Meat-free meals are no longer just for vegetarians. While experts around the world promote the health and environmental benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle, there are less extreme options available for those who are unwilling to part with that delicious strip of bacon on their perfect BLT. Rather than full immersion into vegetarianism, health and wellness specialists (including the Mayo Clinic) propose a compromise: one meat-free meal each week.
Because of its health and environmental benefits, the idea of meat-free Monday grew into a non-profit campaign launched by the McCartney family to raise awareness of the positive impact going vegetarian just one day per week can have. The campaign works to promote a healthier lifestyle while also reducing the negative environmental effects of our over-consumption of meat. Check out the website here for more details about the campaign, up-to-date news on the topic, and delicious meat-free recipes.
Eating Green Means Going Green
Going green is no longer as simple as recycling and carpooling; what you eat also affects the health of our environment. Not only does eating more grains, fruits, and vegetables cut down on the number of animals we slaughter, but eating green also decreases our carbon footprint. The Food and Agriculture Organization states that the livestock sector is a top contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the global livestock sector actually generates more greenhouse gasses than all the automobiles worldwide.
Less Meat, Better Health
The benefits of regulating your meat intake are not exclusive to the environment, though; consistently eating meat-free meals can result in many health benefits. According to PETA and the National Cancer Institute, vegetarians and vegans have less chance of developing various health issues, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Type two diabetes
However, you do not have to adopt a full vegetarian lifestyle to reap these health benefits. Meat-Free Monday reports that cutting meat from your menu for just a couple days each week is enough to improve your health considerably. And all it requires is a little flexibility in your menu.
The Flexitarian Compromise
So what do you do if you want to have healthier eating habits and a healthier planet, but are not quite willing to forgo burger night? Compromise with a flexitarian diet. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Mayo Clinic describes a flexitarian as a person who eats mainly plant-based foods, but deviates from vegetarianism every so often with red meats, poultry, and fish. Flexible vegetarians can eat just about anything; they simply do so in moderation. The main meat-free food options include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Beans and peas
- Whole grains
- Soy products
Healthier Food, Healthier Planet, Healthier You
Making positive changes to your diet doesn't have to be a monumental undertaking. Start small with a meat-free Monday or tofu Tuesday, and then build from there. The more regularly you can cut meats from your menu, the healthier you will be. Increased energy, weight loss, and a boosted immune system are just a few of the personal health and wellness benefits of limiting your meat consumption. Studies also show you will live longer — and so will our planet. And that's good for everyone!
Eating for your health. (2013, October). People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved from http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/eating-health/
Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat. (2014, August 19). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193?pg=1
One day a week can make a world of difference. (2015, January). Meat Free Monday. Retrieved from http://www.meatfreemondays.com/about/