By now you’ve probably heard the term “Meatless Monday.” It’s a clever term to describe a global movement that began in 2003 to encourage people to consume less meat. Why? Because scientists and researchers began to notice that eating too much meat — particularly industrial meat — was having a negative impact on the health of humans and the planet.
You might not think that your choice to eat less meat one day a week could make enough of an impact on your health or even climate change. But our strength in any endeavor comes in numbers. If millions of us chose not to eat meat one less day a week, that could make a very big difference.
Whether it’s a Meatless Monday or a meatless meal on some other day of the week, it’s empowering to know that your food choices might not just make a big difference for the planet, but may also come with real health benefits for you and your family. Let’s see how the benefits of Meatless Monday stack up.
Benefits of Meatless Monday for Health
Allow us to get academic on you for just a few quick moments. We promise it’ll be worth your time.
Meatless Monday was created by an advertising executive named Sid Lerner in association with the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Here’s where it gets interesting. Originally the term and practice were used throughout WWI and WWII to ration meat consumption on the homefront so as to have enough of it to feed the troops.
However, since 2003, the benefits of Meatless Monday have an entirely new meaning. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we’re eating too much meat for optimal health, 15% more meat to be exact. (Gasp, horror, record scratch — throw em’ all in here!) And by cutting out meat from three meals a week, our meat consumption could go down 15%. Hence, you guessed it, the modern version of “Meatless Monday” was born.
Could cutting down on meat consumption — not eliminating it completely — just one day a week really have such a positive impact on our health?
Well, allow our curiosity to guide us, shall we? Because as Ted Lasso (aka best football soccer coach in all the land) says: be curious, not judgemental. So let’s give it a go.
Red Meat and Blue Zones
National Geographic Fellow and Explorer and award-winning journalist, Dan Buettner, identified five specific areas of the world where people historically live the longest. That is to say, the places with the highest concentrations of centenarians (those who reach the age of 100!).
He called them Blue Zones and they are:
- Ikaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
Upon studying these populations, Buettner and his team discovered nine factors each group shared in common that are believed to have contributed to their longevity. These factors include having a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging to a community, and daily movement.
But the most notable factor? Having a primarily plant-based diet, particularly one that has plenty of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc.) and other plant proteins like quinoa, as well as whole grains. Moreover, when these folks did enjoy meat, it was typically not red meat, but rather mostly pork and other white meats. And even then, it was usually only eaten a few times a month in small portions.
That said, longevity is not just about living longer. It’s about living better.
Studies continue to show that adopting a more plant-based diet can help you do that by:
- Reducing the risk of cancer
- Reducing the risk and incidence of type 2 diabetes
- Positively impacting cholesterol
- Positively impacting heart health and decreasing the incidence of heart disease
- Reducing the risk of obesity and helping to maintain a healthy weight
In fact, a study published back in 1998 by Dr. Dean Ornish concluded that lifestyle changes — including adopting a more plant-based diet — had a positive impact on cardiovascular health. The study was so compelling that Dr. Ornish created a program called The Ornish Reversal Program that became the first program to be covered by Medicare. This is a huge deal because it’s entirely based on lifestyle choices and not medications.
Now that we understand the health benefits of eating less meat, let’s explore how on Earth (see what we did there?) less meat consumption could possibly reduce your carbon footprint and make a big difference in global warming, climate change, and health of our planet.
Benefits of Meatless Monday on Climate Change
You may already be inspired enough by the health benefits of eating less meat and more plant protein to hop on the Meatless Monday movement train right away. Bravo! We couldn’t be more thrilled. As it turns out, choosing to consume less meat each week can reduce your carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately your contribution to global warming and climate change.
According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future (whew, that was a mouthful!), the food system plays a critical role in climate change. If we continue with our industrialized meat production the way it is now, the impact will be catastrophic. And not just here in the United States, but globally.
According to the organization, “We support shifts toward plant-rich diets and reduced food waste as critical actions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food.”
As with your health, there are many ways to positively impact the planet and decrease your carbon footprint. You could drive and travel less, use reusable bags at the grocery store, opt for reusable water bottles over plastic, buy organically grown food whenever possible, and choose sustainably sourced clothing, cleaning supplies, and beauty products.
But according to some studies, eating a more plant-based diet might have the biggest impact of all. That’s because raising livestock for beef, lamb, poultry, fish and other animal products has a much greater environmental impact than it does to produce plant foods like peas, nuts, and tofu.
For example, farming chickens for meat uses 1.3 x more land, 3.6x more water, and emits 10.2x more CO2 than farming peas for plant-based meat. (Check out our guide on how chicken nuggets are made for more info).
To be clear, the studies aren’t suggesting that everyone go full-on vegan or vegetarian. They are merely suggesting that a reduction in meat consumption would be helpful for the planet. So maybe it starts with Meatless Monday that eventually turns into a We-Forgot-the-Meat Taco Tuesday. Have fun playing with your plant-based food options and let the kids come up with fun themes too!
Ideas for Your Next Family Meatless Monday Night
Not sure how to incorporate more plants and less meat into your weekly dining routine? Don’t worry. That’s what we’re here for. There are plenty of versatile plant proteins such as legumes (lentils, peas, beans) and whole grains like quinoa that can be part of your healthy living goals.
For example, Nowadays plant-based nuggets are packed with protein — 13 grams per serving, to be exact — and made with just 7 simple ingredients that are kind to your body, the planet, and your conscience. No cholesterol, no saturated fat, and absolutely no animal products.
While you could certainly eat them straight out of the oven with your family’s favorite dipping sauces (yum!), there are so many other ways you can enjoy these easy-peasy pea-protein powerhouses. Take a look at our ever-growing list of nugget recipes, including:
- Saucy Po’ Boy Sandwich
- Crispy Nugget Sliders With Pickles and Comeback Sauce
- Crispy Tacos with Fresh Pico de Gallo
When you see new recipes like these, it’s clear that adopting Meatless Monday as part of your weeknight mealtime (and lunchtime!) can be incredibly simple and delicious.
As a rule of thumb, think about covering your plate as follows:
- Cover half of it with vegetables like a fresh salad, roasted cauliflower or broccoli, or some other veggie of your choice
- Cover a quarter of your plate with heart-healthy fat, such as avocado (drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and pepper!)
- Cover the final quarter with plant protein, such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, or quinoa
The Power of Plants
When you make the plate-to-planet connection, you discover just how powerful you are. Knowing that choosing a veggie burger over a ribeye, or vegan nuggets instead of chicken nuggets just one night of the week can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes is pretty epic. Plus, tipping your hat to the planet and saying, “Hey, thanks planet! I’ve got you!” is also pretty cool. Who knew that food had that much power?
Well, now you know. The benefits of Meatless Monday are as clear as day.
But whether it’s Meatless Monday, Tuesday, or Saturday, the bottom line is that eating less meat makes a positive difference. Try our plant-based nuggets today and have them shipped right to your door, just in time for your next Meatless Monday!