As you may know, we have been on a journey as a company and as a family to continue to learn and make choices that help us move toward a more sustainable life. Our latest effort was to integrate a Meatless Monday Dinners each week, because it’s another small change. Adopting small changes one at a time helps us make a transition that doesn’t shock our lifestyle, which helps us to sustain (pun intend) the change long-term. To this end, I figured that once Meatless Monday dinners became a habit, we could expand to Meatless Monday breakfasts and lunches, too, bringing us closer to where we would like to be!
What Is Meatless Monday?
Meatless Monday is exactly what it sounds like. It’s intended to be a day (or in our case, meal.) that doesn’t include meat products in the ingredients. This shift to Meatless Monday connects to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal #3 Good Health & Well-Being and Goal #13 Climate Action (United Nations, n.d.).
The idea to use a campaign is rooted in the concept of behavioral change and that awareness sparks change (The Monday Campaigns, n.d.). That makes sense, right? Because if you don’t KNOW that reducing meat can have positive health and environmental impacts, why would you make an effort to change (unless you don’t like meat, of course)? Selecting Mondays for the campaign was an intentional strategy, as research that suggests people are more likely to modify their behaviors and try to get off on the right track at the start of the week in the same way that people hop on the healthy bandwagons in January (The Monday Campaigns, n.d.). Meatless Mondays also has roots in the rationing of meat during the world wars. For more information on that interesting topic, check out “Food Rationing in Wart Time America” on History.Com!
Environmental Benefits of Meatless Monday
A large percentage (nearly 15%) of our global greenhouse gases emissions, which have been linked to global warming, come from the production of meat, dairy, and eggs. We like to blame cars—and transportation DOES contribute—but the reality is most of the emissions are from cattle associated with our food industry. In addition to the negative impact caused by emissions, raising livestock requires a significant amount of water and land; the latter contributes significantly to land-use change, including deforestation. The impact on land and water can be greatly reduced by shifting toward a more plant-based diet. And if you’re not ready to shift to a vegan diet all together (we weren’t!), you can still make positive change in smaller increments by adopting Meatless Mondays or Meatless Meals.
“We like to blame cars—and transportation DOES contribute—but the reality is most of the emissions are from cattle associated with our food industry”
“Meatless Mondays have an added bonus of getting us to consider options for meals that we may not otherwise consider.”
Health Benefits of Meatless Monday
If contributing to a healthy planet isn’t enough to sway you to consider adopting Meatless Monday Meals, perhaps the benefits to your health will! The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that we should limit our saturated and trans fats in our diet with saturated fats making up less than 10% of our daily calories (2015). Further, research tells us that studies have shown that eating patterns that include lower intakes of meats are associated with reduced risk for a number of health problems due to the amount of saturated fat found in meat, particularly red meat and processed meats (United Nations, n.d.; Harvard School of Public Health, n.d.).
John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future shared that the Meatless Monday campaign started in 2003 when the recommendation from the Surgeon General of the US was to reduce consumption of saturated fat by 15%, a goal which can be accomplished by eliminating meat and animal products 1 day per week (n.d.). In addition to reducing saturated fat, Meatless Mondays have an added bonus of getting us to consider options for meals that we may not otherwise consider. We are exposed to new foods and/or increase our nutritional benefits by being forced to rethink our meal plans.
Our Experience with Meatless Monday
I have to admit, I was a little nervous to institute Meatless Monday in my house. Rob has always liked meat with his meals, especially dinner, and I wasn’t sure that he would love this new shift. So, I did what any loving wife would do. I made the shift without his knowledge! I plan the meals for the week (which helps me be more thoughtful about how I shop to reduce food costs AND food waste), so I just started including meatless dinners on Mondays on our weekly schedule. The schedule is on our refrigerator, so it’s no big secret that I had started doing a “Meatless Monday” dinner each week, but I didn’t make a big thing of it either. A little devious? Maybe. But hey, I’m trying to make positive change for a healthy family and a healthy world here!
Next, I engaged in a very modern behavior and jumped into Pinterest to find some ideas for meals! I pinned a bunch of them in a sub-folder of my “Sustainability Ideas” folder and pulled out one that looked appealing each week as I was doing my meal planning. Of course, I found a ton of recipes and still have more to try, but here are the ones that we tried over the last month. In the following paragraphs, I share a little bit about the inspiration for the recipe and offer a little rating based on the taste, ease of cooking, nutrition (how healthy is it?), and fit (how closely our version of the meal adhered to the spirit of Meatless Monday).
