Meet Meatless Monday

Has that long holiday weekend of grillin' and chillin' left you in a carnivorous coma? Feeling kinda sluggish after piling your plate sky high with the obligatory 4th of July burgers, hotdogs, potatoes, and pie?

The fastest way to shrink that post-barbecue belly this Monday is to let your body lighten up: step away from the saturated fats in meat and get your week off to a heart-healthy start with fruits, veggies, grains and legumes. And because livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than transportation, choosing beans or beets over meat one day a week helps to lighten your carbon footprint, too.

You'll be in good company with millions of other folks who've joined the Meatless Monday movement and its British cousin, which share two simple goals: healthier people and a healthier planet. This not your father's--or your grandfather's--Meatless Monday campaigns, which flourished during World Wars I and II.

Back then, it was all about scarcity. Things like fuel, meat, sugar, milk, and cheese were in short supply and Americans were called on to sacrifice for the sake of the war effort. Now, we're going meatless on Mondays for our own sake. Decades of cheap gas and bargain beef have created a surplus of ill health and greenhouse gas emissions, two things we really can't afford.

Today's Meatless Monday--a non-profit initiative run in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health--is not about rationing. It's about living rationally; i.e., eating more healthfully. Skipping meat even just once a week can help you avoid a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Not sure where to begin? You'll find all kinds of tantalizing recipes on the Meatless Monday website, and, starting this Monday, Huffington Post will be featuring recipes from Ellen Kanner,
aka the Edgy Veggie. You'll find plenty of pro-produce posts on the Green page from other bloggers as well (myself included).

Some of us are vegetarians or vegans, but others, like me, eat the occasional grass-fed burger or pasture-raised pork. We encourage meat-free meals because it's not only healthy and humane, but because getting your calories from plant-based foods grown by the sun is such an easy way to support renewable energy. Calories, after all, are just another form of fuel.

So get your week off to a sunny start and make Monday your day to lighten up. After that, who knows? You might find meat-free eating so life-affirming that you'll find yourself worshipping seitan on Sunday. I'm thinking about launching Tatsoi Tuesday, myself.

Read Ellen Kanner's column with a recipe for Tunisian Roasted Vegetables