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Ask the Dietitians

Why You Should Go Meatless Once a Week

Eating less meat is better for your budget, the environment and your waistline. Our dietitians explain why you should make Meatless Monday a habit.

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You’ve probably heard of Meatless Monday. This global initiative, launched in 2003, encourages people to cut out meat once a week in order to improve health, save money and heal the planet. Let’s review the primary advantages of reducing meat consumption in your diet.

Lose Weight and Stay Healthy

There are numerous studies that show that a plant-based diet is associated with reduced obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, as well as increased longevity. A diet that focuses on vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, tofu, nuts and seeds is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and will decrease inflammation and help you lose weight.

Plant-based foods are full of fiber, which will help to fill you up and give you sustained energy. These foods empty slowly from the stomach, allowing for a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. Keeping insulin levels in check is important to preventing weight gain, as insulin is a fat-storage hormone that also lowers blood sugar level. Filling your plate with whole, intact grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds will not cause a spike in insulin levels so that your food can be used as fuel not stored as fat.

See also Why You Should Eat More Plants. 

Start losing weight with our dietitians, Erin Macdonald and Tiffani Bachus. Their online course, A Whole-Life Guide to Lasting Weight Loss, is available now.

Fatten Up Your Wallet

Cutting out meat once a week will not only improve your health, it will leave additional dollars in your wallet. Meatless meals are built around beans, vegetables, and grains, which are significantly less expensive than animal protein products. Although some organic and specialty vegetables and grains can be expensive, they will usually cost less than the same amount of meat. Plus, numerous studies that compare the healthcare costs for vegetarians versus meat-eaters indicate that those who follow a plant-based diet have lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, not to mention lower medical bills.

Protect the Planet

Giving up meat once a week is also good for Mother Earth. The water needs of livestock are significantly greater than that for produce and grains. Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of beef whereas approximately 39 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of vegetables. In addition, swapping out meat once a week will help reduce greenhouse gases, as meat production produces significantly more greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – than vegetables. Finally, reducing meat intake will reduce fuel dependence. About 25 calories of fossil fuel is used to produce 1 calorie of meat, significantly more than the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of grain.

Drop Pounds with Plants

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, giving up meat once a week might just be the right nutritional change to make. It’s all part of finding a better balance of nutrients to promote lasting weight loss. Filling up on more plant-based foods and balancing them with the right amount of protein and healthy fat is a recipe for weight loss success.

Try this high-protein, portable veggie lunch idea!