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My first “Meatless Monday” experience

Have you heard of “Meatless Monday”?

Meatless Monday is a NPO in association with John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Their mission is, “to help [us] reduce [our] meat consumption by 15% in order to improve [our] personal health and the health of the planet”.  They accomplish this initiative by encouraging others to remove meat from their diet for just one day a week.

Our intern, Pareesha, brought “Meatless Monday” to my attention last week and asked if I would go meatless for one day.  The answer was immediately, “Yes”.  As a co-founder of a heart organization and an avid heart health advocate on behalf of my organization and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women, I believe that I should practice what I advocate.

Well, yesterday was Monday, January 23, 2012 and I went meatless.

Before I get into my meatless experience, let me tell you a little about myself and my eating habits.  I am an omnivore, but I eat fairly healthy and I am very aware of the foods that I put in my body.  I continually educate myself on how to eat healthy and I am always on the hunt for healthy alternatives.

However, going meatless for a day was harder than I imagined. Maybe it was because I did not prepare my food before work and I had to find meatless yet filling dishes at restaurants.  I say filling because finding meatless options was not the challenge.  The challenge was finding food options that would keep my energy level up until the next meal.

I started the day with 2 rice cakes with peanut butter.  By 10:30am, I was starving!  I ate the baby carrots I packed for my mid-afternoon snack. By noon, I was starving again.  Trying to think on an empty stomach proved to be difficult but I was determined to find a meatless option that was not a salad.  I ended up ordering a delicious Mediterranean Shakshuka (a tomato, onion, pepper stew) at a nearby restaurant.  Yay, success!  By 3:00pm, I was starving…again!  I cursed myself for not ordering a side of rice with my lunch.  Well, next time I’ll do better.  I scrounged around my bag and found a KIND bar (a fruit and nut bar) and I devoured it. I then ran downstairs to a health food store and ordered a raw veggie juice to increase my vegetable intake for the day.

I thought dinner was going to be a challenge because I had made plans to grab dinner with friends I have not seen in awhile.  Luckily, the menu was diverse and I ate a boston bibb salad and a butternut squash pasta dish.

So, my first attempt at “Meatless Monday” was quite an adventure and a learning experience.  I know I will need to educate myself on meatless options for next week but I think it was a successful day.  I was able to engage in dialogue with my friends about what going meatless meant to me and I was able to sign up a few more people to join the movement!

So what does going meatless mean for me?

Going meatless, even just once a week, can reduce my risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  By not eating meat, I increased my fiber and vegetable intake in just one day.

What I learned through my experience is that reducing my risk of life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease just requires small and minor adjustments to my lifestyle.

Replace chicken with tofu.  Replace red meat with beans.  My fellow Go Red For Women sister, Gail Mates says it perfectly. “It’s about small simple changes that can save your life”.

The health benefits to reducing your meat intake are the most obvious reasons to participate in “Meatless Monday” but were you aware of the benefits to the environment?  Well, I was not aware that by cutting out meat, we can reduce our carbon footprint, minimize water usage and even reduce fossil fuel dependence.

I recognize that just one person reducing their meat intake will not affect our environment, but imagine if every single one of us cut out meat for just one day.  How would that affect your body?  How would that affect Earth?  How would that affect future generations?

I hope you would consider joining me and participate in “Meatless Monday”.  Tell me about your experiences!