Should I expand my Meatless Monday to include the rest of the week?
With my stomach growling one recent Monday, I ended up at our hospital cafeteria for a tasty and filling lunch. As I entered the cafeteria, I noticed a sign with the headline “Eat less meat. Good for your body, your mind and your wallet.”
Well, I’d heard of “Meatless Mondays” before, but never really stopped to think about what the catchphrase meant. After a short conversation with Patti Oliver, director of nutrition for UCLA Health, Mondays had a whole new meaning for me.
“Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of preventable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” says Oliver. “It may also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. If you do eat meat on other days, we strongly recommend grass-fed options, locally-raised, and raised without the routine use of antibiotics.”
Oliver offered up some of the benefits for consuming less meat for me to chew over.
- Decreases saturated fat intake. Decreasing consumption of saturated (animal) fat is known to decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, particularly colon cancer.
- Weight control. Eating less meat and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps lower your total calorie intake and makes it easier to control your weight over time.
- Cost effective. In general, meat is more expensive per pound than non-animal protein due to lower costs of feed, transportation and processing.
- Decreases medical spending. Chronic diseases are costly. By reducing the risk of developing these chronic conditions, such as by eating less meat, treatment costs are lessened.
- Increases efficiency in use of energy and water. To grow one pound of beef requires 16 pounds of grain and soybeans (excellent protein sources themselves) and 1,800-2,500 gallons of water. Moreover, 40 calories of fossil fuel go into every calorie of feed-lot beef in the U.S. compared with 2.2 calories for plant-based protein.
- Decreases land degradation. Cattle overgrazing has led to a loss of topsoil, needed for crops.
- Decreases greenhouse gases. Cattle produce nearly the same amount of greenhouse gases in the form of methane as does all the carbon monoxide produced by cars in North America.
And on almost any given day of the week, the cafeteria offers plant-based, meat-free items. Offerings such as “Meatless Mondays,” in addition to UCLA Health’s many other wellness and sustainability initiatives, has resulted in UCLA Health receiving several sustainability and green practice awards.
Needless to say, after reading the sign, I chose a scrumptious meatless dish and am considering expanding my personal “meatless Monday” to other days of the week using recipes from this handy UCLA Health healthy recipes website.
With the holidays and calorie-rich temptations just around the corner, going meatless might be just the thing to keep me healthy and balanced.