Thursday, August 30, 2012

Participate in MEATLESS MONDAY!

The overarching theme in the development of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines was the push for a “mostly plant-based diet”. In fact, the executive guidelines specifically state:

“Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, increase the intake of seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.”

The mostly plant-based diet recommendation comes from a panel of experts who have come to a consensus regarding reputable studies that show people who eat this way tend to be healthier and have the lowest prevalence and risk of certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Additionally, by decreasing animal meat in your diet, you will save money (meat is expensive, beans are not!), and definitely help the environment. Livestock, particularly cattle, are not good for the environment due to methane emissions from the animals, waste, and grazing lands. It is estimated that just livestock contribute 18% to the world greenhouse gases, which is more than that of livestock transport. If everyone in the U.S. gave up meat one day a week, it’s estimated that would be the equivalent of not driving 555 billion miles- not bad, eh?

Contrary to popular belief, you can survive without eating meat. You can get complete proteins (those that contain ALL of the essential amino acids) by eating soy, hemp, amaranth, and quinoa. You can get all your essential nutrients and proteins by eating a well-balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and other natural plant-based foods. Also, giving up animal meat doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up all animal products, you can certainly indulge in milk, eggs, and fish if you choose to. For those that eat red meat (ground beef, steaks) regularly, instead of making meatless Monday the one day you don't eat red meat, try to switch that around to picking one day once a week that you will have one (4 oz.) serving of red meat... and even less frequently if possible.

My recommendations:
Have your family participate in Meatless Monday (or any day!) every week. Get creative with beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tofu, edamame, and other healthy sources of vegetarian protein! Be sure to stock those veggies high too, most people don’t come anywhere close to the recommended 2 ½ cups per day!

Sources: USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
U.S. Agriculture and Forestry Greenhouse Gas Inventory: 1990-2005
FAO. “Livestock Impacts on the Environment.” 2006
The Environmental Working Group

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