I was watching Larry King last night (I am a CNN junkie, I admit it) and the topic was “Should you eat meat?”. Unlike many topics on Larry King, I found the discussion to be rather civilized and the participants agreed on many points. The main point of disagreement was, of course, the answer to the above referenced show topic.
It’s not hard to guess my personal answer to this question. I made a decision not to eat meat for many reasons, mostly health related. I find myself sick less and with more energy by eating a meat free diet. I realize, however, that vegetarianism isn’t for everyone. I also realize there are many unhealthy overweight vegetarians who subsist on bread, cheese and other foods that don’t contain meat products but aren’t exactly good for you. So while I choose a meat free diet and it works very well for me, I don’t put it forth as a magic bullet to weight loss.
What I found most interesting in the discussion was that people from different ends of the food spectrum could agree on a couple of key points about meat in our collective diets today.
The first point was that the meat most people eat today comes from a factory system that is unhealthy and unsafe. While I won’t go into the details of the system itself (see Food, Inc.if you haven’t already), the product is less nutritious than what comes from a farm that uses organic and free range techniques. Consider this: grass fed beef has one third to one half less fat, fewer calories and more vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids than corn fed beef. What you get in the grocery store has been corn fed to fatten it quickly and cheaply. The byproduct is that the same thing happens to the American Consumer.
The second point was that we can do ourselves a huge favor by consuming less meat. A National Cancer Institute Study of 500,000 people found that those that ate 4 oz or more of red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause over 10 years than were those who consumed less. They also found that sausage, luncheon meats, and other processed meats also increased the risk.
So how could it be a bad thing to do without meat for one or two meals a week? It can’t. Furthermore it can be easier on the budget (beans are cheaper than steak) and it’s better for the environment. Here’s an interesting fact. According to Environmental Defense, if every America skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian food instead the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S roads. Cheaper than buying a Prius, right?
My challenge to you this week is to start making one dinner a week without meat. I’ll even give you some ideas to get started:
- Minestrone soup with homemade cornbread
- Frittata with any variety of vegetables (spinach, potatoes and peppers are great)
- Lasagna with spinach and zucchini
- Eggplant Parmesan (baked not fried)
- Chili with your favorite varieties of beans and no carne
Be creative! Share your meatless meal story with us!