Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to avoid eating meat on Mondays for their health and the health of the planet. Originally, Meatless Monday was Meatless Tuesday during World War I, when meat was scarce both in the U.S. and Europe. The movement changed course and became a health initiative in 2003.
Below is a Q&A with Deborah Orlick Levy, M.S., R.D., is Carrington Farms‘ Health & Nutrition Consultant, who explains why taking part in Meatless Mondays is a great option for everyone. She loves to share the benefits of Meatless Mondays and explains why taking it on as a challenge is healthy in itself.
Why do you think Meatless Mondays are important?
Meatless Mondays allow the opportunity to try foods you might ordinarily not. Also, these foods tend to be lower in fat, lower in calories and higher in fiber. For example, two of my favorite meals are pasta (ideally whole wheat) with chick peas and broccoli and white beans with escarole and Israeli couscous. These dishes are chock full of nutrients and are especially high in fiber and low in fat.
Are Meatless Mondays a step in the direction of becoming a full vegetarian?
Not necessarily. It can, however, help to guide someone in a healthier direction with newly found food choices.
Are there certain foods I should eat more of during Meatless Monday?
My go-to foods on Meatless Monday are legumes (ex. chick peas, cannellini beans, black beans, lentils, and soybeans (in the form of tofu). These foods are all high in protein, fiber, potassium and iron.
Is it okay for my growing toddlers and teens to avoid eating meat one day a week too? How about every day, if I choose to become vegetarian full-time?
As long as legumes are included in the diet, anyone can avoid meat one day a week. Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of protein and nutrients and can easily be sprinkled on salads and rice or mixed in with marinara sauce or pesto and added to pasta dishes. It’s also important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and to include healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and coconut oil. If someone chooses to become a vegetarian, I always suggest meeting with a registered dietitian to make sure that all the individualized nutritional needs for each member of the family will be met adequately and appropriately.
Are there any studies showing that eating vegetarian one or more times a week has more benefit than meat eating every day?
The American Dietetic Association released a position paper in July of 2009 stating that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
Do you have any tricks for helping us battle hunger on those days we don’t eat meat?
If it’s done the right way, there should not be excessive hunger on meatless days. If someone is enjoying fruits, vegetables, high fiber legumes and whole grains, along with healthy fats, he or she should feel very satisfied. In fact, if chia seeds are included in a healthy diet, studies have shown that their high fiber and hydrophilic properties (meaning they swell to about 10 times their size in liquid) helps to keep you fuller longer. Chia seeds, like flax and hemp seeds, also have the added benefit of being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and high in important nutrients for good health.
If I’m anemic, is it okay to refrain from eating meat one or more times a week?
Absolutely. Include seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, flax, chia and hemp. Other good sources are nuts. Enjoy cashew, pine, peanuts and almonds, and, of course, legumes and dark, leafy greens. If you are anemic and are planning to try to become a vegetarian, I suggest meeting with an RD to make sure you know specifically how to meet your iron needs.