Since leaving NYC, my carbon footprint has grown. I thought a good idea to try to "give back" would be to cut out meat one day a week. Studies have shown that by incorporating "meatless Mondays" into your life, you reduce your environmental impact. It takes about 60 pounds of water to produce a pound of potatoes, 108 for a pound of wheat, 168 for a pound of corn, 229 for a pound of rice, and 12,000 gallons for a pound of meat. Also, The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide...far more than transportation.
There are health benefits as well. Cutting out meat one day a week lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, lowers your cholesterol, can fight against certain types of cancers and consumption of alternatives increase intake of healthy fiber and nutrients from plant-based foods.
But how can I live without my meat! (I can hear many of you crying) Its pretty simple. Find some good, hearty meals that will fill you up so that you don't miss the meat. You don't have to eat just carrots and celery one day a week. When we first began our exploration into Meatless Mondays, I did a lot of taco night. I brought out black beans, rice, cheese, tomatoes, peppers and onions, guac and rolled it into a taco. Filling and fun because kids get to play with their food. You can experiment as well. Try olives or get fancy and put in some butternut squash and goat cheese. Season it with cumin.
Another great way to start getting used to not eating meat is to make chili. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker. "Set it and forget it" is a mantra in my house. There are tons of chili recipes out there so try Googling "vegetarian chili" and see what comes up.
But what about protein? We have been trained as a society to think that if we don't eat meat, we won't have enough protein to get through out day. This simply isn't true. Protein exists in all forms of plant based food. Some in significant amounts. Some less. The obvious one of course is soy. Tofu and tempeh spring to mind. Seitan is a wheat based protein. But so many of things have protein as well. Whole grains are also a source of protein with quinoa leading the charge. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber. Additionally beans and legumes offer protein as does nuts, seeds and nut butters. Plus all fruits and vegetables have protein in varying amounts. Lots of little bits equals a lot.
Our vegetarian experiment has grown from our first foray into meatless Mondays. On a personal level, I am extremely concerned with how our food industry deals with and monitors the animals used for consumption. About a month ago, I decided to try going vegetarian for a week to see how I felt. Its been a month now. I experiment with lots of different recipes. Some a success, others less so. But the most important thing is how I feel and that is great. I have lots of energy and am finding the food to be more fun to prep (I was always a little grossed out by touching raw flesh to be honest with you). I also feel better knowing I'm not consuming (or feeding my family) food that has been pumped up with antibiotics, fed genetically modified feed, or housed in unsanitary living conditions.
Will I live a vegetarian lifestyle forever? I have no idea. For right now it works for me. Perhaps as more people become aware of how the food industry deals with animals and rallies into public outrage, things will change. This is certainly my hope. In the meantime, I encourage you to try just one day a week of going meatless. See how you like it. You might be surprised by the results.
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