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Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I'm Joining Meatless Monday

Today I want to talk about something I haven't really explained or discussed much here on the blog. Meat. Or the lack thereof.

I want to talk about it because I know a lot of my readers are advocates of diets/lifestyles like Real Food, Paleo, and GAPS, or even Atkins. All of these ways of eating are pretty meat-heavy. Recently, I asked my readers on Facebook and Google+ if they would consider being a part-time Vegan, or cutting out meat. There was a lot of debate and a bit of confusion. I hope to clear some of that up a bit here.

So why am I talking about meat today? Well I've decided it's time for Poor and Gluten Free to join the Meatless Monday movement. Now don't worry, not much is going to change here, except that some of my posts will now be tagged as Meatless Monday.  And in today's post I'm going to explain why.

What is Meatless Monday? 

For those who don't know, Meatless Monday is a movement to help people cut back on meat consumption. It's a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, created in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The idea is to go without meat on Mondays in order to cut back on meat consumption for the sake of health and the environment. You can find out more about the movement on their website -

Now before you protest and argue that bacon is the latest great health food, let me finish why I'm joining and explain why meat consumption can be a problem. 

Why join Meatless Monday?

First off, it wasn't a tough decision for me really, since almost all of my recipes are meat-free with vegan options anyway.

I was a pescetarian for 8 years (a vegetarian that eats fish, cheese, and eggs) before discovering that I had oral allergy syndrome and was allergic to most fresh fruits and vegetables. For me, a lot of it had to do with ethical and environmental reasons I won't get in to here, but I still feel strongly about them. My allergist strongly recommended I consider adding some meat back in to my diet to diversify things. While I now eat a small amount of poultry, it's more for the sake of making it easier for those who have to feed me than for me to feed myself. (Dinner with friends and fam can be super hard when they have to work around so many allergies and then vegetarianism or veganism on top of it! I know they're so well-meaning and in general, most of them don't even cook meat when I'm around because they know I'm not keen on it, so thanks to everyone who supports me and my choices!!)

But aside from the fact that I don't really cook meat myself, there are plenty of health, economic, and environmental reasons to consider

Health Reasons to Join Meatless Monday

Why do people need to cut back on meat? You might ask.

Well on average, Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day – 45% more than the USDA recommends. Men in the U.S. consume as much as 190% of their recommended daily allowance of protein, while women eat as much as 160%.

 Most meat eaters consume WAY more protein than they need.

Those who worry about not getting enough protein by going meatless don't really need to worry. I was vegetarian for 8 yrs, had my iron checked often (I gave blood regularly) and never had a problem. Plenty of foods have protein in them, like rice, potatoes, lentils, beans, etc. And we really don't need that much protein in the first place.

Cutting back on meat can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, increase mortality and vary the nutrients and vitamins you consume.

Environmental Reasons to go Meat-Free

The meat industry takes a toll on the environment. It doesn't really matter if you look for grass-fed, local meat, it still takes a whole lot of land and resources to feed and care for animals. Here are some stats to consider.

* Carbon Footprint: The UN estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change.

* Water Usage: The water needs of livestock are huge, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.

* Fuel Dependence: On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. (compared to 2.2 calories of fossil fuel for plant-based protein)

Economic Reasons to Go Meatless

* Health problems can take a toll on health-care spending!  Under the health reasons you'll note that too much meat can take a toll on your health, all of which cost money for medical bills. 

* Meat isn't cheap! A $2 bag of lentils will feed a family of 4 a couple of times over. Can you even buy meat for $2?? 

I wanted to join the movement to help raise awareness because I know that many of you are environmentalists and concerned about healthy eating. From time to time I'll tag posts with the Meatless Monday tag (and will likely make those posts Vegan-friendly as well), and may share some health and environmental posts related to going meat-free. I hope it helps to encourage you to re-evaluate your menu plans and expand your meal options! 

For more info on Meatless Monday and how you can get involved or join with your blog, check out 

Are you a meat-eater? If so, would you consider cutting back and why?


