Meatless Mondays Are Good for You?and the Earth

Okay, so you?re environmentally inclined, but not exactly ready to embrace a vegan lifestyle. Still, you know juicy hamburgers, a succulent T-bone and meatballs with your spaghetti are not the most healthful choices for dinner. But forgoing meat doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Try this to improve your health, as well as the health of the environment: Eat less meat, especially red meat, by making your Mondays meatless.

Skip Meat for a Day?or More. The germ of this concept was born in response to a report called “Healthy People 2010,” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the report’s health goals is to reduce saturated fat intake by 15%. Nutritionists at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future wanted to be even more specific than that. They discovered everyone is willing to forgo meat one day a week. And thus was born a concept: Meatless Monday.

“We found that a campaign to get consumers to skip meat and other saturated-fat-containing foods one day a week would naturally get them to the recommended intake,” said Robert Lawrence, M.D., professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Why Go Meatless? In the1960s, Americans ate less than 160 pounds of meat per person per year. By 2002, meat consumption had burgeoned 37% to 220 pounds per year’that’s more than half a pound of meat per person per day, every day! Why aim to eat less meat? Research shows that vegetarians have lower rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (breast, colorectal and prostate). Plus eating less meat can help control body weight, because the additional bulk produce and whole grains add to your diet helps keep you fuller on fewer calories. Indeed, vegetarians weigh less, on average, than meat-eaters.

Besides reducing the saturated fat content of your diet, there are other benefits to a meatless day or two each week. Vegetarian diets are lower in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, plus they include more of the beneficial nutrients found in plant foods, like vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber and phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene.

Meat contributes a large percentage of the day’s total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, making it hard to adhere to healthy heart dietary recommendations. The traditional Mediterranean diet contains little meat and has been linked to less risk of cardiovascular disease.

Research has found that some cooking methods (grilling, broiling) may turn compounds in meats into cancer-promoting chemicals. Moreover, the saturated fat in meats may reduce insulin sensitivity, though more research is needed to understand how meat is linked to diabetes.

Earth Benefits, Too. There are major environmental advantages to eating less meat. The amount of grains and sheer energy demands required to produce a pound of meat far exceeds what it takes to grow edible plants. According to Lawrence, it takes seven tons of grain to produce one ton of beef, four tons to produce a ton of pork and two tons to produce a ton of chicken. Moreover, livestock produces waste, which pollutes both air and water.

EN Urges Experimentation. While many people have some meatless evening meals, it helps to make the practice part of a dietary routine and thus more ingrained. Be sure to follow through with the plan for the entire day, by making your breakfast and lunch meatless as well. Meatless Monday is a simple step you can take to improve your health and the health of our planet. Don’t be afraid to experiment; start perusing vegetarian cookbooks to find recipes that will entice the whole family. Once you?ve mastered the art of no meat on Mondays, add another day of the week. EN helps you get started with the recipe, below.

?Julie Upton, M.S., R.D.

For more information and lots of recipes, visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com/.

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