An introduction to Meatless Mondays

May 27 2015

When it comes to eating out, there's nothing many people enjoy more than a big juicy piece of steak, a hamburger with all the fixings or a lovely piece of perfectly prepared chicken.

But, more and more diners are choosing to avoid meat all together on Mondays - whether they're at a restaurant or cooking at home.

That's because of the Meatless Monday campaign, a global movement to persuade people to cut back on their meat consumption by avoiding it one day a week. The movement is now active in 36 countries, including Canada.

The initiative began in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Three years earlier, the US Surgeon General released the Healthy People 2010 report, which outlined objectives for the nation to serve as goals for the next ten years. It specifically cited a 15 per cent reduction in saturated fat. 

Since saturated fat is found almost exclusively in animal-based proteins, and one day is just under 15 per cent of a week, encouraging people to go meatless once a week seemed like an ideal way to reach the goal.

Why go meatless?

The Meatless Monday campaign explains that skipping meat once a week is good for your health, as well as the planet. Here are some of the benefits they promote:

  • Reduced chance of heart disease and stroke - Eating more vegetables, fruit and whole grains can protect against cardiovascular disease. 
  • Cutting the risk of cancer - Several studies have indicated that red meat and processed meat consumption increases the risk of some types of cancer, while a diet rich in fruit and vegetables could decrease the risk of various cancers.
  • Fight diabetes and obesity - Research has shown that people who consume plant-based diets tend to have fewer problems with diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Save money - Meat is expensive, so plant-based foods mean a healthier lifestyle at a lower price.
  • Less water waste - Raising livestock uses a tremendous amount of water. By cutting back on meat consumption, consumers can help conserve this precious resource.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions - Raising livestock also produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, while transporting the meat also leads to a greater carbon footprint.

Joining in

For restaurant owners, joining the Meatless Monday campaign doesn't have to mean refusing to serve meat on Mondays. After all, many of your customers will want to indulge in a meat-based meal.

However, you can still join in the campaign. For example, why not offer a special vegetarian dish every Monday and promote it on your menu and signage? This could actually encourage more customers to visit on Mondays - giving them the chance to try the limited-time dishes - without putting off anyone who wants to enjoy something more meaty.

Of course, meatless meals doesn't have to mean exclusively salads. So try mixing up your vegetarian dishes. Pasta, casseroles and grain-based entrees are all great options - and you can always add protein with ingredients like nuts, seeds, beans and soy.