How Meatless Mondays Can Change The World
GROWING UP IN A CORN-FED Minnesotan family of strong Swedish descent, meat was not only present at meals—it was the focal point. Dinner typically consisted of meat and potatoes, beef stroganoff or Pasta Roni with chicken. Most people have an unspoken belief that meat is the most important part of a meal, and this is reflected in their portion sizes. The average American eats about eight ounces of meat per day—over 45 percent more than what the USDA recommends. So, what would happen if we didn’t eat meat for just one day per week?
Meatless Monday is attempting to answer this question. If you’re having flashbacks of that crazed PETA member throwing red paint on a white fur coat, don’t worry. Nobody’s judging you for eating that delicious, mouthwatering cheeseburger at Baileys’ Range. Meatless Monday isn’t an anti-meat campaign—it’s simply a growing movement of people who are saying, “Maybe I don’t have to eat meat with every meal, every single day of the week.”
Making this seemingly small change can have some incredible long-term impacts. According to a recent article in Time Magazine, the meat industry is responsible for over 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—more than all of transportation combined. If everyone in the US cut out meat just one day per week, it would have the same environmental impact as 7.6 million cars being taken off the road, the Environmental Working Group reports (read its article on Reducing Your Footprint at ewg. org). We could also improve the state of our water supply, as it takes roughly 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef (Physicians for Social Responsibility, psr.org). Dislike our dependency on foreign oil? About 40 calories of fossil fuels are required to produce one calorie of feedlot beef, while only two calories of fossil fuels are needed for the same amount of plant-based protein (vegetariantimes.com).
There are personal benefits to this change, as well. Meat is usually the most expensive category on your shopping list. By cutting out, say, one pound of meat per week, you’d be saving roughly $400 per year at the grocery store! Consider, also, your health. Many experts say eating a plant-based diet one day per week can lower your risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Consuming plant-based proteins, such as beans, results in higher intakes of fiber, zinc, iron and magnesium, with lower intakes of saturated and total fat. Bottom line: Eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, healthy fats and plant-based proteins can increase your health and lower your chances of disease (read more at meatlessmonday.com).
If eating a plant-based diet triggers thoughts of bland tofu dishes and hunger pains immediately following dinner, then perhaps you haven’t fully discovered the awesomeness of vegetables! Eating meatless can be a fun, exciting and delicious way to switch up your weekly routine. There are literally thousands of ways to prepare most vegetables using flavorful spices and decadent sauces. Vegetarian cooking is easy, too (check out two of my fave vegetarian cook books, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman and “Super Natural Cooking” by Heidi Swanson). There is nothing better than roasted vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little bit of lemon juice. Throw some beans or lentils into any salad or pasta dish, and you’ve got your protein covered.
Meatless Monday has taken root throughout the majority of the nation. Many celebrities and public figures, including Jessica Simpson, Russell Simmons and James Cameron, have jumped on the Meatless Monday bandwagon, and restaurants around the nation have started offering vegetarian specials on Mondays to support the movement locally. The campaign has even caught on in St. Louis, starting with Pi Pizzeria earlier this year. St. Louis offers a slew of vegetarian options every day (including my food truck, Lulu’s Local Eatery) that are sure to excite your taste buds and inspire next Monday’s dinner.
Vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, flexitarian, pescatarian or locavore…whatever your “food story” may be, I encourage you to open your mind to the potential impact that Meatless Monday can have on your health and on the health of the planet.
Photo credit: Illustration by Bryce Sorenson