As the Plant-Powered Dietitian, I often write and speak about the benefits of vegetarian-style, plant-based eating patterns; yet, one thing my readers and audience members often appreciate is learning that a plant-based diet is simply one that emphasizes whole plant foods. That is, a plant-powered diet leaves room for a spectrum of dietary preferences and observances, ranging from vegans (those who do not eat any animal foods) to lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who allow for dairy and eggs in their diet) to pescetarian (those who allow for fish) to flexitarians (those who eat small amounts of animal foods).
That’s why I’m such a supporter of the Meatless Monday Campaign—a non-profit initiative developed in association with the John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. It has a simple message: By cutting out meat once per week, you can improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint. By simply substituting animal products in favor of more whole plant foods, you naturally reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat, while gaining more health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Who can really argue with that? Countless organizations, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and even the entire city of Los Angeles have embraced Meatless Monday to celebrate this simple concept.
The Meatless Monday message helps people ease into the concept of decreasing overall animal intake by selecting just one day per week to go meatless. The initiative provides information and recipes to help people start each week with healthy, eco-friendly, meat-free alternatives.
And I say “eco-friendly” because eating less meat can put a serious dent in your carbon footprint – the total greenhouse gas emissions produced from your activities. According to the Environmental Working Group, here’s how eating less meat can impact Mother Earth:
- If you eat one less burger per week…It’s like driving 320 miles less.
- If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week…It’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks.
- If your four-person family takes steak off the menu one day a week…It’s like taking your car off the road for almost three months.
- If everyone in the United States ate no meat or cheese for just one day a week…It would be like driving 91 billion miles less, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
So, go ahead! Jump on board the Meatless Monday bandwagon, and try one of my simple tips to get you started.
- Invest in a good vegetarian cookbook. A cookbook can give home cooks valuable ideas for how to put together simple, delicious meals. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
- Keep it simple. There’s a common misconception that preparing vegetarian meals is laborious and complicated – but tons of meatless recipes are incredibly simple to prepare. Think: black bean burritos or spaghetti with tomato sauce.
- Convert your family favorites. Trim the meat and load up on the veggies in your favorite dishes. My family’s favorite lasagna originally called for ground meat – but now I load it with summer squash, broccoli, and bell peppers.
- Try ethnic flair. Some cultures know how do vegetarian meals right! Steal ideas from your favorite Thai, Indian, or Mexican restaurants and try to reproduce them at home.
- Rely on more one-dish meals. Try chili, stews, casseroles, stir-fries, and pasta dishes with whole grains, legumes, tofu, and legumes.
Southwestern Black Bean, Quinoa, and Mango Salad
By Sharon Palmer, RD, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
The jewel-like black beans shine in this crunchy, zesty salad. Serve it with corn tortillas and vegetable soup for an easy, refreshing meal.
Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)
1 – 15 oz can Black Beans, no salt added, rinsed, drained
1 cup cooked Quinoa (according to package directions)
1 cup frozen Corn
1 small Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh Mango
¼ cup chopped Red Onion
½ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped (or 2 tsp dried if not available)
1 small fresh Jalepeno Pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 Lemon, juiced
1-1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
½ tsp Cumin
½ tsp Chili Powder
¼ tsp Turmeric
- Mix beans, quinoa, corn, pepper, mango, onion, cilantro and jalapeno together in a mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder and turmeric together. Toss into salad mixture and chill until serving time.
Nutrition Information Per Serving (1 cup)
Fat: 5 g
Sat Fat: 1 g
Sodium: 9 mg
Carbohydrate: 36 g
Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 8 g
Recipe from The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today, copyright © Sharon Palmer, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available June 2012.
Sharon Palmer is a registered dietitian, writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 750 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. Sharon makes her home with her husband and two sons in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles.