The Origin of Meatless May
The concept of Meatless Monday started during the First World War, when the United States Food Administration asked that families reduce their consumption of key food staples to aid the war effort. In 2003, the idea came back to life when a health advocate named Sid Lerner reintroduced it as a public health campaign. It served as a way to address the connection between preventable illnesses and their association with meat consumption. Since then, Meatless Monday has grown into a global movement, allowing for the conversation of a meatless diet to be addressed worldwide, and also for the health benefits of a reduced meat, or meatless diet, to be acknowledged on a global scale.
Meatless By the Numbers
It’s totally understandable that going meatless everyday isn’t for everyone, but going meatless just one day has a lot of benefits too. If everybody in the United States went meatless for just one day, the United States would save:
• 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply to all the homes in New England for almost four months
• 1.5 billion pounds of crops that would otherwise be fed to livestock. That’s enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than one year
• 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars in Canada and Mexico, combined
The United States would also prevent:
• Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2
• Almost seven tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant
If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted it with a vegetarian meal, the carbon dioxide saved would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off the United States roads.
What are the benefits?
Studies have shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk for cancer, and that both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer. Studies have also shown that by replacing foods high in saturated fat (like meat and full fat dairy) with foods high in polyunsaturated fat (like nuts and seeds), the risk of heart disease can be reduced by 19%. High consumption of red and processed meat also increases a person’s risk for Type Two Diabetes, and is associated with an increase in cancer and cardiovascular mortality. Recent studies have shown that reducing overall meat consumption can also prevent long-term weight gain. Environmentally, a meat free diet minimizes water usage as an estimated 1800 to 2500 gallons of water are used to produce a single pound of beef; soy tofu only requires 220 gallons per pound.
Busting the Protein Myth
One of the major arguments people hear when they talk about a meatless diet is, ‘where will you get your protein?’ One great form of meatless protein is beans. Beans are not only high in protein, but they also help discharge excess hormones from your body and help lower cholesterol. They are high in fiber, and bean growth adds needed nitrogen to the earth’s soil.
Protein is important; our hair, muscles, and fingernails are made up mostly of protein. However, all protein is not the same. Different combinations of twenty amino acids make different proteins. The human body can make ten of these important amino acids, the other ten, it cannot. Soybeans contain all the essential amino acids and nearly equals meat in the amount of protein it can provide the human body. It is important to remember that too much soy and a lack of dietary diversity is not healthy either. So nuts, seeds, and nutritional yeast are also good ways to add protein into a meatless diet, as well as many grains, vegetables, and fruits! Rather than list all of them here, just search the Internet for “meatless protein” and try what sounds best to you!
Kids Going Meatless
Kids today are smart, so parents… don’t be surprised when the day comes that your child gives YOU the talk about wanting to go meatless! The immediate panic is understandable, but it’s very easy to embrace their passion and desire to save animals and the environment!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that, “well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, as well as for athletes.”
When I had THE TALK with my parents, I was told, “When you buy your own food and cook your own meals you can eat as little or as much of anything you want.” Today, we can do better!
Eating is one of the few things children actually have control over, so rather than fight a losing battle, wouldn’t it be easier to try and meet them halfway? There are many ways of making a meal meatless. Tacos can easily be meatless, as can pastas. There are also meatless hamburgers, meatballs, and chicken-less that can easily be substituted for the meat version. If you are concerned with the lack of vitamins and minerals children may not receive, you can easily add lentils (protein, iron), broccoli, and kale (calcium), amongst other foods, to your diet.
A lot of children and adults bring lunch to work every day; eating a meatless lunch does not have to be a challenge! Do an Internet search for “vegan sandwiches and wraps” and a ton of websites will come up with really great (and different) ways to have lunch, without the meat! A typical lunch for me includes a sandwich, (using a meatless and cheese-less alternative) lots of veggies, a piece of fruit, and a cup of coconut yogurt. I usually also bring a small container of snacking fruit, like strawberries, blueberries and grapes.
Junk Food without the Junk
Everyone needs to veg out sometimes and just have a little junk food! Even your meatless enthusiasts! There are plenty of vegan ice cream brands out there and lots of dips that you can either buy or make that do not require either dairy or meat! Pair them with some chips or cut up vegetables and you are all set! If you have a sweet tooth, there are also a surprising number of vegan candies on the market; many are candy that you very easily recognize and would never know they were meat and dairy free! Don’t just take my word for it; it’s important that you educate yourself on your diet! There are also many vegetarian brands in the store that sell nuggets, corn dogs, burgers, and hot dogs-all meat free!
Dairy Free Desserts
Now, who doesn’t love dessert? Even though we are celebrating Meatless May, why not at least try to live with a little less dairy too? Many desserts can be made with vegan margarine and coconut oil in place of ingredients that otherwise derive from animals. Many chocolate chips are made dairy free. There are also many types of milk that can be used to substitute dairy milk including almond, rice, and coconut. There are many companies that make dairy-free ice cream, desserts, and sorbets. While sorbets are generally dairy-free, always check the label!