While this blog has always been about meat free recipes, with many posts in honor of Meatless Monday, I have never really gone into my personal beliefs for eating a meat-free lifestyle. Since Earth Day happens to fall on Meatless Monday this year, I thought it was a great time to talk about the benefits that plant based eating has for your body and for the planet.
My decision to not eat animals came fairly early in life, at the age of 15, after joining the animal rights club at my very progressive Brooklyn high school. I borrowed a cookbook from the head of the club, with the intention to offer my family occasional alternatives to the meat centric dinners we ate on a daily basis. Instead, when I learned about the hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, parasites and additional toxins that were transferred to humans when consuming commercial meat, poultry, and seafood, I said “no thank you” and took my vow of vegetarianism. Over 16 years later, I have never looked back, never regretted that decision, and never once even had so much as a craving for meat.
That was the deciding factor for me in choosing veg, but there are so many reasons I’ve stayed veg and made it my profession (and personal mission) to teach people how to incorporate more fruits, veggies and whole grains into their diets, and help them to do it through my vegan personal chef services.
For starters, a whole foods, plant-based diet is disease fighting! When done correctly, vegetarian and vegan diets are naturally low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and have been shown to reduce heart disease risk. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, plant eaters suffer less disease caused by a modern western diet (i.e. coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, type II diabetes, diet-related cancers, diverticulitis, constipation, and gall stones, among several others).
Next, a plant strong diet is good for the planet! In this VegNews article, EcoVegan Gal, Whitney Lauristen, sums up the top 5 Ways that Being Vegan Saves the Planet. Eating plants protects our soil, conserves water (it takes 100 to 200 times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of plant foods), it saves energy (a Cornell study found that producing animal-based protein requires eight times more fossil-fuel energy than creating plant-based protein), clears the air, and combats world hunger (more than 700 million tons of human-grade food goes into animal agriculture each year, which could instead be used to eradicate hunger).
So whether you choose to eat veg just once a day, once a week, or once a month, know that your decision is helping to improve your own health and the health of this beautiful blue and green planet we call home.
Here’s a yummy idea for a quick and easy Meatless Monday dinner!
2 tortillas, at least 10″ round
1/2 Cup cooked black or pinto beans
1 Cup cooked sweet potatoes or yams (I like to peel, cube and steam mine for about 8 minutes)
Veggies of choice (ie mushrooms, onions, red peppers, broccoli, spinach)
Favorite non-dairy cheese, optional
Avocado or guacamole
1. In a medium or large skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium-low heat. Add veggies in order of longest cooking time (for example, onions will take longer to cook than mushrooms) and saute until they are all tender. You may also use the veggies raw, if preferred.
2. In small bowl, lightly mash the yams with a fork, until desired texture is reached. I like mine to be a bit chunky.
3. Lay tortillas plate on a cutting board or on plates. Spread with non-dairy cheese, if using. (I use cashews blended with water, nutritional yeast, salt, chipotle powder and other seasonings). Add about one half of the ingredients in layers to each tortilla, spreading evenly but not too thick. (If it looks like it will explode when you fold it, use less and save some to eat outside of the tortilla.)
4. Cook tortilla open faced in the skillet or place in a toaster oven for about 5 minutes, until insides are warmed and tortilla just starts to get toasted. Fold carefully and cook for another few minutes on each side, if desired for crisper exterior.
5. Use a sharp knife to cut into wedges. Serve with avocado or guacamole and your favorite salsa.