With approximately 40 percent of Americans gearing up to make their New Year’s resolutions, you might have had it on your mind. Many resolutions pertain to health and wellness. What better way to stick to your resolution than to do to together as a family? While you might not be ready to take on an entirely different way of eating, making small changes can bring about great benefits. If you have toyed with the idea of cutting back on meat in your diet, one way you can do this is to dedicate just one day each week to eating meatless. For the sake of alliteration, as well as to make the beginning of your week a bit simpler, what about deciding as a family that 2016 will be the year of Meatless Mondays?
The benefits of reducing your overall meat consumption range from health benefits to financial benefits. Choosing to focus the meals of one day each week can help you lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It also sets a good example for your kids and can encourage them to eat more veggies, legumes and whole grains. Since these foods are usually less expensive than meat, your wallet will thank you, too. t.
So, what can you feed your family if you’re avoiding meat for a day? Here are a few ideas:
Many families do not eat meat for breakfast anyway, but if you like to serve sausage and bacon, there are plenty of ways to get a protein-packed start to the day without relying on heavily processed and salted meats. Eggs are an easy alternative. For even less hassle, boil enough for one or two breakfasts over the weekend and serve them chilled!
You can also cook up some oatmeal, stirring in a handful of nuts and some dried or fresh fruit. A yogurt smoothie (or just vanilla yogurt mixed with berries or sliced bananas) is another option that will provide protein. Do avoid sugary cereals first thing in the morning, as they won’t have staying power and you will likely be hungry before lunch.
If you typically make cold-meat sandwiches for your crew at lunchtime, this might take some planning. How about a cold pasta salad made with whole-wheat pasta and mixed with veggies like crisp-tender broccoli, sliced olives, shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes? Add Italian salad dressing or a dollop of mayonnaise, and serve with a few crackers and cheese slices.
Another fun lunch for kids might be celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese. Add raisins to make them “ants on a log.” You could also mix up a peanut butter dip (add a few drops of honey to a small cup of peanut butter) for dipping apple slices, baby carrots and pretzels.
A meatless dinner does not have to rely on pasta (though there are many excellent pasta-and-vegetable dishes that you could try, including those with red sauces or Alfredo sauce). You could whip up a quiche by mixing eggs with baking powder, a bit of flour, cheese, and whatever vegetables you have in the crisper. You could also make homemade vegetarian pizza (try mushrooms, olives, sliced peppers or even pineapple as toppings!) or a kid-friendly take on bruschetta: Toast sliced Italian bread in the oven for a few minutes, drizzle with olive oil, then let each person add his or her favorite toppings, such as chopped tomatoes and basil, marinated artichoke hearts, and caramelized onions and garlic cloves.
You can also experiment with dishes that rely on legumes. Make vegetarian chili with kidney and black beans or toasted lentils sprinkled liberally over a big green salad. Homemade soups like broccoli and cheddar or minestrone might become new family favorites, too. Serve with sourdough bread and salad or raw veggies.
Once you begin eating meatless once per week, you might like it so much that you decide to add in other meatless days or meatless meals. Enjoy the benefits of cutting down on your meat consumption and serve your children healthy meals that will make them smile at the same time!