Meatless Monday is an international movement that promotes eating plant-based protein sources at least one day per week. The day of the week changes based on the country and language used – for example, Belgium promotes “Donderdag Veggiedag”, or “Thursday Veggie Day”.
Why Go Meatless?
Plant-based protein sources provide us not only with protein, but other important nutrients as well. Beans, chickpeas and lentils are a great source of fibre, tofu is an excellent source of calcium and tempeh provides us with a food source of probiotics.
Another great reason to get on board is to support the environment. Animal protein is produced worldwide at a huge environmental cost in terms of fuel, water and land space. By reducing our consumption of meat even on 1 day a week, the high demand for meat overall will be lessened, and hopefully our environment will receive a much needed break.
Finally, by choosing plant-based proteins, you will save money on your overall food spending and grocery bill – One can of beans (3-4 servings) only costs between $1-2 and they are often on sale!
You don’t have to go meatless on Mondays specifically – pick a day that works for you, and schedule it in on a weekly basis. Here are some examples of plant-based proteins to get you started:
Beans, chickpeas and lentils not only provide protein, but are a great source of fibre! Different types of legumes also provide a wide range of other vitamins and minerals that we need to support a healthy lifestyle. Black beans are a good source of iron, navy beans are a good source of calcium, lentils are an excellent source of folate, and chickpeas are a great source of phytochemicals!
Cottage cheese is almost pure protein, and is a dairy food, making it a good source of calcium. Cottage cheese has less lactose than milk or yogurt, so it might be a good choice for people who are sensitive to lactose as well. Trycottage cheese on cereal, with fruit, or on toast with some avocado!
Tofu is made from processed soy beans. Due to its processing methods, tofu is actually an excellent source of calcium! Tofu also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and is a source of phytoestrogens, which are associated with improved heart health and reduced risk for some types of cancer. For tips and ideas on preparing tofu, check out this awesome Guide to Tofu!
Tempeh is also made from soya beans, but with a slightly different processing method. Soya beans are fermented and squeezed together to make a very firm texture. Both tempeh and tofu take on flavour very easily, so they mix well with almost any seasoning and can take the place of meat in most dishes! Since soya beans in tempeh are fermented, tempeh also provides probiotics which help our gut grow healthy bacteria and function normally. This plant-based protein also provides a great source of fibre.
Edamame beans are soy beans in their natural form! Edamame beans are unprocessed – often consumed straight from the shell. While these little beans look and taste similar to peas, they provide about 15g of protein per ½ cup and almost 50% of the recommended daily intake for iron! Edamame beans are a great addition to soups, stews, stir frys and salads. They can also be roasted and enjoyed as a mid-day snack.
Nutritional yeast, or food yeast, is deactivated yeast that is sold in flake-like form. Nutritional yeast has a savoury flavour that makes it a great addition to dairy-less cheese recipes, or to popcorn to give it that buttery taste. Nutritional yeast is a great meatless source of Vitamin B12, something that’s hard to come by in vegetarian & vegan diets. It also provides about 7g of protein per ¼ cup serving!
Quinoa grabs a lot of attention as a “high protein” grain. In fact, it has a similar protein file to most other whole grains. The key difference here is that quinoa provides a complete protein source. That means that all of our essential amino acids are there, compared to most vegetarian protein sources that provide some, but not others. Quinoa is a great staple in omnivorous and herbivorous diets as a source of complete protein, fibre and phytochemicals. Try using quinoa in place of rice – it can be made in the rice cooker too!
Whole grains are an often-forgotten source of protein, and provide a good source of fibre as well. It’s a good idea to pair these with a complimentary protein source (like rice and beans) to make up a complete protein with your meal.
Nuts and Seeds
While nuts and seeds are primarily a fat source, they do provide some fibre and protein to help slow the release of fat and keep us feeling fuller, longer! Add a natural nut butter to a piece of whole grain toast or fruit for a great mix of protein, fats and healthy carbohydrates!
Since eggs are still technically an animal protein, they provide all the essential amino acids we need from our protein sources. Egg yolks also provide Vitamin B12 and some Vitamin D.
To learn more, the official Meatless Monday website has tons of recipes and information on how Meatless Monday benefits us individually and globally.