  1. Thanks for sharing this idea. As a conservation biologist, this is something I've thought about a great deal. But I don't agree with it. I actually think the problem is not eating too much meat, it's the commercial farming of both plant and animal products. We all know the evils of factory farming, but chemically maintained monocultures are also an ecological disaster. To feed ourselves more sustainably, we need to grow plant and animal foods in small, diversified farms that mimic permaculture. That way, animal wastes and chemical fertilizers won't pollute our wetlands. Instead, animal wastes will be used more efficiently to build soil for vegetable crops, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers. Pesticide use will be less, because biodiversity will be higher and therefore the system will be more in balance, leading to fewer and less intense pest outbreaks. That's my $.02 in a nutshell!

    1. Hi Janet, thanks so much for sharing your $0.02!

      I'm curious about what you would suggest that the average person do to take action to change the system? I absolutely agree that monoculture and commercial, chemical farming is an environmental disaster. It's one of the reasons I advocate for buying as much local and chemical free produce as possible (for example, my weekly meal plan is based around produce from the farmers market). I think small diversified farms are absolutely the ideal.

      Unfortunately, though, it's not feasible for all of us to implement ourselves. We can't afford to buy a farm (or even a small house with a garden plot, for that matter. In the Vancouver area an old house on a small lot can cost around $1 mil.). We shop at the farmers market and advocate for CSA's and garden plots, and march against the chemical giant, but what more can we do?

      For now, since I can't change the farming system, I feel like I need to do my part in some way to try to raise awareness of the harm that the industry does to the environment. And it's not just that, its also the health and economic factors of over-consumption of meat, and I won't even get in to the way that animals are treated in the meat industry these days. But I'm always interested in ways to change the system so I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

  2. But you can change the farming system, in just the way you are doing, by buying at farmers markets and from CSA's. In doing so, you are making it possible for the right changes to take place, and you are withdrawing support from commercial farms. You don't have to raise any of your own food, just be willing to buy from those who are doing it right.

    In contrast, if one reduces meat consumption and continues to buy commercially produced vegetable foods, it's still supporting conventional farming, and does nothing towards transitioning us towards more sustainable farming.

    So I think the way to raise awareness is to educate people about the problems with conventional farming (of both plant and animal foods) and encourage them to buy from small, diversified, mostly organic, local, and humane farms. Many CSA's and farmers markets satisfy most or all of those criteria.

    1. I do agree with what you're saying and, as I mentioned, strongly advocate for local, sustainable food sources. However, methane emissions from cows is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas, and so much land is required to generate and feed cows. If people cut back on eating beef (personally I don't eat it at all), wouldn't that help cut back on greenhouse gas and damage done by farming so much feed?

      There are still the economic, health, and ethical reasons to consider cutting back on meat.

      And on a lighter note - it seems that keeping cows in a barn could potentially be explosive ;)

  3. I completely agree with your reasoning! I cut back on meat when I was in college just because it was expensive. Then my partner and I gave up meat for Lent in 2002 and learned a lot about what we could be eating instead, and we never have gone back to the level of meat consumption we once had.

    We still feel that some quantity of meat has a legitimate place in our diet. If we feel a craving, we figure there is a reason for it. I seem to need a turkey sandwich about once a month to restore my energy and strong/healthy feelings; while I'm pregnant, it's more like once a week. We also continue to eat fish once or twice a week and take fish oil capsules daily because of health benefits. (Fish oil has a definite effect preventing migraines for me, and it is good for baby's brain and eye development.)

    Here are my 7 Ways to Eat Less Meat. Hey, I guess I'll link that up on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, too!

    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing your link, Becca! My husband was a big carnivore when we met, but once I told him my reasons for not eating meat, and he did his own research (and now he's doing a PhD in environmental history), he's on board. He rarely eats meat either and we're both perfectly healthy. We do like fish, too, though ;)

  4. I'm a huge fan of Meatless Monday! In addition, my family and I eat at least two meat free main meals every week. This is a really good post and explains the movement and reasons behind it very well, Danielle. Thank you for sharing it with us at The Hearth and Soul Hop.

    1. Thanks, April and glad to hear you folks go meatless from time to time :)


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