We all want to do our part to improve the environment. We
recycle, switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, maybe even
drive a hybrid car. But did you know that what we eat may have an
even bigger impact on the planet than any of these decisions?
The biggest environment culprit: meat. The United Nations
estimates that nearly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions are
generated by raising animals-far greater than the amount generated
by cars. Equally alarming, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to
produce a single pound of beef. By contrast, it only takes 220
gallons of water to produce a pound of soy tofu.
While many of us understand that eating lower on the food chain
is more environmentally friendly, we may be loath to give up our
steaks, pork chops and chicken wings forever. This is Chicago,
after all! Many of us simply love the way meat tastes. Plus, lean
cuts of beef and chicken are an important source of protein and key
minerals like iron.
But you don't have to stop eating meat to have an impact on the
environment. Simply reducing consumption of meat can make a big
That is the thinking behind Meatless Monday, a growing movement
embraced by famous chefs, celebrities, universities, hospitals and
city councils across America. Started by marketing executive Sid
Lerner in 2003 and endorsed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health, Meatless Monday asks Americans to pledge to eat
vegetarian one day per week for both health and environmental
Monday was chosen as the meat-free day as a nod to the rationing
system in place during both world wars. During World War I, the
federal government launched a campaign to encourage Americans to
embrace "Meatless Monday" and "Wheatless Wednesday" to save
resources as part of the war effort. President Roosevelt reinstated
the program during World War II.
Plus, Monday obviously is the start of the work and school week.
Research shows that people are more likely to maintain habits that
they began on Monday throughout the rest of the week.
Interested in trying Meatless Monday at your house?
Luckily, many kid favorites, such as pizza, pasta and macaroni
and cheese already are meatless. But the options don't end there.
Another great Meatless Monday idea is breakfast-for-dinner. Make
scrambled eggs, whole grain pancakes or waffles and fruit salad for
a healthy, meatless meal with a sense of fun. Or try a lunchtime
classic for dinner instead: grilled cheese and tomato soup makes a
hearty, satisfying Meatless Monday dinner.
But Meatless Monday also is a great time to expose your kids to
different cuisines. Try stir-fried vegetables and tofu for a
vegetarian dinner with an Asian flair. Or serve cheese enchiladas
with rice and beans.
One of my favorite Meatless Monday dinners is shakshuka, a North African dish of
eggs poached in tomato sauce. Introduced to Israel by Sephardic
Jews, shakshuka has become a favorite homey breakfast or lunch in
that country. Shakshuka usually is quite spicy, but because I make
mine for kid palates, I tone down the heat. This Meatless Monday
dinner has the added benefit of being quick to prepare-perfect for
a busy weeknight!
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