Monday, January 13, 2014

Meatless Mondays In Howard County

For the past two months, I have been going meatless on Mondays.  While one may consider this limiting, the practice has actually liberalized my diet to include new foods that I didn't know I loved until prompted to look at vegetable-based eating.

Meatless Mondays is explained by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as follows:

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns that began in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2000, the Surgeon General released the Healthy People 2010 report outlining health objectives for the nation to serve as goals for the next decade. Healthy People 2010 specifically called for a 15% reduction in saturated fat in the American diet. Since saturated fat in the diet is almost exclusively of animal origin and one day of the week is just under 15% of the week, the campaign began by encouraging people to refrain from eating meat one day a week to help reach this goal.

My own practice of cutting meat one day a week corresponds with a new effort to spread the word about Meatless Mondays across Howard County.  The objective is to have a non-binding resolution passed by the Howard County Council recognizing the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of going meatless one day a week.  A similar resolution was passed in Montgomery County last summer, gaining recognition in the national press, and raising the profile of this issue across our region.  Baltimore City public schools have gone meatless on Mondays since 2009!

And once you try it, you may see why this initiative is catching on.  Taking a "time-out" from meat helps you recognize the day-to-day hour-to-hour effects that meat-based fats and proteins have on your mood, energy level, and physical condition.  You realize that the 3 pm slump may be meal-based instead of a fact of life.  You sleep better.  And, I've found, you just end up being in a better mood.

What's more important is that we shake off the construct passed from generation to generation that meat is a staple.  We enjoy meat.  It tastes good.  But we don't need to eat it in the same way we need to eat fruits and vegetables.  As you may know, the food triangle of our youth has been replaced with a "Nutrition Plate":

Protein.  Not "meat".  Protein.  And pound for pound, a comparable amount of protein may be derived from spinach, beans, nuts, and seeds than that found in meat.  We don't need meat.  We want it in the same way we want chocolate cake, but no one (alas) is making the case that chocolate cake is a staple.

As I type this, I am already predicting the "nanny state" "does government have a role in this" response.  Yes, they do.  This is a public safety issue.  More than 1 our of 4 deaths in Maryland are due to heart disease, meaning that it is almost certain that you have lost, or will lose, someone you love to a heart attack or stroke.  We, as taxpayers, subsidize the agricultural business on the front end and medical treatment made necessary by poor nutritional choices on the back end.  No one is advocating for laws mandating Meatless Mondays nor would that ever be possible.  But this is something we should do, together, for one another...and ourselves.

So please join me in going meatless this Monday, even just to give it a try.  Here is a really easy recipe for amazing falafel, which has become a staple of my diet over the past two months.  I also highly recommend Garbanzo or Chipotle for meatless lunch options if you're going out to eat.  Please share your favorite meatless recipe in the comments.

Oh - and make sure to join the Facebook group to find out about the effort to obtain recognition by the County Council and some fun events planned along the way!

That's all for today.  Have a great (meatless) Monday doing what you love!