As the registered dietitian on staff with Meatless Monday, I’m passionate about the movement because I know that it’s not only great for business, but a positive healthy choice to make week after week. Promoting Meatless Monday specials in your restaurant can draw in new clientele and demonstrate to your regular customers that you care about their health.
If you’re unsure what to serve up for your Meatless Monday specials or want to be prepared if your customers come to you with questions about why eating less meat is a healthy choice, you’re in the right place. I’ve put together this FAQ of the most common questions I receive about the health benefits of Meatless Monday and what to serve instead of meat.
Why is cutting out meat one day a week such a healthy choice?
Research clearly shows that those who follow diets that are low in meat and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds tend to live longer, healthier lives. Diets low in meat are also associated with reduced rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But the reality is that most of us still eat too much meat and the latest Dietary Guidelines suggest that we would benefit from cutting our meat consumption by at least 20 percent, skipping meat one day a week gets us close to this number and gives us the opportunity to try out delicious meatless options we may enjoy over the rest of the week, too.
But what about protein?
Plenty of plant-based foods are packed with protein! Nuts, beans, tofu, whole grains and even vegetables are great sources of protein and it’s easy to meet your needs with a day of plant-based eating. It’s a misperception that we need to eat meat to get enough protein; there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian athletes who prove otherwise. Most of us exceed our protein needs anyway, so if we happen to cut back on one meatless day, it wouldn’t hurt us at all.
What about other nutrients, like iron?
It’s true that meat is a good source of iron, but so are beans and dark leafy greens. B12 is a vitamin that people who follow vegan diets full-time may need to supplement, but when you’re only skipping meat one day a week, there’s no reason to be concerned about your B12 intake – you’ll definitely meet your needs for the week on the days that you are eating meat.
What does meatless mean, anyway? What can and can’t I serve on Meatless Monday?
You should determine exactly what meatless means to you and your business, but in general, Meatless Monday encourages meals that feature no meat, seafood, or made-from-meat ingredients like chicken broth. Why not take the opportunity to show your customers how delicious completely meat-free meals can be?
What about dairy and eggs?
We don’t require that Meatless Monday meals exclude other animal products like dairy or eggs. Indeed, a sprinkling of aged cheese or dollop of tangy yogurt can be just the thing to make your meatless dishes appealing to those who traditionally seek meat. But we do encourage using these products lightly, as they are sources of the primary nutrient of concern found in meat, saturated fat. Your customers may doubt your commitment to healthy meals if your meatless quiche or fettuccine alfredo seems like it has just as much saturated fat as a juicy steak.
What about these new meat substitutes, like chick’n strips and beefless crumbles? Are they healthy?
Most of these products are a combination of soy and pea protein and in moderation, there’s no reason to believe they could do us any harm. In fact, using these products to create twists on classic meat dishes –sloppy joe’s, chili, boneless wings and the like – can be a great way to inspire die-hard meat fans to try out a meatless dish. But you know your clientele best, so if you don’t think they’ll respond well to seeing a processed product on your menu, of course focus instead on dishes that are naturally meatless.
What about my customers on low-carb diets?
If you know that a good portion of your clientele is carb-conscious, you may be apprehensive about promoting meatless dishes, but there are plenty of ways to go meatless while staying low-carb. Think of a spinach salad with seasonal veggies, goat cheese, walnuts and a light balsamic dressing, or perhaps about a plate of “zoodles” (spiral-cut zucchini noodles) with fresh pesto and sundried tomatoes. Or if you think your customers would be receptive to it, try one of the new meat substitutes in dishes such as a chick’n salad collard greens wrap or a faux-beef stir-fry with cauliflower rice.
Aligning with Meatless Monday is a weekly opportunity to show your customers that you care about their health and the health of the planet week after week. Ready to get started? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.