Cutting back on red meat has long been a strategy to reduce or manage heart disease. In fact, it was being diagnosed with heart disease that inspired renowned ad man Sid Lerner (of “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” fame) to put his advertising savvy into launching Meatless Monday as an international public heath campaign in 2003.
At Meatless Monday, we’ve learned of numerous additional ways that balanced diets low in red meat benefit our health: those to choose to eat less red meat also cut their risks of developing cancer, diabetes and obesity. We have also found at Meatless Monday that diets low in meat are a beneficial environmental choice, too, with meat production associated with issues such as excessive water use and greenhouse gas production.
As well, processed meat has been linked with ill health effects such as an increased risk of colorectal cancer, as the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization stated in a report released late last year.
Processed meats are meat products that have been transformed from their original state by techniques such as salting, curing or smoking. Sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts are all examples. Due to their sodium content, it’s no surprise that these foods also rank near the top of the American Heart Association’s “Salty 6,” and one 2-ounce serving can contribute as much as half of your recommended sodium intake for the day. And poultry, though typically considered an unprocessed meat, still ranks in the top six sodium-laden foods because sodium levels in poultry can vary based on preparation methods. You can look for products with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark to find foods that can be part of an overall healthy dietary pattern.
There are plenty of delicious, meatless substitutes for some of your favorite salty meats. Try one of these swaps this Monday, as some studies have suggested that it’s a good day to switch up your routine with a healthy new habit:
- Bacon with scrambled eggs, try an omelet loaded with savory vegetables like mushrooms and spinach.
- A ham sandwich, try a sandwich with hummus, tomato and alfalfa sprouts (use reduced-sodium 100% whole wheat bread).
- A salty snack like beef jerky, try a handful of unsalted nuts.
- Beef chili from a pub or fast food restaurant, try a vegetarian chili like this veggie-loaded option.
- Canned chicken soup, try making your own garbanzo bean stew. And, look for lower sodium option for your vegetable stock!
So give Meatless Monday a try, you may find it’s a weekly practice that helps you eat less meat, cut back on salt and discover delicious new vegetarian favorites to enjoy any day of the week!
Diana Rice is the registered dietitian on staff with Meatless Mondays.
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