What is Meatless Monday?
The concept of a ‘Meatless Monday’ surprisingly dates as far back as the First World War, but was conceived for the sake of the War Effort rather than for animal welfare/environmental reasons (which is why it is undertaken by so many today). By the time the United States entered World War I, citizens of allied countries, including Belgium and France, were left with very little supplies/food and were starving.
This was due to the majority of the farmland of Western Europe being used as battlefields, and the farmers themselves signing up to fight. Women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable people were left with no choice but to tend the little land that remained themselves, a task that they were (understandably) not the best equipped for.
In an effort to help the Allies that were struggling, as well as their own soldiers in these countries the slogan ‘Food will win the war’ was introduced by the president at the time, Herbert Hoover. Instead of outright rationing their citizens, the government asked that they cut down on not only meat, but also fat, sugar and wheat as a part of ‘Meatless Tuesdays’ and ‘Wheatless Wednesdays’.
In 2003, Meatless Mondays were reintroduced as a concept by the John Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future in order to better the health of both the planet as well as its population. This time Monday was the chosen day to ditch the meat as research shows that people are more likely to make positive changes at the start of the week, and continue these habits as the week progresses. The challenge has been backed by many celebrities, including famous vegetarian Paul McCartney, as an excellent starting point for anybody interested in trying a vegetarian diet, but who perhaps feels unable to commit to it in the long term.
Why do Meatless Monday?
It’s becoming more widely accepted nowadays that eating less meat and more healthy plant-based foods can help in reducing chronic preventable diseases, such as heart disease, as well as preserve precious land and water resources, and combat climate change. However with this being said, it can be a really daunting task to completely eliminate meat from your diet if it is something that you find yourself eating every day, or even for every meal!
That’s where trying Meatless Monday comes in! The whole idea is to dedicate just one day out of the week to trying out some plant based protein sources, and actually expanding your diet through experimenting with new dishes that you wouldn’t usually eat! Often we can get stuck into routines with the meals that we eat, which can result in less balanced/nutritious diets overall.
By forcing yourself out of your comfort zone not only will you be potentially finding some new favourite cuisines, but also likely packing some new nutrients into your diet! For example, if you’re usually a bit unadventurous with your meals, you might use meatless mondays as an excuse to practice your cooking skills by whipping up some nutritious soups, spicy vegetable curries or homemade veggie burgers! If cooking isn’t your thing however, there are plenty of meal delivery services out there that can help you when experimenting with a healthy vegetarian diet, as well as more supermarket plant-based ready meal offerings than ever!
Ditching the meat for a day can also have giant environmental impacts, as well as dietary! Did you know that it takes about 10 bathtubs full of water to produce ONE quarter pounder burger, and the same amount of energy as powering an iPhone for 6 months! Similarly, evidence shows that the livestock industry produces more greenhouse gases (like methane) than the entire transport industry- that includes all cars, vans, trains and even planes! Skipping just one serving of beef a week can save the equivalent in emissions as driving 348 miles in a car, which is the approximate distance between London and Luxembourg!
Another huge incentive to give Meatless Monday a go is, as previously mentioned, the incredible health benefits! In the UK, over half of us are either overweight or obese, and this unfortanutely means that we are much more at risk for different health problems as a result of carrying this extra weight. These health issues include, but are by no means limited to:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Coronary heart disease
- Developing type 2 diabetes
- Aching joints and general difficulty in movement
- Sleep apnea/general breathing problems
- Developing certain cancers
The good news is that so many of these scary sounding health problems are reversible purely through healthy lifestyle changes! Research has shown that vegetarians and those following a plant based diet carry less weight overall, and tend to live longer!
Is Meatless Monday healthy?
Every vegetarian/vegan on the planet has been asked at some point ‘but where do you get your protein from?’ and don’t get us wrong- it’s a perfectly valid question! Proteins are one of the key building blocks of our bodies, as well as offering a whole host of medical benefits including aiding weight loss (through boosting our metabolisms), building muscle, strengthening our bones and aiding in the prevention of hypertension.
