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As of New Year's Eve, The Guardian reported that over 250,000 people in 193 countries have signed up to 'Veganuary', pledging to live on a plant-based diet—at least for the month. Before you imagine a drastic lifetstyle change with a dreary steak-less existence, going on a plant-based diet does not mean you’re becoming a vegetarian (no meat, but consumes dairy and egg) or vegan (no meat and all animal products).
What is does mean is that you root (pun completely intended) your meals on a foundation of foods that are grown in the ground: vegetables and legumes, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. Neither difficult nor boring as many seem to assume, plant-based options available are often colorful both in looks and flavor—even more so after they’ve gone through the barbecue treatment for added smokey deliciousness, like our Hot Ratatouilleand, if you prefer an option with a little meat, the festival of flavors in our Brussel Sprouts with Grilled Shallots and Chorizo Sausage.
Paired with healthier protein choices like leaner cuts of meat, poultry or fish, your grilled meals can be just as satisfying—and likely chart lower on the calorie meter. But you don’t have to take our word for it: research done by Harvard School of Public Health suggests that a fruits and vegetable heavy diet can lower blood pressure (not so fun fact: folks living in the city are more prone to high blood pressure and hyper tension), while other research has found that it reduces risk of heart disease, cholesterol issues and type 2 diabetes.
If doing it just for your health isn’t enough to convince you to make the switch, maybe you’ll do it for the environment. Even though protein via meat and dairy products only account for 37 percent of protein consumed globally, it requires 83 percent of farmland to produce, and is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses and water pollution.
Without meat consumption, farmlands globally are estimated reduce by about 75 percent—that’s a total area equivalent of China, Europe, Australia and the United States combined! Going on a plant-based diet is, according to scientists, the single most effective thing an individual can do to reverse the environmental impact.
A little convinced? Good. Before you rewrite your grocery list, don’t write off all meat options just yet. It’s important to get enough protein when you do a plant-heavy diet (negative effects of protein deficiency include muscle weakness, low blood pressure and even liver disease).
It's easy to find protein in common veggies that you already eat, like asparagus, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower. Remember to choose recipes that taste sinful (but really are not), like our Grilled Asparagus with Feta and Lemon, so you don’t quit your new diet on Day 1. Also, the Grilled Egg White, Veggie and Goat Cheese Frittatamight look indulgent, but is chock full of protein-packed spinach.
Extremities without variety will only make you lose heart and give up, so ease yourself into this lifestyle change and let yourself have the things you enjoy—just more mindfully. For this, a succulent Chicken with Root Vegetablesis sure to satisfy. Just tip the balance the other way, increase the ratio of vegetables and make it the hero of dish instead. With the beautiful char you get post-grill, it really won’t be that hard to enjoy a plant-based diet.