On going “meatless”

Despite the ridiculously warm weather we’ve been having in NYC, there hasn’t been much running going on in these parts since my last post.

Sadz. The hamstring still isn’t feeling horrible, but it’s not 100% and I really want it to get better before I get back to regular training. So I’ve been swimming and spinning like a fool while pretending I’m on the bridle path watching the sunrise (this is hard when you’re mistakenly inhaling chlorinated water). Good thing I have a very active imagination.

Going meatless?
Have you heard of “Meatless Mondays“? It was started in 2003 by The Monday Campaigns, in association with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is fairly well-known in the nutrition world.

Basically, the goal is to go “meatless” once a week for two reasons: reduce your risk of chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity; and at the same time reduce your carbon footprint.

I’ve always brushed off the whole “meatless” idea because I think eating lean meats like chicken, turkey or fish are the best way to get high quality protein, which is kind of important when you’re running lots of miles and your muscles need to rebuild themselves after every workout.

Salciccia (sausage) pizza from a Monday night date with Susan at Keste. Not meatless. Delicious.

BUT, there are days that go by when I don’t eat meat, and a lot of my favorite recipes and restaurants are actually vegetarian or vegan.

Vegan lasagna from Candle Cafe.

I think it’s totally possible to get adequate protein without meat, you just need to think about it a bit more, like:

  • Beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, lentils)
  • Low fat dairy
  • Soy-based products (tofu, milk, edamame)
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Eggs
  • Seitan

Recently Meatless Mondays has been getting some attention in mainstream news, and a study published this week found people that eat more red meat have a higher risk of dying at an early age. People that eat a lot of processed meats, like hot dogs and bacon, had an even higher risk of early death.

Why? Red meats have a high saturated fat content, which increases risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Cooking red meat at high temperatures can also produce dangerous carcinogens.

Mark Bittman recently wrote a piece about reducing consumption of inhumanely raised, dirty/disease ridden and unhealthful chicken in favor of fake vegetarian meats both for our health and the environment (and the chickens!). I’m not a big fan of fake meats – they’re expensive and can have lots of additives/preservatives – but he (like always) made some great points about the benefits of going “meatless” sometimes.

What do I think? Everything in moderation. I’m definitely going to be more conscious about where my chicken comes from when I buy it, and maybe give the fake stuff another go if the ingredients are all pronounceable. But I’m still going to enjoy a nice, juicy steak every now and again, probably just as much as I like my favorite vegetarian recipes and foods.

Sweet potato black bean chili

I’m curious again. Are you a vegetarian? If not, do you ever have a “meatless” day? Thoughts on going “meatless”?

26 thoughts on “On going “meatless”

  1. Meggie

    Not a vegetarian, but definitely have meatless days unintentionally.

    While I’m not advocating eat red meat every day, my only issue with that study is that a lot of the time, red meat comes along with OTHER unhealthy side dishes – fries, onion rings, etc. I think it’s unfair to say that only red meat is the culprit unless they controlled for other factors. I definitely wouldn’t advertise eating red meat every day or even many times a week, as it does increase the risk of those diseases you mentioned in addition to colon cancer. I don’t think a steak or burger every now and then is going to cause you to die early, if you follow other “best practices” – exercise, good diet beyond the red meat, etc.

    But, maybe I’m wrong…

    1. Anonymous

      Oh definitely, I’m sure some of the people studied had other factors that may have contributed to earlier deaths. But it’s not saying you’ll die if you eat one burger! The study look at people over a lot of years.

  2. Sarah

    I am a vegetarian but I don’t find it too difficult to avoid meat, despite the fact that I eat 1/2 my meals in a college cafeteria. I’m a huge fan of beans and lentils and I don’t eat a lot of fake meat because it’s so processed. I think that as long as you’re aware and make an effort to include protein in every meal (greek yogurt for the win!), it’s not hard to go your entire life without eating meat. Plus, veggies are so much more interesting and colorful!

  3. Anonymous

    Interesting food for thought hehe pun intended. I’m not vegetarian, but 99% of what I cook at home is meat free.

    In any event, that sausage pizza from Keste looks amazing!! I still haven’t been ther :/

  4. Runthelongroad

    I don’t eat a ton of meat – I mostly stick to chicken – so going meatless would be feasible. We already eat pizza every Monday night so i have meatless Mondays down!!!

