Are You Vegetarian-Curious? Try Meatless Mondays

Cut your saturated fat for better health

Are You Vegetarian-Curious? Try Meatless Mondays

If you’d like to cut down or eliminate or your consumption of meat, but you’re not sure how to get started, try what many dietitians recommend as a first step: Meatless Mondays.

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What are Meatless Mondays? As the name implies, it means refraining from eating meat one day a week — on Mondays.  Meatless Mondays is a public health awareness campaign introduced in 2003 as part of the Healthy People Initiative.

The goal is to improve people’s health by helping them to cut their consumption of saturated fats.  Meat is a major source of saturated fat in most people’s diets. By going meatless for just one day a week, you can reduce your risk of heart diseasestrokecancerobesity and diabetes.

The thinking is that by making this relatively small change in your eating habits, you could make a substantial, positive impact on your health.

And if you’re interesting in giving up meat entirely, taking small steps that build over time — like eating no meat one day a week — is easier than tackling a large goal — like giving up meat entirely — all at once. Going meatless one day a week also gives you time to develop your meat-free meal preparation skills and knowledge.

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“The thought behind it is that we decrease saturated fat by 15 percent,” says registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation Section.  “The major source of saturated fat in our diet is meat.”

Eliminating meat doesn’t mean you can’t include some animal products into your day such as milk, cheese and eggs. Here is a sampling of other, non-animal sources of protein, such as:

  • Bread — 3 to 4 grams of protein per slice
  • Potato — 2 to 4  grams of protein for a small potato
  • Beans — 8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup
  • Mushrooms — 3 grams per cup
  • Brown rice — 5 grams per cooked cup
  • Quinoa — 8 grams per cooked cup

Confused about what you’re going to eat on a Meatless Monday?  Here are some ideas:

Breakfast

  • Eggs —   over easy, scrambled, poached or hard-boiled
  • Cereal — hot or cold — with  milk and topped with fruit
  • Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit
  • Frittata with spinach

Lunch

  • Sandwich made with hummus — instead of deli meat — and topped with  lettuce or alfalfa sprouts,  cucumbers and tomatoes
  • A fresh salad topped with beans, such as chickpeas or kidney beans, instead of chicken
  • Black bean-topped baked sweet potatoes

Dinner

  • Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and served with a side of steamed broccoli or other vegetable
  • Lentil burgers served on a whole-wheat bun topped with lettuce, onion and tomato

A common misconception is that if you’re not eating meat, you’re not getting enough protein. Ms. Patton says that’s not true. Protein deficiencies are rare in the United States, Ms. Patton says.

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The average American consumes about 8 ounces of meat each day, which is more than  the USDA daily recommendation, Ms. Patton says. The USDA estimates that men eat up to 190 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein, while women eat up to 160 percent.

“We get protein from so many other food sources in our diet than we realize,” Ms. Patton says.  “Our protein intake is higher than necessary.”

Can’t fathom avoiding meat for an entire day? Try eating three meatless meals a week instead.

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