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Meatless Monday: A positive, tasty trend for 2012 and beyond

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

This is a trend worth following!

Have you been watching all the lists of food trends over the last several weeks? It's fun to see all the opinions and predictions, but one that's been going strong is Meatless Monday -- and it's expected to grow in 2012.
Stuffed bell peppers

Let's see you flex

You may have seen info lately about flexitarian diets. This is simply a diet that focuses on plant-based, vegetarian meals, with meat making an appearance once in a while. It's no wonder Meatless Monday is a food trend that has really caught on and continues to grow. Instead of committing to a full-time vegetarian style of eating, many people are going flexitarian. This is what the Meatless Monday program promotes: eliminating meat from your meals at least one day a week.

The benefits of a flexitarian diet

Not only is it good for your health to eat more plant-based foods, it's good for your wallet and the environment!

  • Studies show that diets high in fruits and vegetables and lower in meat consumption can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and curb obesity.
  • According to Eat Better America, a pound of meat can cost anywhere from $3 per pound and up. Beans and lentils weigh in at about $1 per pound, and tofu at about $2 per pound.
  • Eating less meat can reduce water usage (livestock use a lot more water than veggies and grains) and can help reduce fossil fuel dependence (more fossil fuel energy is needed for beef livestock than plant-based protein).

The added benefit of a flexitarian diet? You're sure to find many new recipes to try in 2012 that you may not have otherwise! Set your sights on the year ahead with healthier eating habits and new, delicious dishes to go along with them! Try this recipe for quinoa-stuffed bell peppers. They're filling, colorful and nutritious.

Quinoa-stuffed bell pepper recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 bell peppers, halved and seeded (leave the stems on)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach, leaves torn and stems removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. To prepare the peppers, preheat your broiler. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and put the peppers, skin side up, on it. Broil the peppers until they begin to soften (or about eight to 10 minutes).
  2. Combine the quinoa with the broth in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Toss the torn spinach into the mixture and stir everything together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the mixture to the peppers, divided evenly between them. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and top with the toasted pine nuts.

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Meatless Monday was introduced in 2003, and since it started, many organizations have implemented "meatless Mondays" into their dining plans. From Hollywood stars to restaurants to hospital and school systems nationwide, people are out in full-force participating in the movement. Looking for more info? Check out Meatless Monday for yourself!

Meatless Monday meals to try

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe
Start the week with a pizza party
Saffron pilaf with grilled vegetables
Put some pizzazz in your potatoes

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