Mushrooms & Grits
Truth be told, this dish was supposed to be Mushrooms and Polenta loosely based on this recipe by Crowded Kitchen. I never follow recipes exactly; I rarely measure and I season to taste and make all kinds of swaps. When I couldn’t find polenta it became VERY loosely based on this recipe. But it was still very good. It was generally pretty healthy and was, in fact, meatless. We did add a bit cheese to the grits, which adds saturated fat and animal byproduct, though. Despite the extra calories and fat, I ended up needing a snack later, too.
Taste: 4.5 out of 5
Ease: 4 out of 5
Nutrition: 4.5 out of 5
Satisfying: 3.5 out of 5
Fit: 4 out of 5
Ratatouille & Meatless Chickpea Balls
This meal was a pretty good one. The ratatouille (based on the recipe by Simply Happenings) was delicious, but we make a similar dish (less fancy and no eggplant) on a pretty regular basis so I knew this one would go over well. The meatless chickpea balls based on the Easy Vegan Meatballs by Nora Cooks were pretty good. They were easy to make and made a LOT of good-sized meatballs. Rob wasn’t sold on my version of them, though; we recently had them at a relatives and hers were AMAZING. I’m thinking I need her recipe as a guide. Overall, I feel good about this meal! We cut out meat and animal byproduct and it was still very filling and tasty!
Taste: 4.5 out of 5
Ease: 5 out of 5
Nutrition: 5 out 5
Satisfying: 5 out of 5
Fit: 5 out of 5
Bean & Cheese Burritos
We love bean & cheese burritos. They’ve made it into our weekly plan before, but not with as much intentionality. The thoughtfulness of what you’re trying to do is important! I didn’t really use a recipe for this one. I just added some refried beans and some cheese onto some flour tortillas and baked them. We served them up with salsa and sour cream and a side of corn salad (corn, tomato, avocado, onion, oil, lime juice, and black pepper). YUMMY! Clearly, we’re having a harder time cutting the animal byproduct out than the meat itself, since we can’t get away from meals with cheese. But baby steps, right?
Taste: 5 out of 5
Ease: 5 out of 5
Nutrition: 4 out of 5
Satisfying: 5 out of 5
Fit: 4 out of 5
Pasta Alfredo w/ Broccoli
This dinner got raving reviews from everyone—even the littles. What’s not to love about a classic Italian dish, though—aside from maybe all the calories? Oh, and the fact we’re still eating cheese… and butter. But hey! It was delicious, had no meat, included a green vegetable, and my toddlers ate it. I refuse to believe that is anything other than a win! I didn’t use a recipe for this either, but the base of our alfredo sauce is cream cheese, butter, and parmesan (unless I’m out. Which happened.).
Truth is, we were supposed to have another amazing meatless dish for dinner that night, but I didn’t have time to get the ingredients as I had planned so I fell back on my tried and true Italian roots. So, next week, we have a Tuscan White Bean Skillet from Nourish & Fete to look forward to!
What’s Next for the Whale Pod & Meatless Mondays?
While we certainly still have room for improvement, we did successfully remove meat from our meals for a month with no real reason to stop doing so. Besides, I have a bunch more recipes pinned to my board that I haven’t had a chance to try yet! Next week’s Tuscan White Bean Skillet is only the tip of the iceberg.
We will continue trying new recipes. Slowly we can exclude all animal byproducts from those meals. And we can also work to slowly expand our meatless Monday dinners into full days where we avoid meat products. But this is a journey. We’re running a marathon toward a more sustainable life, not sprinting full speed ahead. We wouldn’t endure. And for us, this isn’t about what we can do for a month. It’s about what we can do for a better life and a better world.
So, what about you? Are you up for a Month of Meatless Mondays? What are your favorite Meatless Monday Meals? Let us know in the comments!
John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. (n.d.). Technical & Scientific Resources to Meatless Monday. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://clf.jhsph.edu/projects/technical-and-scientific-resource-meatless-monday.
Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Strategies to reduce red meat and elevate your plate. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/elevate-your-plate/.
The Monday Campaigns. (n.d.). Meatless Mondays. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.mondaycampaigns.org/meatless-monday.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.). Home | Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://sdgs.un.org/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. (2015). Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://health.gov/our-work/food-and-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/.
Schumm, L. (2018). “Food Rationing in Wartime America.” History Stories. Retrieved December 1, 2020, from https://www.history.com/news/food-rationing-in-wartime-america