What is Meatless Monday?  

Meatless Monday is a movement that encourages people to reduce their meat consumption for their personal health and the health of our planet.  It is a simple way to make a healthy change to your diet.  The campaign was started in 2003 by Sid Lerner, the Founder of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.  The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has done extensive research about the health, environmental and nutritional benefits of reducing meat. You can read more about their research here: https://clf.jhsph.edu/projects/technical-and-scientific-resource-meatless-monday 

The research has shown that shifting toward a more plant-based diet can help reduce chronic preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Eating a more plant-based diet and reducing your intake of meat products can provide many health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy weight.  People who eat a plant-based diet tend to eat fewer overall calories, less calories from fat, and have a diet high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.   With all the benefits of a vegetarian meal plan, why not kick off your week the meatless way and start your weekly meal plan on a healthy note.  Starting on a Monday can offer an opportunity to begin your week practicing healthy eating behaviors.  Making changes is not always easy and by starting with one day at the beginning of the week, it may lead you to eating healthier throughout the week and gradually shift you to a more plant-based regimen.   


Why meatless?  

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, so why not try to increase them! Eating more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains can help you stay healthy and live longer.  Consuming more whole foods and less processed foods is beneficial to your health.  The typical American diet is high in fat and low in fiber. By making a shift to more plant-based meals you can lower your fat intake and up your fiber intake.  Fruits and vegetables are naturally cholesterol free and high in fiber, which are two things that are good for your heart. Cholesterol is only found in foods from an animal such as meat, eggs or dairy products.  When you reduce these foods, you are reducing your cholesterol intake. Along with reducing cholesterol, a plant-based meal reduces the saturated and trans-fat in your diet.  These are the types of fats that can clog and damage arteries which can lead to heart disease.  Fiber has many benefits.  It can help lower cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream, it helps with digestion by helping things move through your digestive track and it provides a feeling of fullness, which can help reduce excessive intake at a meal. Foods that are high in fiber are slower to digest which can prevent spikes to our blood sugars.  The recommended amount of fiber for adults is 20 -35 grams per day.  When eating a more plant-based diet, you can easily meet or exceed this amount.   


How can eating a plant-based meal help my blood sugar control?  

Eating more plant-based meals can improve blood sugar control and insulin response. The key to good blood sugar balance is to eat quality high-fiber carbohydrate choices (whole grains, legumes, fruit and starchy vegetables), while including a protein source at each meal. This combination of fiber and protein at each meal helps slow down digestion, which also slows the rate at which glucose enters your blood stream. As a result, you’re less likely to experience drastic blood sugar spikes which has a positive effect on your overall health and blood sugar management.  It’s important to remember that even a vegetarian diet can cause elevated blood sugars if you are not being mindful of portion sizes or if your carbohydrate choices are high in simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, white rice, juice or added sugars.  


Tips to get more plant-based meals and snacks on your menu! 

  • Choose seasonal produce.  When shopping, choose fruits and vegetables that are in season as they are often less expensive and at peak flavor.  Check out local farmers markets for seasonal produce. 
  • Do some prep work!  Cut up veggies for grab and go snacks and easy meal prep.  Choose vegetables in a variety of colors, especially orange, red and dark green for their vitamins, mineral and fiber. Having veggies cut and ready to go will make it easier when it’s time for a snack and when ready to cook your meal.  
  • Add some beans to your meatless meals! Beans are a plant-based diet’s best friend. They come in many flavors, shapes and sizes and can be swapped in to make recipes that would originally call for meat. Try beans in tacos, salads, dips and more. 
  • Try a new plant-based protein. There are many different meat substitutes and plant-based proteins to choose from. Try soy products, like tofu and tempeh, for stir-fries, salads and more. There are a variety of plant-based meat substitutes and many frozen varieties such as veggie burgers and cauliflower pizza.  
  • Start your day with a smoothie! This is an easy way to get in fruits and veggies.   Blend baby spinach or kale, mixed with frozen berries, unsweetened almond milk and some ice for a quick meal or snack.  Add in some chia seeds and flax seed for a boost of omega-3 (healthy) fats!  
  • Try portabella mushrooms.  This “meaty” mushroom is great for a sandwich. Grill it with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Put on a whole wheat bun with some lettuce and tomato.  
  • Grill or roast your veggies.  Eggplant, Zucchini, and cauliflower are perfect to grill or roast and can replace the meat on your plate.  
  • Have fruits handy for snacks or added with your meals.  A piece of fruit is a healthy snack and a great way to have a sweet treat for the day!  
  • Snack on nuts. Nuts deliver protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. They also have fiber which helps keep you fuller longer.  Pair a piece of fruit with a ¼ cup of nuts for a mid-day snack.  
  • Don’t forget to choose whole grains. Whole grain foods have more fiber than refined grains and will be the best choice at your meals.  Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that you get at least half of the grains each day as whole grains. Use brown rice instead of white rice in your new recipe, use whole wheat bread instead of white bread when making a veggies sandwich, use whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta and mix it with broccoli for dinner or choose quinoa as a side at your meal for a protein rich whole grain. 
  •  Be creative and have fun with it!  

Try this bean-based meal, packed with fun colors and lots of nutrients!  

Black Bean-Cauliflower “Rice” Bowl Recipe | EatingWell