Meatless Monday, which entails cutting out meat from your diet just one day a week, has become a pretty big trend on social media in recent years. But despite the plant-based hype, many people still aren’t sold on the benefits of going meatless—and how to actually do it. That’s where this guide comes in.
Meatless Monday’s Roots
Believe it or not, Meatless Monday goes back much further than the days of hashtags. In fact, it really got started during the first and second World Wars, when the government rolled out a program aimed at rationing food in the U.S. that encouraged people to do ‘Meatless Mondays’ and ‘Wheatless Wednesdays.’
Fast forward to 2003. After seeing a Surgeon General report that suggested decreasing meat consumption by 15 percent (equivalent to three meals, or one day, a week) might help prevent diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, public health advocate Sid Lerner and Johns Hopkins University founded the Meatless Monday campaign.
Since then, ditching meat on Mondays has become a practice embraced by many restaurants, schools, and influencers alike.
Why Go Meatless?
Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes sound pretty great, right? In addition to those benefits, research also suggests eating more plants can support weight loss, healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, and even reduce the need for certain medications.
Related: The 7 Veggies With The Most Protein
Your health isn’t the only thing that benefits from going plant-based once a week, though. Experts suggest that if a large number of people were to go meatless, even just one day a week, it would have a measurable impact on the environment.
You see, raising livestock requires substantially more resources (like water, food, and land) than growing plants, explains dietitian Ryan Gebo, R.D., L.D.N. In fact, the World Resources Institute estimates that livestock-based food production is responsible for about one fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a significant contributor to pollution and environmental change.
Not to mention, skipping meat once a week can also help you save some cash, since the grains, veggies, and legumes that plant-centric meals emphasize are often cheaper than meat. One study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition suggests that eating a plant-based diet costs about $750 a year less than eating a meat-centric diet.
Your Simple, Delicious Meatless Monday Meal Plan
Sold yet? With this nutritionist-backed meal plan, you’ll enjoy every bite of Meatless Monday.
Each meal and snack offers a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats for sustained energy levels throughout the day. Plus, many of the meals can be prepped ahead of time.
Breakfast Option 1: Loaded Toast
Slather your toast with your favorite nut butter, sprinkle on the hemp hearts, add a few berries, and voila, you’ve got a quick, delicious breakfast.
Gebo loves this meal because it provides a balance of macronutrients. From the toast, you’ll get healthy carbs for steady energy and fiber to support digestion and satiety. From the nut butter, healthy unsaturated fats—good for heart health and brain function—and some protein. Hemp seeds also provide protein, along with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. Finally, the berries provide antioxidants and a touch of sweetness.
Breakfast Option 2: Protein Oats
The fiber in the antioxidant-rich steel-cut oats keeps you feeling satisfied, while vegan protein powder rounds out the meal. For sweetness, a potassium-rich banana and some cinnamon go a long way.
Lunch Option 1: Rainbow Salad
This easy salad pairs a variety of colorful veggies with protein- and fiber-filled black beans for a fun, flavorful midday meal. Top it with homemade mustard dressing and it’s complete.
For the base of your salad, you’ll need:
- black beans
To make the homemade mustard dressing, whisk together:
Your greens, the base of your salad, provide vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, and folate. (They’re also high in water!) Then come the black beans for protein, fiber, and B vitamins, corn for fiber, and tomatoes for vitamin C and other antioxidants like lycopene.
Lunch Option 2: Vegetable Soup
If you don’t have time to whip up a big ol’ pot of veggie soup at home, Gebo recommends grabbing a BPA-free can of organic, non-GMO vegetable soup. Since pretty much all veggies contain a host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, as long as your pick contains a variety, it’s sure to be nourishing.
For extra fiber and minerals, add a slice of Ezekiel or whole-grain toast on the side.
Snack Option 1: Carrots & Hummus
Carrots, which are rich in vitamin A, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, are the perfect vessel for any dip your heart desires. On Meatless Monday, Gebo recommends hummus, which contains a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants, along with protein and fiber.
Snack Option 2: Trail Mix
The beauty of trail mix is its versatility. Throw whatever ingredients you want into a bag and you’re good to go.
For a classic mix, try:
A favorite of plant-based eaters and carnivores alike, sweet and salty trail mix is sure to satisfy your cravings, whatever they may be. You’ll get fiber and antioxidants from the dried fruit and healthy fats and protein from the nuts and seeds. Plus, dark chocolate (look for more than 70 percent cocoa) is low in sugar but high in antioxidants, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Dinner Option 1: Quinoa Avocado Bowl
To make this simple bowl, combine the following ingredients:
- cooked quinoa
- sliced avocado
- diced green pepper
- a sprinkle of cilantro or basil
- salt and pepper to taste
Quinoa makes a great base for any plant-based bowl meal because it contains all of the essential amino acids, is high in fiber, and is low on the glycemic index. Adding avocado brings heart-healthy fats, potassium, vitamin K, and folate into the mix, while the green pepper contributes vitamin C and other antioxidants. For a little extra flavor, top with homemade mustard dressing.
Dinner Option 2: Zucchini Pesto Pasta
Made with spiralized zucchini and a quarter cup of vegan pesto, this simple dish is fun to eat and jam-packed with flavor.
To make vegan pesto, simply combine the following ingredients in the food processor:
- 2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
- ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Zucchini is a popular option when making vegetable noodles because it’s high in water, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and folate. Plus, its mild flavor easily takes on the flavor of sauces and other add-ins. Meanwhile, the vegan pesto provides a number of healthy fats for heart and brain health.
Pin this meal plan infographic for quick inspiration: