are asked to reduce their meat consumption by pledging to eat less meat every Monday.

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To start, test out a new vegetarian, vegan, or raw plant-based recipe every Monday. Begin a “Veg” recipe collection. If you like the new recipe, add it to the collection. If you don’t, try making another creation the next week. One Green Planet has hundreds of delicious vegan recipes to choose from here. The more you make, the easier it will be to make the switch.

Need more reason to join this movement? A growing number of schools across the U.S. are taking part in Meatless Mondays, while “Montgomery County, Maryland has joined cities like Washington, DC, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boone,” in encouraging residents to participate. Even the Norwegian Army is going meatless on Mondays!

2. Substitute Red Meat

The next step to weaning yourself off of meat is to exclude red meat altogether. That steak that you used to crave won’t do you any favors! A Harvard School of Public Health study found that increased red meat intake may shorten your lifespan. According to the study,”The researchers estimated that substituting 1 serving per day of other foods—like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains—for red meat could lower the risk of mortality by 7 percent to 19 percent.”

Now, don’t veggie burgers sound a lot better than a greasy, ole’ hamburger? Try replacing red meat favorites like hamburgers with this Vegan Black-Eyed Pea Burger with Mississippi Comeback Sauce or a White Bean and Sweet Potato Burger. Or try making your very own perfect veggie patty with these helpful hints –  no more falling-apart patties!

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3. Substitute Poultry

Some consider those who exclude red meat and only consume white meat, such as poultry, a “semi-vegetarian.” Hey, that’s great; you’re half way there!

White meats, although still sourced from animals, are indeed healthier than the aforementioned items. White meat generally contains less fat and is lower in calories. As you move along on your journey to a meat-free diet, try replacing white meat-laden dishes with substitutes like in this Chicken-Less Pot Pie Soup or this Vegan Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Yum!

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4. Substitute Fish and Seafood

At this stage, you are a now a  “pescatarian.” Woohoo! You are so close to your goal; the finish line is not too far ahead. After a week, few weeks, or a month of excluding red and white meat, replace fish and seafood intake with dishes like this Tofu “Shrimp” Scampi or these Vegan Tofu “Scallops.”

To help spur your path to excluding fish and other seafood, read about these 10 Alarming Facts about Overfishing. Or if songs are your thing, listen to this Overfishing Song that will make you reconsider seafood.

5. Substitute Dairy/Animal By-Products

Although forgoing dairy and other animal by-products like milk, eggs, and cheese are not necessary to be deemed a “vegetarian,” choose what feels right to you. If this stage is enough for you, then congratulations, you accomplished a lot to get here! Good job!

If not, you are more than welcome to take the next step up – becoming a vegan. There are many dairy alternatives on the market, including milk alternatives like soy, almond, hemp, and rice milk. Here’s a guide to choosing the right kind of alternative milk for you. Consider making your own with these 5 amazing plant-based milk recipes. Same goes for cheese. Try incorporating vegan cheese into your diet with these 10 vegan cheeses.

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Life can be better, brighter, and amazing as a plant-based food eater. Make the switch using some of the above tips for an easier transition. If you are already going veg, great job! Keep being the superhero you are. You’re saving yourself, the animals, and the planet.

Image Source: How to Make Smoked Seitan or Veggie Meat