One of the foundations behind living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is to eat less meat or to eliminate meat from your diet all together. While I try to limit the amount of meat my family eats each week, I have to admit that I do enjoy a steak or hamburger every now and then.
I recently came across a non-profit group working in conjunction with John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health that is encouraging individuals to embrace meatless meals for one day a week. The project is called “Meatless Monday.” The group’s mission is to reduce meat consumption by 15 percent. Meatless meals that focus on fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet and diet and relieve some of the environmental burden tied with meat production.
Health Benefits of Eating Meatless Meals
There are a number of studies that show a diet that focuses primarily on eating fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Meat and some dairy products are high in saturated fat which has been linked to heart disease. Substituting these items with fruits and vegetables or foods containing polyunsaturated fat like nuts, seeds and certain vegetable oils can cut your risk of heart disease as well.
Environmental Benefits of Enjoying Meatless Meals
Beyond personal health benefits, eating less meat can also help reduce your carbon footprint. The meat industry consumes large amounts of water and is listed as a significant source of water pollution by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Production, animal feeding operations produce over 500 million tons of animal waste each year. Animal waste can contain bacteria that can cause diseases such as Salmonella or E-coli and pose a risk to the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that agriculture accounts for 7 percent of the green house gases in the United States. Each pound of beef accounts for an estimated 14.8 pounds of greenhouse gas which is much less than other kinds of foods.
Ideas for Vegetarian Meals
Whether you prefer spicy foods or dishes on the more mild side, there are a several vegetarian meals that are quick and easy to make and serve in honor of “Meatless Mondays.” A number of favorite meals can easily go vegetarian by simply leaving the meat out. Try a taco salad with black beans instead of beef. Forget the meat and opt for vegetarian chili. Enjoy spaghetti with a simple but flavorful tomato sauce for another meatless meal. If your household includes kids, try serving up a breakfast favorite of pancakes topped with fresh berries or warm apple compote. For cold winter evenings, try vegetable soup with homemade bread or a hearty vegetable stew.
Meatless Monday Campaign Website http://www.meatlessmonday.com/
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Production. 2008, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America.
United States Environmental Protection Agency, Potential Environmental Impacts of Animal Feeding Operationshttp://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/impacts.html
Zandonella, Catherine, Green Guide Families: The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents, Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2010. Print.