11 April 2017Try Meatless Mondays: Better for your Health, Wallet, and Planet

From drinking 8 cups of water to walking 10,000 steps each day, whenever there is an employee health challenge at work, I always participate. These challenges, even if just for a short time, force me to be intentional about changing one health behavior. Consequently, if your New Year's resolution has worn off and it feels more like a fleeting April Fool's joke, try Meatless Mondays. It's not only better for your health; it's better for your pocket book and the planet as well. It's a three for one.

Follow these four easy steps to make Meatless Mondays part of your routine.

Step 1: Write down everything you eat and drink for one day.

Since I wrote this blog while visiting friends in the Midwest over spring break, my girlfriend became my guinea pig. I asked her to write down everything she ate for breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks. (I wonder if she'll ever invite her dietitian friend for spring break again!) Anyway, afterwards, we analyzed her diet for sources of protein. She ate sausage for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch and ribs for supper. Until we paused to analyze her meal patterns, she had never realized that all of her meals were meat based.

It is easier to change a habit if you are aware and cognizant of your current routine. Thus, take a piece of paper now, and write down everything you ate today or if you are interested in analyzing your intake for calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, then log your intake using MyNetDiary.

On a side note, though my girlfriend was not opposed to meatless Mondays, she said her husband, who was raised on a cattle farm had the belief that protein and meat and the customs of smoking pork ribs and grilling steaks are firmly tied into what it is to be a man and support his family's livelihood. He would question, why pay for a vegetarian meal when I am going to be hungry in an hour anyway? Growing up in South Dakota, I understand this mindset. However, as a dietitian interested in preventing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, type two diabetes and heart attacks, I feel that decreasing our intake of meat one day a week is worth it; after all, it's only 15% of what you eat in a week.

Step 2: Identify Meatless Meals You Already Enjoy

Do you enjoy bean burritos, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, Indian lentil dals, vegetarian chili or stir fry meals? You may already be enjoying these flavorful and satisfying entrees and didn't even realize that the main source of protein of these meals is plants. To enhance what you are already doing, try some of these delicious meatless recipes created by registered dietitians.

Meatless Mondays is not a new concept; the campaign was started during World War I to help support the war effort during a time period when there was deficit of staple ingredients. It was revived during World War 2 for the same reasons and then again in 2003 by the Harvard School of Public Health to help find a simple way for Americans to meet the new 2010 Dietary Health Guidelines (DHG). Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Since many studies have demonstrated that decreasing saturated fat in the diet can decrease your risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, the DHG recommends decreasing the consumption of saturated fat by 15%. Thus, since saturated fat in the diet is mainly in foods of animal origin, eliminating meat one day per week is an easy way to decrease the intake of saturated fats (1 day per week divided by 7 days equals 14.3%). Consequently, the revival of Meatless Mondays began.

Step 3: Research Recipes that Focus on Meatless Meals

With the internet at your fingertip, you will find many quick and appealing recipes.

  • Pinterest is a great place to start. Who isn't inspired by the mouth-watering picture of a delicious meal, especially since the recipe is just a click away?
  • Buddha Bowls provide a way for families with a variety of food preferences to pick and choose the grains, vegetables, protein, and toppings that each person enjoys.

A recent study published in the October 2016 Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that diets with a high intake of plant based protein (instead of meat) result in less deaths due to heart attacks and strokes.

Step 4: Sign up for the Meatless Monday Newsletter for support and motivation

If support and motivation is what you need, sign up for the Meatless Monday Newsletter which provides menu ideas and resources to implement your new weekly habit. You'll receive it every Monday to help you start your week out right. For extra motivation, click on this link to see how 44 countries promote meatless Mondays in their countries.

In conclusion, small changes in your diet can make an impact that are sustainable. Now that's it is April, try a new health challenge of Meatless Mondays. Start by writing down everything you eat and drink to understand your current habits better, identify meatless recipes you already enjoy, research new recipes and sign up for the meatless Monday newsletter for community support. Try this health challenge for one month and see how you feel and how it affects your pocket book. You, too, can help reduce preventable diseases such as heart disease and type two diabetes by making Mondays meatless.

Please share with me your favorite Meatless Monday recipes.

In good health,
Martha Henze

MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC

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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Vegetarian

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