Whether you think vegans are sanctimonious blowhards or righteous freethinkers, the fact remains that plant-based diets are healthy and cheap. For those reasons alone — not to mention the environmental and ethical arguments — it makes sense to reduce your meat consumption, even if you only go meatless on Mondays.
What is Meatless Monday?
Americans have been observing Meatless Mondays since World War I when policymakers urged families to have one meat-free and wheat-free day a week to ration supplies. But it wasn’t until 2003 that the advertising executive Sid Lerner worked with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future to found the Monday Campaigns we know today. “Eating less meat and more healthy plant-based foods can help reduce the incidence of chronic preventable diseases, preserve precious land and water resources, and combat climate change,” the campaign's website reads.
How much money can I save by not buying meat?
According to a survey of 1,072 Americans, people who don’t eat meat spend an average of $23 less than their omnivorous counterparts. That’s an extra $1,248 that you could save every year, provided you go vegetarian or vegan. Although the savings of just one meatless day a week won’t be huge, you’ll still have an extra $170 in your pocket at the end of the year based on the survey’s numbers. So whether you ease into a plant-based diet or just go without meat once a week, you’re bound to save money. That’s because meat products are typically more expensive than fruits and vegetables on a per-pound basis.
What nutrients are you missing without meat?
There are a lot of myths about plant-based diets. The bottom line is that even if you’re a full-time vegan, you can eat a “healthful, nutritionally adequate” diet, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You should know, however, that vegetarians and vegans do have to eat intentionally, making sure to get enough vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, and iron.
Protein, on the other hand, shouldn’t be too difficult to include in a plant-based meal or diet. Unlike meats, plant-based sources of protein — soy products, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds — are often low in saturated fats and high in fiber. The only caveat, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, is that some plant-based proteins are harder to absorb, so you may have to eat slightly more protein than you would as an omnivore.
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What are other reasons to go meatless?
It’s Better for the Environment
Animal agriculture is terrible for the planet — and that’s the consensus opinion. Not only is the demand for meat the leading cause of deforestation, but meat also has a much higher water footprint than vegetables.
According to one popular study in the prestigious PNAS journal, transitioning to more plant-based diets could reduce food-related global greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70% by 2050. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also lists a “a transition towards more plant-based consumption” as one way to “support the preservation of biodiversity and planetary health,” among other benefits like reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Even if you aren’t against killing animals for food, it’s hard to see how factory farming is humane. Breeding pigs, for example, are kept in cages (gestation crates) barely large enough to fit their bodies during their entire four-month pregnancy. Because the space is so cramped, they can’t even move onto their sides. Some states have banned the practice.
According to the American Heart Association, eating less meat decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers.
Meatless Monday Ideas
Skipping meat on Monday doesn’t have to be difficult. Below, we’ve provided a few lists that feature popular meatless Monday recipes to get you started on a plant-forward diet.
The Bottom Line
For the health of the planet, your heart, and your wallet, you should consider cutting back on animal products. That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating meat forever. Just give a few meatless Mondays a try, check your grocery bill, and go from there.