You may have heard about meatless meals as one way to incorporate variety and plant-based eating into your regular menus.
Have you done it yet?
Do you think it will be difficult, flavorless, or leave you feeling unsatisfied?
Is something holding you back from making meatless part of your meal planning strategy?
Meatless Monday Movement
Meatless Monday is a global happening encouraging people all over to choose plants over meat, at least one day each week, to not only improve their health but the health of the planet.
Monday was specifically chosen as a way to start off the week with our health in mind, especially if we have made choices over the weekend that aren’t the healthiest.
This isn’t a new concept but one that actually has roots in World War I, when President Wilson asked Americans to go meatless once a week due to food shortages and conservation that could help feed the troops. At that time is was Meatless Tuesday and Wheatless Wednesday.
The idea picked up popularity again during World War II when meat was rationed.
Meatless Monday made a comeback in 2003 to help consumers improve their health. In 2009 the idea was linked with climate change and the effect of producing protein on the earth.
Impact on Our Health
Researchers have been encouraging all of us, young and old, to include more plants on our plates for years.
We know that getting more nutrients from plants can help us prevent and manage chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. In fact, 7 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US are from chronic diseases that could be lessened if adequate fruits and vegetables are eaten.
People who ate eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day were found to be 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, according to Harvard researchers.
Sourcing more nutrition from plants has also been shown to reduce our carbon footprint to aid the health of the planet.
In fact, the statistics on how much fruit and vegetables we consume are disappointing, as most of us are far from achieving the recommended amounts each day (how about some each week?). Only 1 in 10 of us are getting 1½ to 2 cups fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day.
Eating More Plants Naturally
Most of us have only dabbled into the world of plants when we grab an apple or banana or choose a salad for a meal. We haven’t quite made the jump into eating plants at all meals and even substituting plant protein for animal protein.
As a dietitian throughout my career, I can’t tell you how many times people have actually said they don’t want to eat like a rabbit! Somehow when you say “eat more fruits and vegetables,” images of field greens dance in people’s minds!
Choosing meatless or plant-based doesn’t mean we can never eat fish and lean meat and you can only eat dandelion greens. Rather we are attempting to increase the fruit and vegetables on our plates at all meals and snacks.
The portions per servings are not huge so the numbers shouldn’t feel overwhelming. Hearing 5-7 servings a day may seem like a lot to some people but the amount on the plate isn’t mountainous. As a matter of fact, per serving, fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than other food choices and can keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Here are some examples of 1 cup portions:
- 1/2 cup Raisins
- 12 baby carrots
- 1 3-inch round tomato sliced
- 3 spears of broccoli 5 inch long
- 1 medium baked white or sweet potato
- 1 small apple (2 ¼ inch diameter)
- 1 banana 8 inches long
- 32 grapes
- 8 strawberries
You could easily drop any of these fruits into your breakfast cereal or oatmeal to pump up the plants to get things rolling.
Breakfast: 1 serving fruit (blueberries)
Lunch: 1 serving fruit and 1 serving vegetable (apple, salad)
Afternoon Snack: 1 serving of fruit or vegetable (baby carrots)
Dinner: 2 servings vegetable (baked sweet potato and green beans)
Total: 2+ fruit, 3+ vegetable
And your goal is met!!
Sample Meatless Menu
Eating plant powered meals one night a week isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Besides the abundant meat alternatives available like bean burgers and garden burgers, which are delicious grilled with chutney, chow chow, or salsa, you can use legumes as the protein source.
How about bean burritos, veggie chili with black beans, eggplant parmesan, lentil soup, bean bowls, quinoa tacos, avocado hummus wraps, cheese quiche, portobello burger, stir fry with tofu, chickpea gyros, or millions of other new recipes waiting for you to try.
Here is a link to my Recipe Renovation Alfredo Bean Sauce which is one of my favorite easy meatless meals packed with protein that have only a few ingredients. They’ll never know they are eating beans – guaranteed!
For more great ideas, check out my cookbook, Recipe Renovations for the Health of It.
Satisfy your health goals, taste, and desire for a healthy planet when you practice some meatless meals!