"Meatless Mondays"

‘Tis the season to find our healthy eating patterns again! Big meals, sweet treats and holiday indulgences have left us all feeling full, heavy and less energetic. What better time to look for new recipes, expand your food repertoire and reap the benefits of meal preparation. We’re going to talk about the trend towards a plant-based diet and the environmental and health benefits of decreasing your animal-product intake.

Going all the way meat or animal-free would make you vegetarian or vegan. But even if you can’t commit to a full-time lifestyle change, you can still experience the positive effects by making one day each week meatless. The idea of Meatless Monday was launched in 2003, in an effort to decrease our animal consumption by 15%. It was a public health initiative with a global goal of improving both personal health and the health of the planet. What it means in your own house is to take one day a week and not eat meat/animal products. How difficult could it be?!

A major hurdle for some is the dinner menu. Many of us grew up on meat & potatoes, or planning your supper around the main event: the meat. Grilled chicken, pork chops, roast beef, poached salmon… the list goes on and on. To help you plan a dinner without meat, the idea is to think backwards about your meal prep. Instead of your animal being the centre-piece, think about 1 or 2 vegetables done exactly how you like them. Roasted brussel sprouts, cauliflower or sweet potato. Grilled broccoli, red peppers or zucchini. Carrots in butter with cinnamon and maple syrup. There are so many! Then think about turning some of your favourites into a meal. Toss the roasted brussel sprouts into some rice pasta and combine with pesto. Take a few roasted or grilled veggies, chop them up and add to a bowl of rice. Add some seeds, your favourite dressing or sauce and you have a hearty rice bowl great for a cold night or a post-workout meal. Trying new recipes is one of the benefits of deciding on a meatless monday, and if you think veggies first instead of the meat, you’ll easily come up with some new family favourites!

For some people, the issue is flavour. They don’t enjoy veggies, grains or starches as much as they like the taste of meat. Quite often the problem is they don’t treat their side dishes the same as they do their favourite cut of steak. Marinading, tenderising, seasoning and serving with flavourful toppings is important to your meal prep with or without the meat. Try some flavourful add-ins when making your vegetarian dishes: be sure to season with salt & pepper, or herbs like oregano, smoked paprika, powdered garlic, and chili peppers. Toss in olive or sesame oil before cooking. Sprinkle with some strong flavours like crumbled blue cheese or feta, chopped pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. And add texture like croutons or pumpkin seeds. All of a sudden your side dish will feel and taste like the main event!

Decreasing your meat consumption impacts our planet as well as our own bodies. Farming practices to provide animal products to the Earth’s population produce significant green-house gases that contribute towards global warming. Even if you’re not an animal rights advocate, most can agree that the living conditions in factory farms are not acceptable. And when we choose no meat at a given meal, we have the opportunity to improve our nutrition intake. The medical community agrees that eating more vegetarian meals can reduce our chances of heart disease, stroke and cancer, the 3 leading causes of death in the U.S. The Humane Society of the United States advocates for the Three R’s: Reducing or Replacing consumption of animal products and Refining our diets by switching to products from sources adhering to higher animal welfare standards. “Eating less meat is better for animals, creates less waste and pollution, and places more value on humane and sustainable agriculture.” onegreenplanet.org, 2013

Avocado Toast, sprinkled with chili flakes and sea salt. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar!

Avocado Toast, sprinkled with chili flakes and sea salt. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar!

Winter is a great time for soups, and you can find thousands of online recipes for veggie-based soups and stews. Pair with toast topped with avocado, balsamic vinegar and salt & chili flakes and you have a filling meal in less time than it takes to defrost your meat. Whatever meatless recipes you experiment with this new year, think a VARIETY of COLOUR. Remember how good it is for you, for animals, and for the planet. Give it a try - you’ll be surprised how good you feel for so many reasons!

Taia Spencer-Yap