Nutrition Corner: Save money and the planet with ‘Meatless Mondays’

July 29th, 2015 1:01 pm

Looking to save some money on your food bill? Want to lessen your carbon foot print and eat a bit healthier? Here is an easy concept to try to follow: Keep dinners on Monday meatless. It sounds easier than it is, especially if you tend to eat out on Mondays.

It took me some time to fully understand all the reasoning behind “Meatless Mondays.” First and foremost, it can be healthier to eat meatless one day a week. To reduce the risk of heart disease it is important to reduce saturated fats in our diet. Most saturated fats come from animal products. If we count the number of days in a week (7) and divide it by 100 percent, one day a week equals almost 15 percent. Most health professionals would like us to reduce our saturated fat by 15 percent. Likewise, the USDA recommends that 3/4 of our plate be from plant-based foods such as grains, vegetables and fruits. Only 1/4 should come from meats.

Second, non-animal sources of protein like beans and soy are less expensive than animal sources. If you change to a bean-based meal on Mondays, you can potentially reduce your food bill. Everyone wants to save money. Learning how to prepare tasty meatless meals can be a challenge, but there are lots of resources to help.

Last but not least is the difference that you can make on the environment. According to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003, to produce 1 calorie from beef requires 25 calories of fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas. However, it only takes 2.2 calories from fossil fuels to make one calorie from grains. It costs less fossil fuel to turn plants into protein than animals.

Choosing just Mondays to be meatless can not only help you eat healthier, but it can save you money as well reducing your carbon foot print. These are only a few reasons, there are many more.

Does your family ask “What’s for Dinner?” If they do, answer with “a casserole” next Monday. Here is a great recipe to get you started.

Caribbean Casserole

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes, unsalted

1 can (15 1/2 oz.) black beans, low-sodium, drained and rinsed

1 tsp oregano, dried

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked or minute-rice

Sauté onions and bell pepper in canola oil until tender. Do not brown. Add tomatoes (including liquid), beans, and oregano and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice and cover. Reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at