Meatless Mondays: A How-To Guide

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America has been a “meat and potatoes” culture for decades, with the Midwest no exception. Chicken dinners and burgers, bacon and brats reign supreme, with meatless meals seemingly incomplete. The tide is now changing, though, as a growing number of Americans recognize the benefits of meat-free eating. Indeed, studies increasingly link excess meat eating to heart disease, cancer and obesity.

One approach is viewing meat as a condiment rather than the main event, sprinkling it over beans, whole grains, grilled vegetables or soup. But you can also give up meat to start the workweek — a throwback to World War I and the government’s efforts to save war-critical supplies. In recent years, these “Meatless Mondays” have evolved into a global movement driven by inspired chefs, public health programs, schools, hospitals, and, yes, individual families.

You don’t have to nix meat from your diet altogether, but shifting toward plant-based options may be more palatable than you think. Not only are there a host of benefits to going meat-free (it’s easier on your body, the environment and your pocketbook), but you may also discover vegetarian meals can be just as tasty as their carnivorous counterparts.

Here are four strategies for eating less meat — even if only on Mondays:

  1. Look for satisfying substitutes. The goal is to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you’re losing from meat (namely protein). Substitutes could come from soy-based products like tofu; legumes such as beans, peas and lentils; nuts (and their butters); dairy products; and eggs. A variety of vegetables (eggplant for starters), legumes, grains and mushrooms like portabellas can also mimic the meaty texture you crave. Mushrooms can even replace some of that meaty taste.
  2. Discover whole grains. Just because you’re going meat-free doesn’t give you a license to load up on carbs. Whether you’re a vegetarian, flexitarian (a person who is mostly vegetarian but who occasionally eats meat or fish) or full-blown carnivore, steer clear of simple carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Instead, focus on whole grains, such as quinoa, bulgur, amaranth and spelt. You’ll get a hefty hit of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and some extra protein, too.
  3. Get creative. Introducing new recipes to your family can cause anxiety, but don’t feel like you have to roll out a whole new repertoire. Instead, consider modifying family favorites to minimize meat. Make bean and cheese burritos or veggie burgers in lieu of their meat-based counterparts. After all, eating healthier won’t feel like a chore if you’re able to replicate signature recipes in a plant-based way.
  4. Transition slowly. Whether you’re swearing off meat entirely or trying to nix meat once a week, quitting cold turkey (pun intended) isn’t always the best strategy. Instead, start by eliminating meat from just one meal a day. After a few weeks, opt for meat only at one meal per day. Eventually, if you desire, you can graduate to going meat-free a few times each week.

Whether you nix meat on Mondays, weekends, or even just one or two meals a day, periodically going meat-free may enhance your health and buffer the hit to your wallet, too. Many types of meat are expensive. And cost savings aren’t limited to what’s missing from your plate. Following a more plant-based diet could help you sidestep future medical bills to boot.

Need some inspiration? Check out these meat-free recipes:


Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.

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Categories: EatWell