  5. Betsy

    I am a vegetarian and am a huge advocate of going meatless! I haven’t had red meat since I was probably 14, and have been a full veggie for about 7 years. Vegetarian meals (if you eat properly, not just grilled cheese and french fries) are so healthy and good for you, and I wish there was more mainstream acceptance of them. It is sometimes hard to convince people that having meatless meals gives you enough nutrients and that a hunk of meat doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of the plate. Eating vegetarian is healthy, cheap and delicious. Go meatless!

  6. Sna1102

    Over the past few years I’ve significantly reduce my red meat consumption to once or twice a month. I started noticing that my digestive system was not happy for several days after eating red meat and the discomfort wasn’t worth it Most of my life seafood has made me violently ill, so that wasn’t an option. But this weekend I was so sick of chicken that I picked up some wild Alaskan salmon and grilled it. It was amazing and I didn’t get sick (hallelujah). I felt so full but not icky. From now on we’ll be doing meatless days and fish days each week. Have to turn my “meat and potatoes” husband into a veggie slowly.

    1. Anonymous

      I’m glad you liked the salmon! you’ll have to keep me posted about the transition for aaron…haha :)

  7. Kimra

    I’m like Megan — I’m not vegetarian, but I don’t often cook meat at home. I’m also not a big fan of “grilled meat/fish on a plate with X side dish” — but that’s more about my flavor preferences than any kind of environmental/health/sustainability issue. If I’m going to eat meat/seafood, it’s got to be more creative than that! I’ve never been a fan of steak or pork chops for that reason, but pulled pork in a sandwich? Gimme.

    I’m pretty picky about the meat and fish I’ll eat, but I’m lucky/spoiled in San Francisco that using “better” meat/seafood is the norm.

  8. Jess

    Great post! I eat meatless most of the time but occasionally I’ll make fish. I suck at cooking meat, so I only have it once in a while at a restaurant or if someone else makes it. Last week, I shared some pizza that had brussels sprouts and pancetta on it, and it was divine.

  9. Ali

    I love meat and fish, but I dislike chicken. Blech. Also, I have this cute friend who takes me to Vegan restaurants, and so I just follow her lead 😉

  10. AmandaRunsNY

    I am basically a vegetarian. I eat meat perhaps once a week, and I don’t really eat much dairy either. Ironically, when I do eat meat I don’t feel good when running the next day…although this could be that my system isn’t really used to it anymore and I have heard that vegetarians lose a lot of the enzymes necessary to digest meat after time.

  11. Laura

    I am a vegetarian runner which actually started in college when I was a rower. My reasons for going meatless is for ethical as well as nutritional reasons. My main issue is really against the mass-produced meat in this country – that has the most environmental and nutritional consequences! I actually went back to eating chicken for about a year since it is healthy and delicious, but I’ve really just decided meat is not for me! I definitely do a lot of cooking with quinoa and garbanzo beans – but occasionally I make a fake sausage biscuit if I am craving something savory!

    1. Anonymous

      The mass produced meat is concerning to me too. I forget about it until I read articles like Bittman’s!

  12. Michelle Marie

    i’m with mark bittman: “fake meat” products are definitely grosser than the real thing. especially when the real thing is happy free range grass-fed organic feed etc. thing. (but i still don’t eat it!)

    and man, i don’t take if it’s in the 70s this week, i NEED to make that sweet potato black bean chili.

    1. Anonymous

      I think the temp is the only thing holding me back from making it this week! And I kind of want it to get chili again just once more…

  13. Susan

    I’m like Megan…I can’t remember the last time I cooked meat. I’m not totally sure why I stopped, other than the fact that raw meat kind of skeeves me out and I realized that a can of beans is much, much cheaper than buying meat. The less I eat more, the less good it ends up tasting and I realize I don’t really like chicken all that much. That being said, a burger really hits the spot now and then.

    I know some people are ingrained in the idea that they HAVE to have meat to make a meal, but it’s really easy to go meatless.

  14. Kace

    Do my Lenten meatless Fridays count? ha. I need to eat meat since there’s so little else I can have. As much fun as it would be to live off carbs and peanut butter, I think I need to mix it up a bit!

  15. Anonymous

    I have been a vegetarian my whole life…like literally have never eaten meat. So every day is meatless for me. Sometimes I wonder if I get enough protein, but the body actually doesn’t need that much protein. One thing it does need it iron, something I did find I wasn’t getting enough of. Iron helps running. :) And probably a lot of other things too…

  16. Emily

    Nah. I don’t eat much meat. Doesn’t interest me. I never crave it nor do I know how to make it. Sometimes I’ll make turkey meatloaf/meatballs or chick sausage. When I’m at my parents, I’ll eat turkey and chicken. That’s all. Fish, that’s another story. I love fish and seafood.


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