How many times have you thought about being a vegetarian?
If you're like many, you've given it a shot at least once in your life. But, according to psychologytoday.com, nearly 75 percent of people who quit eating meat eventually change their minds.
But, say the folks at Mayo Clinic, a plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts can lead to a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. And vegetarians tend to weigh less, too, according to the clinic's website.
Just eating less meat seems to have a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate just four ounces of red meat or more on a daily basis were 30 percent more likely to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk, the study shows, while those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of death.
All in all, it sounds like the vegetarian diet is the one to follow. But if you're like me, I just can't do it. I want a good steak every so often. And a chicken dish at least once a week, too.
But there is one day a week that I can dedicate to going without, and that's what organizers of Meatless Mondays hope more people will choose. The campaign was started during World Wars I and II when meat had to be rationed. But once the wars were over, meat consumption picked back up.
Then, 10 years ago this year, Meatless Mondays started again in the United States to help Americans reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent in order to improve their physical health. Since then, it has become a global initiative and people keep joining, according to Meatless Monday public relations and partnership director Cherry Dumaual.
"We know because we get inquiries from individuals and organizations in the U.S. and around the world ... from chefs, restaurateurs, schools, hospitals, committees, media and individuals," she said. "We are also active on social media."
Dumaual cited a recent survey by FGI Research that found that more than one-third of respondents were aware of Meatless Monday and said the campaign has influenced their decision to cut back on their meat consumption.
But can forgoing meat just one day a week really do anything to improve ones health?
"Research has shown that reducing meat intake may reduce your risk of preventable chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity," Dumaual said. "The occasional meatless meal can also help cut your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."
But why Monday?
"Multiple studies have shown that periodic health prompts lead to positive behavior change," Dumaual added. "Monday is the beginning of the week, making it the perfect time to re-evaluate our choices and set our intentions for the coming days. With a Meatless Monday, you have a scheduled, recurring reminder to start your week off on a nutritious note."
So as you look toward next week, consider leaving meat off your Monday menu. There are plenty of vegetarian choices in numerous Chattanooga restaurants. Think Sluggo's on the North Shore for a true vegan experience. Or a veggie burger at Cheeburger Cheeburger. Or the vegetarian chili at Mojo Burrito.
Those are just a handful of suggestions that go well beyond a salad. You'll be doing your body some good as well as your pocketbook because meat can be one of the most costly items on your grocery list.
Here's a good recipe for a cold January Monday. It was the first-place winning recipe from Nicole Caceres of Los Angeles, California, in a recent contest sponsored by Meatless Monday.
6 poblano chilies
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red onion, small diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups tomato juice
1 can (15 ounces) vegetable broth
1 cup of quinoa
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
1/4 cup almond butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo, minced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
For optional garnishes
Grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees or use tongs or a kitchen fork to hold poblanos over the open flame on a gas range. In either case, roast poblano peppers until the skins are blistered. Peel, seed and devein the peppers. Dice the poblano flesh.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add onions and diced poblanos. Sauté until the onions are soft. Add garlic, cumin and cinnamon. Continue to sauté about 3 more minutes until very fragrant. Add tomato juice, vegetable stock, quinoa and beans. Simmer, stirring frequently, 20-25 minutes, until quinoa is tender. A white "halo" around the quinoa grains is a sign that they are done cooking. Add almond butter, chocolate, chipotle and cilantro. Stir well to incorporate. Garnish with cheese, avocado, sour cream, and/or pomegranate seeds.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.