Meatless Monday: Can You? Should You?

Meat and potatoes (or rice or pasta) plus a veggie on the side is a pretty standard American diet.

So why should you rock your family’s world by making one day meat-free? (And it doesn’t have to be Monday!)

First, go meatless for health. Study after study has shown substantial benefits (less cancer, less heart disease) from diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables. If you replace the meat with veggies, you’re going to feel better and look better.

Meatless is better for the planet, which might not be a huge selling point for you, but your kids will embrace the idea. Raising cows, pigs and chickens requires vast amounts of imported oil and water. And in the summer when you can use local veggies, it’s really green.

Veggies are cheap! So you’ll save money.

You will be cool. Mario Batali, Dr. Oz and every super-skinny vegan celebrity out there will be your friend because you are supporting Meatless Monday with them. And even if they don’t invite you to their next soiree, you’ll still be on-trend and have something new to tweet about.

But how to accomplish this trendy, planet- and health-saving new menu without a rebellion at the dinner table?

1. Do not buy tofu! Your family will immediately sense that something is afoot and will start to ask questions. You’re dooming this experiment to failure if you serve blobby white stuff and call it dinner.

2. Monday is not mandatory. We have meatless Thursdays in our house because I shop on Sunday and want to use perishable meats early in the week.

3. Start with foods your family loves. Seems obvious, but if they love pasta center your veggie meals around pasta. But instead of serving spaghetti with meatballs, try this delicious Veggie Ravioli Casserole.

4. Keep the number of dishes the same. So if you’re doing Roasted Asian Veggies and rice, serve this Sunshine Salad with it so your family doesn’t think something’s missing (like meat).

5. Increase the Veggies. Don’t just increase the carbs (rice, potatoes and bread), double the veggies.

Now, what to make? Keeping #3 firmly in mind, here’s my short list of what I typically make on Meatless Thursdays.

Breakfast: our usual, cereal, milk and fruit

Lunch: PBJs, fruit, granola bars, trail mix for my kids; I make a salad with hummus and pita for myself

Dinner: Here are some family favorite, very non-weird entrees that are veggie centric (I don’t freak about using chicken stock, but you can make it totally vegetarian if you’re a pure soul):

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