Plant Up Your Plate: Go Meatless Once A Week By: Spencer Anderson and Jenna McClean

Meat tends to be a center staple at mealtimes, and with the growing availability of different sources and varieties of meat, a carnivorous mentality can be hard to break. There are current misconceptions about vegetarian dishes because people view meatless meals as having insufficient protein. But it is possible to have hearty, protein-filled meals that are meatless. Recent studies have demonstrated that lessening meat consumption in favor of more vegetarian fare can have many benefits. You can improve your health, the environment, and even your wallet by swapping meat for plant-based foods at least once a week.

HEALTH: There is a soaring emphasis on health and prevention of chronic disease, and choosing plant-based meals has a wide variety of health advantages. Plant-based diets allow for a lower intake of saturated fat and consist of more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and phytochemicals, which are all components of a healthy, balanced diet. Health advantages of a plant-based diet include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a lower risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes. By trading meat for plant options at least once a week, you are one-step closer to a healthier you!

ENVIRONMENT: Helping the environment is also a key reason for choosing plant-based foods. Meat production is a main contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases and could potentially have an effect on climate change. Land, water, fertilizer, and oil are all used in vast amounts to produce meat. It takes much less resources to grow other nutritious plant-based foods. The environmental impact of consuming nine hamburger patties in a household is equivalent to driving your automobile 100 miles. Therefore meat production takes a major environmental toll that you can help reduce.

MONEY: Want to get more bang for your buck? Meatless meals are also friendlier on your wallet! Increasing the number of meat products in your diet is related to significantly higher diet costs. Next time, instead of choosing meat at the grocery store, go for legumes, lentils, or beans, which are all great protein sources that keep you feeling fuller for longer. These can "hearty" up your dish without adding a dent in your budget.

Popular movements like "Meatless Mondays" have taken the world by storm! The "Meatless Mondays" movement promotes lessening meat consumption by starting the week off with meat-free alternatives. Its purpose is to "improve personal health and the health of the planet." Restaurants and schools in 23 different countries have joined this effort. Participating in "Meatless Mondays" is a perfect step towards planting up your plate!


White Bean and Kale Stew
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and diced 1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed 1 bunch kale (1 pound), stems removed & leaves torn into small pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat 2. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery and season with salt 3. Cook vegetables, stirring, until tender, about 8 minutes. 4. Increase heat to medium high and add tomatoes and their juice. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to caramelize, about 3 minutes
5. Add 7 cups water, potatoes,
and beans, and bring soup to a boil
6. Reduce heat and simmer until
potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, then stir in kale 7. Cook, covered, until tender, about 2 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

Nutrient Info Per Serving (serves 6):

190 calories, 8 grams total fat, 220 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
1 large sweet potato, diced
Salt, pepper, and chili powder, and cumin - to taste 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
4 whole wheat flour tortillas
1/3 cup diced poblano pepper
Shredded Mexican Cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper 3. Toss the sweet potatoes on the lined baking sheet with olive oil until lightly coated 4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin 5. Roast sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally 6. Meanwhile, sauté the diced onion for 5 minutes 7. Add the poblano and sauté for 3 minutes 8. Stir in the black beans until heated through 9. Stir in the sweet potato
10. Season to taste
11. Spoon into tortillas and top with cheese and your choice garnishes.

Nutrient Info Per Serving (Serves 4): 300 calories, 6 grams total fat, 600 milligrams sodium, 50 grams carbohydrate, 8.5 grams fiber

Spencer Anderson is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a graduate of Pepperdine University and currently is completing an internship at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Jenna McClean is from Columbus, Indiana. She is a graduate of Purdue University and also is in the process of completing an internship at Vanderbilt Medical Center.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282.

Schwarzer S. Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Due to Meat Production. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Environment Program; 2012. Global Environmental Alert Service Bulletin.

Carlsson-Kanyama A and Gonzalez AD. Potential contributions of food consumption patterns to climate change. Am J ClinNutr. 2009;89:1704S-1709S.

Drewnowski A, Darmon N, and Briend A. Replacing Fats and Sweets With Vegetables and Fruits: A Question of Cost. Am J Public Health. 2004:94(9):1555-1559.

Meatless Monday home page. Accessed November 12, 2012.

Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine home page. Accessed November 14, 2012.