Meatless Mondays: Will Los Angeles and the Rest of the Nation Go For It?
Many believe the program is a step in the right direction, others believe it hurts farmers
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Who doesn’t like a nice piece of steak every now and then? According to recent statistics a lot of people don’t.
A study conducted by the Vegetarian Times shows there are 7.3 million people in the United States who are vegetarians and there's 22.8 million people in the country that who vegetarian-based diets.
Apparently, the city of Los Angeles wants to add to that high number, as officials want residents there to join Meatless Monday--a global initiative that asks people to forego meat one day each week.
Those involved with the program hope it inspires residents to decrease their meat consumption and lower the amount of illnesses associated with heavy meat eating.
For those who attempt the challenge, they should remember a few key things.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a vegetarian diet should include a strong focus on calcium and iron, as well as protein, and vitamin B12 consumption.
The USDA also says meals should be built around sources of low-fat protein and include such foods as rice, beans and lentils.
The government agency also warns against using high-fat cheeses to make up for the lack of meat protein, since cheeses and other high cholesterol foods can easily undo the health benefits associated with eating vegetarian.
What’s hardest for many people to do when it comes to cutting down their meat intake is dealing with the huge psychological component.
A lot of meat eaters don’t avoid going vegetarian because they dislike eating vegetables, it’s just that their minds are so used to associating a complete meal with a piece of meat, that eating veggies with a side of rice and beans seems horribly incomplete.
Meat eaters who share this belief should opt for soy-based products like imitation ground beef, veggie burgers and mock chicken, which are made by popular companies like Morning Star Farms, and Boca.
Although there are a countless number of artificial meat brands, Morning Star and Boca are probably the easiest to find and are the cheapest in price depending on where you live.
Out of the two mock meat companies, Morning Star seems to make products that will be easier for the meat eater to handle, as the company’s selections are much closer to meat in texture than the other brands I’ve tried. And with just the right amount of seasoning and cooking methods, soy based meats can actually come pretty close to the real thing.
But close is the operative word here, so meat eaters will definitely taste a difference right off the bat, but that difference should become less noticeable the more the artificial meat is eaten.
Los Angeles is the largest city in the United States to take the Meatless Monday challenge, and Councilwoman Jan Perry along with Councilman Ed Reyes believe the weekly meat fast could lower the amount of future heart disease and cancer cases.
Many health experts around the globe attribute these ailments to heavy meat consumption.
“We can reduce saturated fats and reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent,” said Councilwoman Perry in a statement. “While this is a symbolic gesture, it is asking people to think about the food choices they make. Eating less meat can reverse some of our nation’s most common illnesses.”
The Meatless Monday program pointed to a recent Harvard study that showed that by lowering the amount of fat-rich foods like meat and high-fat dairy, and going with foods high in polyunsaturated fat, people can lower the chances of developing heart disease by 19 percent, which was a key point made in the announcement of the program.
Polyunsaturated fat can be found in many leafy green foods, as well as in fish, seeds and nuts.
Although there may be a little pressure from Los Angeles officials to join the program, residents shouldn’t worry about being hand-cuffed the next time they're caught eating a hamburger on a Monday. The meatless initiative is only a suggested one, and officials hope the program not only grows in popularity, but also leads to other lifestyle changes when it comes to health and diet.
“The issue is, how does a local municipality engage in this and how do we create change,” asked Councilman Reyes, while discussing the initiative. “If we do it one plate at a time, one meal, one day, we are ratcheting down the impact on our environment. We start with one day a week and then who knows, maybe we can change our habits for a lifetime.”
Stay out of Dodge
But not everyone is pleased about U.S. cities going meatless one day a week.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran said the program is hurting the farming community by telling residents to abstain from meat, and instead of putting pressure on residents to go vegetarian--which many believe is based more on a belief system than anything else--the USDA should be helping out farmers.
“Never in my life would I have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers,” said Sen. Moran earlier this year in an interview.
“American farmers and ranchers deserve a USDA that will pursue supportive policies rather than seek their further harm. With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain.”
Although health experts have linked vegetarianism to better health, others have concluded that as long as meat is eaten moderately and properly balanced with other food groups, one can still maintain a healthy lifestyle.