When I heard about Meatless Monday my first thought was who would want to give up meat any day of the week? I was consuming meat at just about every meal, mostly because I was under the impression that for the best source of protein I needed meat. Gym trainers, nutritionists and even restaurants enforced this school of thought by making protein synonymous with meat. It would be years before I learned that broccoli, spinach and a variety of other plant based foods have as much, or even more protein than meat. It would be months before I would figure out that I could experience Meatless Monday and be satisfied with what I was eating. And full.
When I decided to start off 2015 by giving up meat for the month of January, I was a bit weary. Last year I swore off gluten, which proved to be pretty difficult, but I continue with a mostly gluten free diet because it makes me feel better. I was surprised to find how easy eating vegetarian actually is.
Even though eating vegetarian was easy there were drawbacks. First of all, it is easy to eat fast food. Did you know that every meal at Taco Bell can become vegetarian if you just ask for no meat? While we weren’t eating fast food very often before eating vegetarian, it became something that we could eat in a pinch. It is amazing how simpler eating vegetarian can be, but how much more meal preparation is needed.
We were making some meals at home, but it seemed that we were cooking a bunch of veggies. I felt like we were lacking actual meals. I shared this with friends who were long time vegans and vegetarians who knew exactly how I felt. Their solution was soups, sandwiches and salads. We frequented our local vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant who I think had it right. They treated the vegetables the way traditional dishes treat meat. I don’t think we have creating vegetarian meals down yet, but we are working on it.
We have continued eating mostly vegetarian, with a few meals a week including chicken, turkey or seafood. The reason behind our meatless month was more than a health resolution, or even for the love of animals. Sustainable Sam and I chose a month without meat for environmental reasons. If you aren’t familiar with the state of soil, you might be wondering what soil and meat have to do with one another. I joined Sustainable Sam at the viewing of the documentary Symphony ofthe Soil and learned much more than I ever thought I wanted to know about soil. One fact is that monocrops (growing only a single crop at a time) that are grown to feed meat industry animals are not only contaminating soil with pesticides, but damaging the natural make up of the soil. When healthy soil is missing, food cannot grow and animals, including humans, cannot eat.
In fact, last week the Washington Post published a story about a report put together by the nation's nutrition panel that will be used to update US dietary guidelines that highlighted how the American diet should be more plant based, not only for health, but also for environmental reasons.
The first timeMeatless Monday was introduced in America was during World War I by President Hoover. Americans were inspired to create meals around vegetables grown in their own Victory Gardens by the saying "Food will win the war". Giving up meat once a day, once a week, or even regularly today can do the same. Food will win.
How will you help win the war on soil?