Start a Meatless Monday Tradition
Four simple steps that’ll help you make this one small move—and reap big benefits.
By Meghan Rabbit
As the buzz about a plant-based diet continues to grow, you may wonder if it’s worth a try. Yet before you go all-in on a vegan or vegetarian diet, consider starting a bit slower with a #MeatlessMonday tradition. “This is a great option if you’d like to include more plant-based foods in your diet, but you’re not ready to completely eliminate animal products,” says Christine Santori, R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian at Syosset Hospital in New York.
Even better, Meatless Mondays might even inspire you to choose more plant-based options throughout the rest of the week. “I'm a huge fan of ‘Meatless Monday’ as a way to create a plant-focused day that can easily translate into more plant-focused, flexitarian meals all of the time,” adds Eliza Savage, R.D., C.D.N., a New York City-based dietitian.
Not sure where to start? Follow these steps.
Step No. 1: Understand the health benefits.
On average, Americans consume about 8 ounces of meat each day, which is nearly 50 percent more than what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends. Switching to a plant-based diet even just one day a week can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer. It can also help you shed unwanted pounds. “Plant-based eating has been shown to have a number of health benefits,” says Santori. And remember, you don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach, she adds: “Many benefits can still be achieved by limiting animal products, as well as increasing produce, legumes and whole grains.”
Step No. 2: Know that you’ll be helping animals and the environment, too.
Overall consumer demand has shifted drastically over the last few years to products that provide better-for-all benefits—not just when it comes to our health, but also for animals and our environment. In addition to the steps toward animal welfare you’ll be taking if you cut back on your meat consumption, you’ll also be making a big impact when it comes to environmental sustainability, too: The United Nations estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one fifth of the manmade greenhouse gas emissions that are known to accelerate climate change, and up to 2,500 gallons of water go into producing just one pound of beef.
Step No. 3: Stock up on plant-based takes on classic foods.
Preparation is key to starting a #MeatlessMonday tradition you’ll stick to. If you’re new to vegetarian or vegan cooking, it can be daunting to try new recipes that don’t include animal protein. So, stock your freezer with plant-based versions of foods you already love—like Alpha Foods’ Philly Burrito and Buffalo Chik’n Pot Pie. They can be ready in minutes and are bursting with so much flavor, you won’t even miss the meat. (In fact, these meals are so tasty, you might be tempted to start a #TamaleTuesday tradition with Alpha Foods’ Beefy Roja or Southwest tamales!)
Alpha Foods Tamales
Step No. 4: Get to know new sources of protein.
When most of us hear the word “protein,” we think beef, chicken, pork or fish. But there are so many other sources of protein that can add a variety of nutrients to your diet—not to mention a lot of new flavors, says Santori. Consider common meat substitutes like seitan (made from wheat gluten) or tofu and tempeh (made from soy beans). Lentils, legumes and grains like amaranth and quinoa also pack a big protein punch. Finally, consider “add-ons” like nutritional yeast, as well as hemp and chia seeds—all of which can be sprinkled over food to up your protein intake.