I heard a story on NPR this week about Sid Lerner, a 79 year old New York former ad man who founded a movement to change the way we eat one day at a time. Well, make that one weekday at a time: Meatless Mondays. His campaign is supported by public health officials as well as anyone wanting to reduce fat in the diet and associated health risks from high cholesterol and heart disease.
Mr. Lerner is the creator of the “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” ad campaign so he knows a thing or two (or more!) about selling things. In this case, he is selling the idea of having 3 meatless meals on Mondays as a way to move toward a healthier diet. This idea makes great sense to me, as it not only helps reduce fat from your diet (assuming you substitute healthy vegetables, fruits and grains for meat and not 2 bags of potato chips) but it also has a positive environmental impact from less meat being consumed so less transportation costs to get the meat to you, less grains and water needed to feed the animals, and so on.
His ad campaign has an impressive list of names surrounding it: Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali have both endorsed Meatless Mondays, as has Sir Paul McCartney. But he is not about just the high-end foodie market; Mr. Lerner is working with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to bring Meatless Mondays to school and hospital cafeterias. Campuses across the nation are jumping on the meatless bandwagon as a trend toward healthier eating (and living).
So how can you participate? Summer is one of the easiest times to move to no-meat eating. Here are some ideas for you to consider – and who knows, maybe you’ll migrate to Tofu Tuesdays too!
Combine chunks of honey dew, cantaloupe and watermelon with kiwi slices and pink grapefruit slices, sprinkle with poppy seeds. Whisk together ½ c honey, 1 T lemon juice, some diced fresh ginger and 2 T orange juice, then dress fruits.
Buy a ready-made crust, top it with tomato sauce or pesto, add cheese, and top with a variety of great veggies: mushrooms, olives, onions, broccoli, garlic slices, peppers, or go for fruits like pineapple, peaches, or sliced tomatoes.
You can add many great vegetables to risotto. Just prepare the vegetables separately and add them just before the risotto is finished and soft. Ideas include sautéed or roasted asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, snow or sugar snap peas, sautéed green beans, or sautéed spinach. Add a salad and some crusty bread and you have a great meal.
The possibilities are endless – just make sure you use a vegetable broth base. Add tomatoes, squash, beans, chickpeas, split peas, onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, or whatever vegetables you have on hand, water, a bit of oil, and any fresh or dried herbs you like. You can leave it chunky or puree in the blender or with an immersion blender.
Don’t forget this basic staple as a great lunch or dinner. Egg salad is one of my all-time favorites since childhood, whether in a sandwich, a salad, or just by itself. Omelets can include lots of great additions like cheeses (ricotta, cheddar, American, Swiss, feta, gruyere), olives, avocado, mushrooms, onion, peppers, jalepenos, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, etc.
Bake a potato, add cheese or sour cream, and top with your favorite stir fried vegetables.
Burritos or wraps
Lots of possibilities here – add beans, cheese, tomato, potato, onion, mushrooms, avocado, different salsas, peppers, and even fruit such as mango, papaya, or pineapple.
Be creative, and try a meatless Monday – or any other day(s) of the week. Do it for your health and the health of those close to you and enjoy great eating in a new way!