Monday, August 9, 2010

Meatless Monday: Where's the Beef?

If you’re like most Americans, you are consuming an average of 2 servings or 8 ounces of meat each day. That is almost double the amount that is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. It’s no surprise that most of us eat meat nearly everyday. Think about it…What’s in your lunch bag? …A turkey sandwich? What’s for dinner? …Leftover spaghetti and meatballs?

The challenge here is to re-think your food choices one day per week (3 meals) to re-establish a healthy balance of nutritious foods in the diet. If this challenge is too daunting, start with one meal per week. Choosing more vegetarian meals is good for your health benefits, offers ecological benefits and is cost-effective. 

Personal Health
Meat is a great source of protein, B vitamins and minerals, however, red meat can be high in artery-clogging saturated fat. If you’re already choosing less red meat, more poultry and fish, nutrition-wise, you’re doing better than average. However, choosing more vegetarian protein options including beans and whole grains (in lieu of any meat) is a great opportunity to boost dietary fiber intake. 
The average American eats about half the recommended fiber each day. Meatless Mondays are a great way to balance the scales in favor of health. Swapping more fiber-rich foods for less meat has the potential to shift the risk for obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes in a positive, healthy direction. 

A Healthy Planet
U.S. Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt popularized Meatless Mondays during both World Wars as an effort to conserve food, water and other natural resources. Here’s the math: It is estimated that it takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef! That the equivalent of 1-month of showers (20-minutes each)! Today, there are many ways to conserve energy from electric cars to using solar panels, however the easiest, lowest-cost method to reducing your carbon footprint is simply choosing meatless meals one day per week.  

Save Money
If you’re still not convinced about going meatless one day per week, perhaps a few more dollars in your pocket will change your mind. At less than a dollar a can, beans are a nutritional bargain that is hard to beat. Considering that one-half cup of beans is a serving, you don’t even need to eat the whole can to bank on great nutrition. 
Unless you’re already a vegetarian (or a dietitian), you probably don’t eat too many beans on a regular basis. This is your chance to explore this culinary delight and many other meatless proteins. Choose from some other great vegetarian options including whole grains like bulger, quinoa and kamut or try tofu for a change. If you’re not used to cooking with tofu, I give you permission to eat out at any Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese or other Asian restaurant one day per week on the stipulation that you order a tofu or vegetarian option. This is a great way to get inspiration to eat great meatless meals bursting with flavor and health! 
Explore the bounty of meatless meals:
  • Rice and beans (choose from any number of international creations including Creole, Mexican, Cuban…the possibilities and flavors are endless).
  • Hummus (chickpea & tahini dip)
  • Falafel (chickpea “meat” balls) served with Taboulleh (bulger & parsley salad)
  • Soups: Split pea; Pasta fagiole; Black Bean; Lentil Soup;
  • Vegetarian Burgers (try any number of varieties found in the freezer section of your local grocery store) 
  • Burritos made with beans, rice, vegetables, cheese.
  • Tofu stir-fry 
  • Edamame (green soybeans) atop your favorite salad
Bon Appetit! 
Described appropriately as "The Day All HEALTH Breaks Loose...."

The Meatless Mondays campaign created in 2006 by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in association with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University is an international movement to help people reduce their meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of the planet.

Another idea..

The University of Nebraska's Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County's "Cook It Quick" is a great resource. Written and published by another dietitian, Alice Henneman...check it out this edition about cooking with dry beans!

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