Should you be participating in “Meatless Monday”?
When Monday rolls around and you find yourself on social media, you’ll likely see plenty of pictures of beautiful plates of vegetables.
The trend Meatless Monday is a health campaign working towards eliminating meat from individuals’ diets for one day a week. Revived from WWI and WWII era pledges to support the war effort, the modern campaign has two stated goals: reduce the risk of disease and lessen the negative environmental impact of meat consumption. Since the early 1960s, there’s been a four to five times increase in meat production, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.
But is meat dangerous for your health?
“There is no reason meat can’t be a part of a healthy diet,” says Jodi Upchurch, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill. “The idea of eliminating meat on one day of the week is to move toward a more plant-based diet. This means incorporating plant-based proteins such as nuts, legumes, soy or quinoa, instead of meat.”
Upchurch says an adequate amount of protein (about 45-60 grams a day) is essential for repairing and maintaining cells. “Excess protein is not necessarily of extra benefit. Healthy adults need about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day. So, a 150-pound person needs about 54 grams of protein per day. Excess protein is usually stored as fat and surplus amino acids are simply excreted,” she says.
She warns that inadequate protein intake can lead to the following:
- Sluggish metabolism
- Low energy levels and fatigue
- Poor concentration and trouble learning
- Moodiness and mood swings
- Slow wound healing and low immunity
When it comes to eating meat, Upchurch recommends choosing lean meats whenever possible. “Chicken without the skin and fish are lean meats. Limit red meat, which includes beef, lamb, and pork, to no more than three servings per week. Lean cuts of red meat are typically those that have ‘loin’ or ‘round’ in the name. A serving of meat is three ounces- about the size of a deck of playing cards. This is approximately 20 grams of protein,” she says.
In order to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into the diet, Upchurch suggests making produce more available in your kitchen.
“Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Store them at eye level on the counter or in the refrigerator. Do some of the prep work (washing/cutting) ahead of time to make them an easy choice. Try to add fruits and vegetables to each meal and use them exclusively for your between-meal snacks,” she says.
Interested in trying Meatless Monday? Centered around a plant-based protein source, Upchurch offers the following recipe:
Herbed Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- ⅓ cup fresh pomegranate arils
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives (and/or ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta) *
- *(For those monitoring sodium intake, eliminate the olives and choose a lower-sodium cheese such as mozzarella)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about two medium lemons, juiced)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Several twists of freshly ground black pepper
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To toast the almonds: In a small skillet, heat the almonds over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and turning golden on the edges. Don’t let them burn! Transfer toasted almonds to your serving bowl to cool.
- To prepare the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
- Final assembly: In your serving bowl, in addition to the almonds, combine the quinoa, chopped mint and parsley, pomegranate, cranberries and olives or cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Taste and mix in additional salt, pepper and/or olive oil if necessary. Serve right away or refrigerate for later.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23.6g||30%|
|Saturated Fat 4.6g||23%|
|Total Carbohydrate 39.1g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 5.7g||20%|
|Total Sugars 6.3g|
About the Author
Kendall Krawczyk is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill. She is a senior obtaining a bachelor’s degree in health communication and public relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the secretary of Communication Leader’s on her campus, in which she acts as an ambassador for the department of communication. She spent the last semester in Florence, Italy. In her free time, she enjoys working out, drinking coffee and spending time with her family.