Going Meatless Every Monday

by Monique Ryan, MS RD LDN

Going Meatless Every Monday

Have you gone meat-free today? More and more people are going vegetarian — at least for one day a week. This small change in your diet can improve your health and the environment.

Going meatless one day a week started with the Healthy People 2010 report from the United States Surgeon General, which recommended lowering meat consumption by 15 percent, specifically to cut down on saturated fat. This calculation works out to about one day weekly, so plan ahead and try making Monday, or any other weekday, meatless. In fact, a few generations ago, meat was often consumed in side dish portions, while nutrient-rich beans and lentils, vegetables and whole grains took center stage.

Cutting back on meat intake offers many protective benefits. Red and processed meat consumption is associated with increased risk of death from chronic disease. Going meatless once a week can help fight the nation’s top killer — heart disease. Fatty red meats and many processed meats are high in saturated fat which raises harmful or “bad” LDL cholesterol. Consuming red meat can also raise the susceptibility for certain cancers, including colon cancer. Studies suggest people who eat less meat tend to be leaner and less likely to gain weight than people with higher meat intakes.

Don’t Just Cut Back, Add to Your Diet

Losing meat one day a week is not only about subtracting from your diet, but adding to it. Eating more whole grains, beans and lentils and vegetables on your meatless day offers many health benefits.

Whole grain, unprocessed carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa and millet can help prevent heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. Experimenting with a new grain choice on your next meatless day can provide fiber for normal bowel function, along with a variety of vitamins and minerals that contribute to the nutrient density of your diet.

Americans regularly eat more than enough protein. Adding beans or lentils to your meat-free meal also maintains an adequate protein intake. Providing about 16 grams of protein per cup of cooked, beans and lentils are also a great source of fiber, folic acid, iron and potassium. These nutrient-rich foods are also good sources of manganese, magnesium and copper, riboflavin and vitamin B6.

Vegetables are also nutrient powerhouses and add color and texture to your meals. Try leafy greens like kale, collards, bok choy and broccoli for good plant sources of calcium.

Good for the Environment

The practice of consuming a plant based diet can benefit the environment. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, livestock was estimated to contribute to 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), with other estimates ranging from a 10 percent to 51 percent contribution. Going meatless one meal weekly, eating less meat, and choosing organic or grass fed meats all reduce GHG.

Reviewed October 2013

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About the author:

Monique C Ryan MS RD LDN

Monique Ryan, MS RD LDN

is owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, LLC, a nutrition consulting company based in the Chicago area. She works with clients in the areas of sports nutrition, weight management, eating disorders, and women's health, as well as disease prevention and wellness. She has consulted with athletes competing at all levels, including Olympic and professional athletes. She is the author of "Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes," "Performance Nutrition for Team Sports," and "Performance Nutrition for Winter Sports."




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