Whatever your dietary preferences may be, basing your meals around plant-based whole foods is totally doable! We went vegan 11 years ago, and while we realize this lifestyle may not be for everyone, even making little changes will do wonders for your health and the environment - and Meatless Monday is a great way to start!
Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative that was launched in 2003 in collaboration with the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It has one simple goal: cut meat from your diet one day a week. The idea itself originated back to World War I, as a way to reduce wartime expenses. It was revived nearly two decades ago with the intention to reduce global meat consumption by 15%, not only for personal health but for the health of the planet.
If you are new to this idea, be sure to visit www.meatlessmonday.com for general information, news, recipes, and more. This initiative is not just for home-use; there are hundreds of restaurants, schools, and hospitals, that participate in Meatless Monday as well. The website even offers resources to help you start your own initiative at work or school!
Research suggests that people are more successful in starting healthy habits when they start at the beginning of the week. Monday offers an opportunity to “reset” and get back on track after any lapses over the weekend. This weekly reset helps to maintain healthy eating habits over time. By starting Meatless Monday, you may even find over time that you go meatless two days, three days, or for a handful of you, every day of the week.
Replacing meat with plant-based choices, even just one day a week offers numerous health benefits including:
- improving heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease;
- lowering your cancer risk;
- decreasing your risk of getting type 2 diabetes;
- easier to maintain a healthy weight;
- promotes kidney health; and
- plant-based foods like beans, nuts, soy, and vegetables can provide all the daily nutrients you need.
On top of the amazing health benefits, reducing meat consumption can help contain the production of greenhouse gases that impact climate change. It can also help lessen the demand for precious environmental resources such as land, water, and energy. Did you know…
- livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, and trains in the world;
- 75% of earth’s agricultural land is used by livestock production;
- production of just ONE quarter-pound beef burger uses 425 gallons of water – enough water to fill 10 bathtubs;
- product of just ONE quarter-pound beef burger uses up enough energy to power an iPhone for 6 months; and
- skipping one serving of meat every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions to driving 348 miles in a car.
Going meatless just one day a week has a huge effect on our ecosystem as well. Animals that are raised for food - meat and/or by-products - live pretty terrible lives. They are treated with synthetic hormones and antibiotics to alter their genes, kept in crates too small to move around in, and then fed sub-par food filled with pesticides. All of these toxins are then consumed by humans in the final product. If everyone cut meat for just one day, 1.4 billion animal lives would be spared - that’s a BIG number for such a small change.
According to the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, healthy diets - including organic produce and whole grains - are perceived to be more expensive than the standard meat and dairy based diet, but not only are meatless meals typically cheaper, they also provided more of the vitamins and nutrients that are crucial to achieving a healthy body. Just take a look at your last grocery receipt - how much money could you save by simply going meatless 1 day a week? And while one meatless day provides approximately 60 grams of protein, compared with the 96 grams in a typical day with meat, research shows that despite our obsession with adding more protein to absolutely everything, we get more than we need from just plants.
If your family is currently big on meat, don’t feel like it’s hopeless. Just going meatless each Monday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner can make a big difference! Part 3 of our meal prep series goes further into detail on why we chose a vegan lifestyle for our family, including some common misconceptions. And be sure to follow us on Pinterest for 500+ easy vegan recipes that are so tasty, you won’t even miss the meat!
There are so many processed plant-based meat substitutes you can find in the cold department at your local grocery store. These can help ease the transition - simply swap them for the meat you’d normally use in a recipe. Here are a few of our faves:
- Gardein: meat-less balls, chick’n tenders, veggie burgers, fish-less filets
- Amy’s: veggie burgers
- Tofurky & Chao: deli slices instead of deli meat (for sandwiches)
- Beyond Meat & Impossible: the most meat-like burgers & brats you can get! (Many restaurants even offer them now)
We relied pretty heavily on the processed meat substitutes when first switching to a vegan diet, but now use mostly beans, lentils, nuts, soy, and veggies instead. It’s healthier, less expensive, and we can purchase these ingredients package-free in the produce department or bulk bins at our local grocery store. Some of our current favorite meatless swaps are:
- Ground walnut/lentil/quinoa/cauliflower instead of ground beef (for tacos or spaghetti)
- Grilled portobello mushrooms instead of steak (great on salad or pasta)
- Jackfruit instead of pulled pork or shredded chicken (for sliders or tacos)
- Maple tempeh instead of bacon (for BLT’s or a breakfast scramble)
- Dehydrated soy curls instead of pork or chicken (for sliders, stir fry, or tacos)
- Baked or fried cauliflower instead of chicken wings
- Smashed chickpea salad instead of tuna or chicken salad
Choosing to go meatless one day a week can be for a variety of reasons: health, environment, cost, or all of the above. Just remember, even small changes can make a big difference. It’s almost Monday again! Will you be going meatless? Follow us on Facebook for a new Meatless Monday recipe each week, or tell us your favorite meatless swaps in the comments below.