By Paige Leigh Reist | Posted: March 06, 2019
When it comes to eating well, the general trend of thought is that it has to be all or nothing: either you’re a clean-eating, greens-munching paragon of yogic purity, or you’re a complete and utter failure for indulging in a burger now and then. It might be a dichotomy that’s easy to believe, but it isn’t exactly the most encouraging way to approach eating for health and wellness!
While we are big believers in the transformative power of a plant-based diet, we also know that it’s not always easy to break out of long-lived habits or to stringently avoid the kinds of foods you’re used to eating. In the west, our dietary norm is something that relies heavily on meat as a source of protein, vitamins, and culinary pleasure. It’s even embedded into our culture and social life, with summer barbeques, Sunday pot roasts, and turkey at Thanksgiving.
We’ll always recommend a completely plant-based and Ayurveda-inspired diet for optimal health and well-being, but we also recognize that we’re all human. Small, consistent steps towards a better future can sometimes be more effective than a cycle of leaping towards an idea of perfection, falling flat, and becoming so discouraged that we give up. If you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle, you don’t need to give up all meat right away--reducing your intake of meat, even for one day a week, can have a surprising impact on your health, on the economy, on the environment, and on the future.
Recently, NYC Health & Hospitals implemented a Meatless Monday meal plan option in 11 public hospitals, expanding plant-based menu offerings with the aim of improving and supporting the immediate health of patients with preventable diseases. This is a huge public step in the recognition of plant-based meals as the most nutritious, supportive dietary system for the human body.
How to participate in Meatless Mondays
Meatless Monday is exactly what it sounds like--a pledge to cut out meat from our diets on each Monday of every week. Sounds simple, right? It is! Once you get the hang of things, eliminating meat from your meals will become second nature. Here are a few tips on how to make it as easy as possible for yourself:
Make a meal plan: Before you go grocery shopping, sit down and plan out your meals for the week. Browse your favorite recipe websites for vegetarian or even vegan meals to recreate at home. For meals that aren’t meat-based but include meat, you can even try swapping out meat for a meat alternative like tofu, tempeh, or even mushrooms. One of my favorite recipes to make at home is a tofu curry that was originally made with chicken! You can also try meat alternatives meant to replicate the taste and texture of meat, like the Beyond Burger, which is made mostly from pea protein.
Try new fruits and veggies: Stuck in a cycle of bananas-apples-broccoli? Try branching out to fruits and veggies that you don’t usually include in your diet. Trawl the farmer’s market for new-to-you varieties of old favorites (purple carrots, anyone?), and look up the seasonal and local fruits and veggies that your area offers. One of the best local treats where I live is a bushel of dark, subtly sweet Saskatoon berries, also known as serviceberries: something a little more unique than the usual grocery store fare!
Transition slowly: When you cut out meat for the first time, you don’t have to go cold turkey (no pun intended!) on other animal products right away. Ayurveda actually encourages the use of ghee, or clarified butter, for instance, and raw honey is full of healthy enzymes and minerals. Skip the big brands and check out the farmer’s market for small-scale local producers who treat their animals ethically. When you’re nice and comfortable with vegetarian meals, try taking it a step further and making Meatless Monday vegan!
Focus on protein: Meat may have a reputation of having a lot of protein, but so do veggies! Of course, the kinds of proteins available in plants vs animal products differ: meat does carry more amino acids than plant protein, but this can be easily worked around by eating lots of leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli. High-protein veggies include spinach, beans, mushrooms, and corn, and of course, you can add nuts, seeds, and high-protein grains to your meals as well!
The problem, of course, doesn’t lie in the fact that we eat meat as a species, but that we eat so much of it that it has become something destructive for our bodies and the environment. Meatless Mondays are a fantastic opportunity to explore more a more plant-based dietary model, which will help you feel lighter, more balanced, and like a more responsible, conscious citizen of Earth. We bet you won’t miss meat at all!
Paige Leigh Reist is a writer, editor, blogger, and creative writing instructor.