What does one meat-free day a week do?

As the number of people identifying as vegetarian & vegan nears 10 percent, in Canada, meat-free eating is no longer just for hippies & weirdos. Even classic ‘meat & potato’ folk are starting to recognize the benefits of cutting back on or eliminating animal products.

What is Meatless-Monday?

Meatless-Monday is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the commitment of eating zero meat one day a week. Monday has a nice ring to it but obviously any day works as long as you stick to it. The idea is that in eliminating meat (or ideally any animal products) once a week, you get used to foods you may otherwise be unfamiliar with. It’s a great time to try new recipes & gives your digestion a break. One day a week is pretty feasible for most people so if you’re uncertain about completely eliminating meat from your diet, this is an easy lifestyle change you can make as you learn more.

What’s the point of Meatless-Monday?

There are a number of benefits to reducing your meat intake. These stretch across platforms & motivations including health, social, environmental, or how about, general curiosity? Let’s take a closer look:

Health Benefits

As humans, our greatest motivation to change is usually how it benefits us directly, & you know what, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for that. Real change is only possible when the motivation is sincere & sustainable. So health. As most of us know by now, reducing meat reduces our risk of heart disease. This is largely in part due to cholesterol intake. Cholesterol is a vital component for our bodily functions but our bodies produce enough of it on its own. While other foods also contain cholesterol, plant-based sources aren’t the ‘bad’ kind.

We’ve all heard that the sulphites & nitrates in meats are carcinogenic. Major no, no. What about digestion? Meat reeks havoc on our digestive system. It’s highly acidic which throws off our stomach acid & our digestion has a difficult time staying in sync when we consume large amounts of it. Our brains & digestive systems are wildly linked. This means our moods are also affected by the state of our digestive system. By eliminating meat from our diet, even one day a week, we give our digestive system a bit of a much needed, & much deserved break.

Social Benefits

You will save a ton of money by reducing meat. It’s incredibly expensive, especially if you’re buying organic products. It’s true that vegetables are also quite expensive, in much of the Northern Hemisphere, but you need to eat those regardless. Compare the price of legumes & grains to the same number of meals in meat. It’s HUGE.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this. Eating animals & their bi-products, is killing animals. We are so disconnected from our food that it’s easy to forget this but it’s the basic truth. There are some small farms who take great care of their animals & have great relationships with them but the animal dies in the end. The smaller the animal, the more lives we need to take to feed the same number of people. This doesn’t even touch on the many cases of animal abuse that goes on in so many of the farms & factories.

Environmental Benefits

Did you know that most of the deforestation in the Amazon is for animal grazing? The Amazon is literally the Earth’s lungs & 70 percent of its destruction can be attributed to ranching. Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. We all know the Earth is warming & that it’s a problem. An estimated 18 percent of human-induced greenhouse gases is the result of raising animals for food. The methane released from their waste is a major contributor to this & one that is not regulated properly.

For the Sake of Curiosity

Chances are when you start to reduce your meat intake, you will start experimenting with foods that never occurred to you before. Have you tried fermented foods? What about that weird fruit in the grocery store? Have you been to your local Farmer’s Market lately? By default, you will find yourself trying things for the first time & if you start shifting away from animal products more regularly, you’ll start noticing a change in how things taste. Taste buds die off when they are abused & regenerate when they have a break. When we move into a cleaner diet, they come back & our food starts tasting better. It’s actually really neat.

How to start Meatless-Monday?

We are lucky to have thousands of recipes in the palm of our hands. To start with something accessible, try looking up a vegetarian recipe of a familiar favourite? Love beef chilli? Try making a vegetarian chilli. Vegetarian pizza. Vegetarian tacos. As you get into that, try branching into the unfamiliar. Falafel, tabouli, or what have you. Most restaurants have multiple vegetarian & vegan options now as well.

If you’re in the Hinton, AB area, Kupala Organics is offering a vegan food service this summer to help you get started. It includes a PDF recipe book, including general dietary guidelines, for you to recreate after.