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January 17, 2013 • Health and Fitness

Even if the Science is Murky, ‘Meatless Monday’ is Worth Your Effort

Meatless Mondays

Choosing a dietary plan can be challenging, because sometimes it seems that for every bit of ‘nutritional science’ that tells us one thing, there is at least as much counter-evidence. No carb, all-carb, low-fat, loads of fat, Paleo, South Beach, Vegan, all-juice and on and on … it makes it very difficult to know what to do.

Here is one thing I will suggest – join the ‘Meatless Monday’ campaign. Why? Let me get back to that in a bit …

In terms of making healthy changes there are some easy things – a while back we looked at our yogurt of choice and there was an entire panel of ingredients … now we use the type with ONE ingredient. Paying attention to eating REAL foods and avoiding processed foods is a definite good choice. Also balancing your proteins, fats, carbs and sugars is a good idea. And eating the ‘un-American Way’ – large breakfast, solid lunch, mid-afternoon high-fiber snack and small-ish dinner – is a great way to stay energized and lose weight.

Speaking of meals, it is pretty well established that not only is our focus on dinner upside-down, but the way we compose our plates is also all wrong. We typically have half the plate filled with meat, the other half with some starchy potato dish, and some small amount of veggies stuffed in between. Or, have a tiny salad instead.

I have already been pushing the thought about loading your plate with veggies, and in our house we have BOTH salad and side vegetable with every dinner. Fruit with breakfast, fruit with lunch, and loads of veggies around as a snack. The veggies are easy – carrots, celery and lettuce are cheap year-round, and frozen veggies are also quite inexpensive. Right now in our area oranges are reasonable and I have been living on cheap and delicious South American pears.

Let me be very clear – I have no desire to become a vegetarian let alone a vegan. I love my steaks and chicken and ribs and pepperoni pizzas too much. But I go out of my way to front-load on veggies as a healthier choice. But more importantly, I started last summer planning one meal a week that was completely meatless. Some of these have been hits with the family, others passable, and some total train-wrecks.

Which brings us to Meatless Mondays. This movement seeks to have people set aside each monday as a meatless day. What is the benefit? Well, right off the bat a 2010 study published in Global Environmental Change showed that by cutting meat and dairy consumption by 25 percent, we could reduce two greenhouse gases by 80 percent. I was amazed at seeing data that some of these livestock megafactories consume power like a small city!

There are plenty of other reasons to give Meatless Mondays a shot, including:

1.Your Health!

2.The Environment!

3. It sets the tone for a healthier week!

The big fear everyone has about going meatless comes down to this: WHAT AM I GOING TO EAT!?!? Seriously, people think about Tofu and veggie burgers and … well, that is it. Yet there are tons of options to help you get loads of protein. Here are a few things I have made over the last several months:
– Sweet potato & black bean chili
– Veggie Chicken Parm (using Boca chicken patties)
– Nacho festival (chips, refried beans, veggie chili, cheese and fresh salsa)
– Whole wheat sweet potato gnocchi
– Hummus with veggies (great side dish).
– and loads more.

My family was not big on Quinoa when I cooked it once, so that is a ‘me’ thing for now … until I find a new recipe to try!

My point is that meatless cooking is not all that difficult, and allocating one day a week to make it work is a small change, and the results will help the environment as well as your family’s health. Sounds like there is no downside!

Head to Meatless Monday and check it out! Also, Greatist has a cool summary called ‘WTF Are Meatless Mondays’ worth checking out.

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