If you spend any time on the internet (you’re here, right?), you probably know about Meatless Monday, the movement to reduce meat consumption. The idea is rooted in wellness initiatives, and seems even more relevant today as we each try to do our part to keep things going during the pandemic. And because of my curiosity and passion for food, I’m always game for a challenge.
It takes gumption for a carnivorous household to embrace Meatless Monday and make it stick. How can you avoid feeling “deprived?” How do you keep it interesting? For crying out loud, how do you convince the other people you’re feeding to give it a try? I’ve circled this block enough to know what doesn’t work – today I’m breaking it down and offering you 7 tips for making Meatless Monday more manageable. Let’s do this!
1. Plan ahead
Like any other new habit, you must have a plan. I’ve failed this point in the past and learned from it. There are plenty of plant-based foods that offer substantial protein and other nutrients. Decide ahead which ones will make sense at your house. Do you and the others you cook for already like a lot of vegetables? Can you get them on board for this adventure? Can you rearrange your thinking (and your plate) to let the plant-based items shine, rather than putting meat in the spotlight? Start with a list of all the veggies and non-meat foods you and your people already love, and brainstorm some creative ways to enjoy them for the next two or three Mondays. More ideas will come.
2. Treat those veggies like meat
Seriously. Imagine a typical “salad for dinner.” You see slices of grilled steak or chicken or a piece of fish on top of a few leafy greens, maybe a few veggies for good measure? Take away the meat, and you probably won’t feel satisfied with the same salad. That’s because the meat brought more than protein and bulk to the plate. It also carried flavor, texture and succulence. But guess what? The qualities you crave in meat can be found or mimicked in many plant-based foods. The secret is in how you cook it. Do you usually toss veggies raw on a salad? Leave them in fat chunks and throw them on the grill for a little char on the edges, instead. Do you steam broccoli as a side dish? Elevate broccoli by roasting it, then give it a starring role on top of a mushroom herb risotto and pair it with fresh greens tossed in simple vinaigrette. Give your vegetables some texture to make them satisfying and I promise, you won’t miss the meat.
3. Ease into it
Remember that Meatless Monday is only one day a week. Trying to do this doesn’t mean you have to starve, give up every animal product all at once or eat things that don’t seem like real food. Intimidated about doing it for the whole day? Start with just changing up dinner. Can’t imagine making it totally plant-based? Start with some favorite dishes that include eggs and dairy (“hello, spinach and mushroom omelet!”). This will help ease you into Meatless Monday until it becomes a habit that builds on your creativity and requires no more effort than your regular meals.
4. Keep it simple
You wouldn’t be able to stick to a new fitness routine if your starting goal was a marathon. So don’t pressure yourself to make a vegan showstopper like this puff pastry-wrapped lentil-mushroom wellington as your first Meatless Monday entry—or maybe even your 50th.
You may get there one day (and I’ll share a recipe for that delectable main dish when we get closer to the holidays), but for now, go with something innocent like creamy tomato bisque and a grilled cheese, a veggie stir-fry with brown rice, or zucchini noodles with chunky marinara (try this recipe, but skip the chicken). Pick up pre-chopped veggies from the produce case and ready-made sauces in the grocery aisles and build from there. Keep. It. Simple. (You’ve got this.)
5. Give yourself wiggle room
Sometimes our schedules don’t work for Meatless Monday. My day job runs in cycles—depending on the month, I can be slow, busy or completely slammed. My husband’s work schedule is based on his clients’ needs, and let’s face it, work-from-home with limited grocery runs has upended darn near everything. So, at our house, Meatless Monday occasionally happens on Tuesday—oh well. The goal is to reduce your overall meat consumption to feel better and offer a break to our resource-stressed planet and supply chain. Do what you can and make it work whenever.
6. Enjoy the adventure
Don’t sabotage yourself by turning Meatless Monday into an overly structured thing. I’ve done this, and it just wasn’t sustainable. Call out any attitude that says this is a chore and re-frame it so it feels more like a food adventure. Rather than saying, “I can’t have meat because it’s Monday and I’m already missing something,” how about, “Today we’re creating a flavorful, satisfying meal with fresh and healthful ingredients.” Sounds better already!
7. Let someone else do the cooking
If you want to give it a shot but cannot get it started at home, make Meatless Monday a take-out night. This doesn’t mean you have to find a vegan restaurant. Lots of traditional ethnic cuisines lean on plants for flavor and nutrition, so take the opportunity to try out the menu at that hot Asian restaurant you’ve been hearing about. Or Mexican. Or Indian. They need our support right now, and you may find inspiration in the dishes you discover there for one you make yourself, next Monday.
Feeling inspired to give Meatless Monday a go? Here’s a new recipe for you today, using simple pantry ingredients and a sweet potato. Enjoy!