This is the fourth post in a series on stepping into a healthier fall. Turning life upside down may result in short-term and short-lived gains, but baby steps, well executed, go a long way towards making you a happier, healthier person.
If one of your behemoth health goals is to eat better, you may not even know where to start. Given that we’re inundated with conflicting information about food about at every turn, it’s difficult to decipher the data and take action. Meatless Monday is an easy, tangible step to incorporate into your lifestyle. And if Meatless Monday ends up being on a Tuesday or Wednesday, like many of mine do, don’t sweat it!
Meatless Monday is a good excuse to eat less meat without having to go cold turkey. Like skipping the chips or removing stress, reducing the intake of animal products is a baby step to healthier living.
Cut the beef
There are a number of advantages to cutting out the amount of beef, chicken or pork you consume. I’ll share three that resonate most with me.
Cut out fat and cholesterol. Animal products, including beef and poultry, are sources of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. And according to the American Heart Association, Americans should reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and total fat in their diet.
Eat more plant-based products. Almost by default, if you eat less meat, you’ll eat more vegetables, legumes, beans and grains – all of which are loaded in nutrients and (generally) have fewer calories. Another bonus? According to webMD, eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study showed that those who ate more red meat were 30% more likely to have died of any cause.
Help save the environment. In response to the increasing demand for meat on a global scale, huge, confined animal feeding operations have proliferated. According to Mark Bittman of the New York Times, these assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains. In addition, these meat products are also dependent on fossil fuels to transport them. All of these factors put a huge strain on the environment.
What can you eat instead?
The men in my family love their meat, so I have to be smart about when/how to sneak in some meatless meals. The dishes which have drawn the greatest interest and likability among my small target audience include:
- Pasta with marinara sauce and veggies
- Tofu enchiladas
- Home-made veggie burgers, like these yummy ones made with black beans
- Vegetable stir-fries
If you want to make sure you and your family are getting enough protein even without the meat, here are some great sources:
- Beans (e.g., black beans)
- Legumes (e.g., chickpeas, lentils)
Where to find meal ideas
Not only is there a website specifically dedicated to Meatless Monday, but there is a wealth of high quality, vegetarian blogs – including A Couple Cooks and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Moosewood Cookbook is a great vegetarian cookbook, and one of my favorite websites is called Eating Well. Check out more vegetarian recipes, including a delicious Szechuan dish from EatingWell, in this blog post.
Photo courtesy of Dallas Observer.