Meatless Mondays are a growing movement to encourage restaurants and people to eat differently one day per week.
The movement began in 2003 when Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, was brainstorming with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Doctors, epidemiologists and sustainability experts wrestled with the excess fat and cholesterol that were making American diets life-threatening.
A recent Monday Campaigns survey showed 43 percent of Americans participate in Meatless Monday on an occasional basis. About 30 countries participate.
JoAnna Lewis-Ludkowski works at the family-owned Outage Bar and Grill in Ottawa, where she occasionally prepares meatless meals. Because of food allergies, Ludkowski is a gluten-free vegan, which means she eats no animal products.
“I was vegetarian in high school by choice because I didn’t miss meat in my diet,” Ludkowski told The Times. “During pregnancy of my first son, I added meat to my diet when I became anemic. I love to cook, so I do not feel it is difficult to prepare meatless meals, and I enjoy trying new recipes.”
She noted eating out and attending holiday parties present the greatest challenge when trying to maintain a meat-free lifestyle.
Cinda Bond, owner of Grant Street Grocery in Streator, began offering Meatless Monday meals more than one year ago, when chef Mario Batali promoted the Meatless Monday movement.
Grant Street Grocery is known for its homemade food. Bond offers a variety of dishes, including spinach quiche, spinach stromboli, egg salad, roasted vegetable tacos and Italian grilled cheese.
“We give people another option of doing something meatless, to make people aware that meals without meat taste good,” Bond said. “The less meat we eat, the better. It is for our environment, and it’s only one day.”
Bond said the Meatless Monday offerings have attracted people who already are vegetarian and people who are trying something new.
“I think it’s both. ... I think most people enjoy it because it does taste good,” she said. “My grandfather would fast at lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. He figured that since he wasn’t eating (meat) maybe someone else in the world was.”
The Times posted a question on Facebook about Meatless Mondays. Several responders said they eat meatless meals for various reasons.
“I have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.,” Mac Guffin wrote. “I very much limit my meat anyway. At first, it was hard, but now, I don’t think twice about it. It’s second nature. I do a variety of salads, pasta and lots of veggies. A good filled baked potato is like a whole meal.”
“Going without meat once a week can reduce your chances of getting diseases like cancer and cardiovascular illnesses,” said Mary Lou Goetz Mandrell. “It can also reduce your carbon footprint and save resources like fresh water (water is used in the butchering of animals). I haven’t eaten meat in years (never ate much anyway), and I wish restaurants would start catering more to people like me.”
St. Mary’s Hospital Registered Dietitian Anne Lauterjung said there are no nutritional concerns to eating meatless meals one to two times per week, but those who choose to go meatless for longer periods of time do need to be aware of getting enough protein and vitamin B12.
“People who prefer to abstain totally from meat — beef, pork, game, poultry, seafood and eggs — need to plan more to make sure they are consuming adequate sources of protein and combinations of essential amino acids,” Lauterjung said. “B12 deficiency can be more common in a strict vegan versus some one who still consumes seafood and poultry on a regular basis.”
Other protein sources include dried beans, egg whites, cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and soy. She noted vegetarians and those who avoid red meat can have lower blood pressure and lower LDL levels than those who consume red meat on a regular basis.
For more information, visit meatlessmonday.com.