However, the popular myth that vegetarians and vegans can’t get enough protein in their diet is a massive misconception. In fact, often alternative sources of protein can be extremely beneficial for both your diet as well as your pocket! Beans are an excellent source of plant based protein, and happen to be extremely cheap as well! You could easily knock up a chilli-non-carne using some tinned kidney beans, chopped tomatoes (both usually around 20p a tin!) and some peppers, onions and spices to make a hearty, delicious and budget friendly dinner to last the week!
Another great plant based protein source is tofu, and it’s sister tempeh. Both are made out of soybeans, but their taste, texture and nutritional profile can vary a lot! Tofu is essentially curdled soy milk, which albeit doesn't sound the most delicious- but this process of separating curds from milk is pretty similar to the way that cheeses are made! Tofu contains no cholesterol, and is a complete protein (meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids) which makes it a very popular option for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike.
Tempeh on the other hand is made with fermented, whole soybeans which give a considerably different texture to tofu. These soybeans are often mixed with another additive such as brown rice or seeds which gives it an additional protein boost as well as some healthy fats, and a naturally nutty flavour. Tofu on the other hand is considerably blander and largely takes on the flavours of the dishes that it is a part of. Both are considerably better for you than animal proteins like beef, and by switching out even a couple of servings of meat for plant based proteins like the ones we’ve discussed here, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes and other veggies can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes (as well as all sorts of other diseases that can be worsened through the consumption of red/processed meat).
How to do Meatless Monday?
Getting started with Meatless Mondays has never been easier! With the introduction of new plant based meat alternatives in supermarkets, as well as fast food giants choosing to hop onto the veganuary hype, you are guaranteed to never go hungry or unsatisfied whilst eliminating meat from your diet. McDonalds have recently introduced the much anticipated McPlant to their daytime menu, and Burger King has just added plant based nuggets onto their list of vegan offerings.
If you’re the kind of person who eats meat for every single meal, even trying to stick to one whole day’s worth of meals without meat can be really daunting. The important thing is to just try your best! Why not try experimenting with new recipes, or making some of your usual favourites with meat free substitutes? Quorn mince is a great swap for your usual beef mince for all sorts of reasons, it’s ideal for weight loss as its key ingredient mycoprotein contains but a fraction of the saturated fat of the same amount of lean beef rump (100g of Quorn mince contains 2g of total fats, whereas 100g minced beef has 16.2g) which can make a huge difference to your waistline if you made the swap for a few meals! As well as this, Quorn has a significantly higher fibre content than beef mince, which is great for boosting our gut health!
It’s very important to replace the meat that you cut out of your diet with a good alternative, as if you don’t you are at danger of eating some really unbalanced meals, often heavy in carbs to make up for the lack of protein (which usually helps to keep us full for longer!). If you love to eat spaghetti and meatballs, rather than cutting out the meatballs and just having pasta and sauce, why not swap out the meatballs for faux-meat ones? Or, you could try something a little different like falafel, or adding some kidney beans and peppers to your sauce to create a new spin on the meal!
Healthy Meatless Monday recipes
So, what should your menu look like for Meatless Mondays? The key to perfect Meatless Monday recipes is introducing complete proteins. For example, beans contain some of the key amino acids, whereas rice contains the rest. Together, they form a complete protein that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. So ideally your vegetarian diet should try to include as many complete proteins as possible!
Love Yourself offers an entire Vegetarian meal plan which contains a whole host of delicious meatless meals, whilst also ensuring that each is nutritionally balanced and packed with all of the vitamins and proteins that you need to stay functioning at your best levels! It includes delightful dishes such as our Hearty Lentil Stew, Beef-less Strips and Greens and our cult favourite: Meatless Italian Lasagne. These dishes plus the hundreds more that we offer can make Meatless Mondays easier than ever to stick to, and could even convert you to being a full time veggie after a couple of them!