We get it. Deciding to abandon beast-flesh is a tough choice to make. The thought of giving up delicious juicy steaks and summer grill-outs and drive-through fried chicken for good? Downright terrifying.
Which is why more and more people are embracing the Meatless Monday movement. It’s a great starting point for a less meat-dominant diet, giving omnivores everywhere access to the myriad benefits (see below) of vegetarianism without having to sacrifice their occasional Meat Lover’s pizza and/or bacon-and-eggs breakfast. The rules are pretty darn simple: Once a week, just for a day, give up meat. The end.
So what’s it got to offer, besides a once-weekly dose of veggies? Plenty. Health-wise, giving up meat encourages you to replace the missed calories with healthier things — whole grains, vegetables, etc. (Sure, you could reach for a box of Nutty Bars, but that wouldn’t be a very satisfying dinner, would it?) That once-a-week substitution adds up, leading to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Good stuff.
Budget-wise, it’s good, too. Non-meat meals tend to be cheaper — rice and beans, anyone? — and also, that whole reduced-risk-of-everything-bad outlined above? Turns out, being healthier will save you money on medical bills.
The real kicker, though, is the environmental benefit of temporarily giving up meat. There’s the oft-quoted statistic of how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef versus a pound of vegetables (1,850 gallons vs. 39 gallons, which, wow). There’s also the reduction in greenhouse gases that comes as a result of fewer cow farts. And, of course, the mere fact that all the grain we’re producing is going to the livestock we eat when it could feed so many people if they ate it directly. The takeaway: If you’ve ever wanted to contribute something to environmentalism and/or stopping global hunger, this would be a fine place to start.
Of course, you don’t have to do Mondays. If Wednesdays work better, start there. Or maybe Saturdays. Or… well, you get the idea.
Not sure where to start? Check out some of our favorite, easy vegetarian recipes below. They’re perfect for the chilly autumn evenings that are fast approaching. They’re also so hearty that you won’t even miss their lack of meat.
- Butternut squash soup, from Slate’s L.V. Anderson. This is a classic fall soup with butternut squash, apples, and fall spices (and yogurt, to give it that creaminess). It pairs perfectly with whole-grain toast.
- If you’re not thrilled about putting cinnamon and nutmeg in your soup, check out this Southwestern-style butternut squash soup from TheKitchn. It still screams fall, because squash, but it also packs a bit of heat. If nothing else, it will remind you of the carne asada taco you’re not eating.
- There’s also split pea soup. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. This recipe is a particular favorite and has been known to win over even the most staunchly anti-pea-soupists. The secret is in the curry spices.
- Moving on from soup, how about rice and beans, a staple for many, many people around the world? This recipe for spiced black beans, also from TheKitchn, is easy to throw together in a pinch and is great topped with avocado and served over steamy-hot rice.
- Just because a meal is meatless doesn’t mean it has to be spartan. Check out this recipe for Tomato-Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe. The heavy cream gives it a warming, indulgent feel. And you can’t go wrong with lentils.
- Another favorite is TheKitchn’s Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon. Served over baked sweet potatoes, the combination of flavors in this one is mind-blowing — the creamy coconut, the sour from the lemon, the sweetness of the potato, the vegetal burst of cilantro… steak doesn’t hold a candle to this recipe.