By Wendy Monro
As you may or may not know, I have seriously limited the amount of meat I consume. The more I read about food related health issues, the more determined I am to eat less meat. Recently, I watched the HBO series, "The Weight of the Nation," which reiterates the importance of rethinking the American diet. It wasn't until my eyes were opened to the harmful effects that excessive consumption of meat has on our bodies, that I realized how much meat I was really eating. I ate meat with each meal. I usually ate eggs for breakfast. Often, I ate a deli sandwich with meat for lunch. Then, dinner always revolved around some sort of meat: pork, chicken, steak, etc This all seemed very normal to me. In fact, I believe this is normal to most Americans.
Cooking dinners with less meat has been a struggle in my family. Well, only for my husband. My kids are vegetarians. I can take or leave meat. It really doesn't bother me. I love vegetables and could live my entire life without taking another bite of meat. Cheese, on the other hand, is my weakness. Sure, there are times when we are out to dinner and Claud orders an incredible cut of steak and offers me a bite. The smell of it gets to me and I will take a bite and love the flavor.
Tempeh tacoes topped with cabbage, cheese and avocado.
Also, it is hard for me to resist the smell of the rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. Other than that, I really don't need it or care about it much. I know this isn't normal. People really do love meat. Dr. David Kessler, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration wrote, "The End of Overeating." In this book, he discusses various brain studies, which were conducted to help people understand the phenomenon of, what he termed, "conditioned hyper-eating." Kessler claims that this drives people to gorge on high fat foods and drains our willpower to resist. Neuroscientists discovered that high fat foods excite dopamine receptors in the brain similar to those initiated by drugs and alcohol. Ahhh'this explains why, the other night, I was sneaking pieces of cheese every so often from the refrigerator, like an addict. I don't know whom I was hiding from. I am the only person who cares about how much cheese I eat.
The good news is, you can retrain your brain! You can take tiny steps toward retraining your brain to resist the over consumption of high fat foods. In Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs takes the reader on his journey to become the healthiest person he can be. This idea came to him after he spent the night in a hospital while on a family vacation. He decided that his overweight, non-exercising, poor eating self needed some help. Slowly but surely he began eating more vegetables and whole grains, walking more, and losing weight while lowering his cholesterol. He learned that eating too much meat increases the risk of contracting preventable diseases. He limits his meat consumption to fish on two days of the week. I believe it is important to take things slowly. I wouldn't recommend to someone who loves meat to just quit cold turkey (pun intended). Instead, I suggest becoming a part of a worldwide phenomenon known as "Meatless Mondays."
Meatless Mondays began in World War I. The U.S. Food Administration asked the American public to decrease consumption of meat to help with the war effort. Because of this campaign, ten million families pledged to go meatless on Mondays. In 1917, New York City hotels saved 116 tons of meat over one week. By 1929, according to a Saturday Evening Post article, "Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse - frequently for the better." The campaign was a success during WWI and was reinitiated in WWII.
Time: ten minutes
2 whole-wheat tortillas
1 8 oz package of tempeh with whole grain or another meat substitute
1 package of taco seasoning or sauce
1/2 cup vegan or regular cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 avocado, diced
In a pan, heat the tempeh and add taco sauce. Heat the tortillas over a gas flame for a couple seconds or in the microwave for a few seconds. Fill the tortilla with tempeh, cheese, cabbage and avocado.
In 2003, Sid Lerner introduced the campaign again, only this time as a public health awareness campaign. He knew that the research shows how eating less meat helps to prevent illness. This movement has become a worldwide phenomenon with different institutions and even cities pledging to go meatless on Mondays. Thirty schools of public health have also endorsed "Meatless Mondays". Why not become part of this movement? It's easy - just one day a week. See how it goes. I bet in no time, you may start adding more meatless days of the week without even noticing it.
A good way to get started is to try out some of the meat substitutes in the grocery store. You wouldn't believe how good they taste. My newest craze has been to substitute tempeh for ground meat. Tempeh, originating in Indonesia, is cooked soybeans and is formed into a patty. You can break it up and cook it like ground meat. Some brands of tempeh add whole grains and flavors. Tempeh is high in protein and calcium.
A few days ago, I needed to make a quick lunch. I grabbed the tempeh, tossed it into a pan with some taco sauce, heated a tortilla, chopped a few vegetables and voila, lunch was finished in ten minutes and it was delicious. There are other varieties of ?ground beef? substitutes in your grocery store. You will be surprised at how closely they resemble the flavor of beef. It makes it easy to retrain your brain.