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Meatless Mondays Benefit Personal Health, Global Environment

Jun 01, 2017 02:26PM ● Published by Jennifer Monahan

Photo courtesy of Dave Bryce

Gallery: Meatless Mondays [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

One of the best things about the North Hills is the abundance of amazing burgers. BRGR, Burgh’ers, Burgatory, Barrel Junction, OTB at the North Park Boathouse…these are seriously delicious options for meat-loving people. However, as any medical professional will attest, an all-meat diet is not the best approach to a healthy lifestyle. Enter Meatless Mondays.

The Meatless Mondays trend started in 2003 under the auspices of The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit public health organization, in conjunction with the public health schools from Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. The idea is to cut out meat once a week to benefit both personal health and the global environment.

That goal is not always an easy sell.

“We are a meat-loving society,” said Rita Singer, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of RED Dietitians, LLC in Warrendale. Singer has embraced the Meatless Mondays movement because of the health benefits, but also because the approach can save both time and money. 

Singer is passionate about food and health and is currently writing a cookbook. An avid cook, she appreciates being able to put together meatless weeknight meals in a hurry. One of her favorites is stir-fry, which she recommended as both a quick and easy meal and an effective way to clean out the refrigerator.

In addition to utilizing leftover vegetables, she sometimes adds an egg for extra protein and a handful of cashews or peanuts on top for crunch. The cost savings are another bonus.

“Even substituting beans and vegetables one day a week can help reduce costs,” Singer said. 

She cautioned that people should be thoughtful about their meatless choices. “Meatless is not automatically healthy,” she explained, adding that substituting a huge plate of pasta slathered in butter and cheese is not necessarily better than having meat. Singer encourages her clients to strive for a balanced plate that incorporates healthy protein sources like beans and whole grains, along with an array of colorful vegetables.

Plant-based foods contain components called phytonutrients that protect plants from viruses and toxins, Singer said. Research shows that people who eat plant-based diets experience similar benefits. Plant-based diets are also associated with decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity, and cultures with plant-based diets tend to be the healthiest in the world.

People who eliminate meat from their diets should be careful to include other sources of protein. Singer recommended grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, barley and amaranth. She also incorporates beans into many meals, lauding the food as a versatile source of protein, fiber and iron. She often purees them into soups or sauces as well as adds them to salads, pasta and rice dishes.

Helping the environment is another good reason to go meatless once a week. Less water is required to grow plants than to raise animals for consumption. Buying fresh produce in season has both financial and environmental benefits as well.

A number of local restaurants have excellent meatless offerings on the menu, including Tomato Pie Café and OTB Bicycle Café in North Park, Mad Mex in Cranberry and the North Hills, and Aladdin’s Eatery in Cranberry, Fox Chapel and the North Hills.

Singer encouraged anyone who might be skeptical to give Meatless Mondays a try. 

“It’s a good way to experience new foods and new cuisines,” she said. “Meatless meals are the new meat and potatoes!”

To find out more about Meatless Mondays, visit www.mondaycampaigns.org. Find Red Dietitians at www.reddietitians.com.

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