Meatless Monday: Health Benefits

Meatless Monday (MM) is a nation-wide campaign to encourage people to give up meat one day out of the week to increase health, ecology, and economy. It’s also very achievable. You are only going one day a week without any meat. In turn, you will increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.(MM does not mean substituting meat for refined carbohydrates,  large quantities of full-fat cheese and peanut butter; it will add a significant amount of fat and calories to your diet. MM also does not mean for you to increase your intake of meat for the rest of the week.)

Here are a few health benefits from a vegetarian diet:
-Vegetarian diets often contain more fiber, potassium, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins associated with reduced risks of chronic and preventable diseases (diabetes, obesity).
-Generally, vegetarians maintain a healthier body weight (that is if they make good choices).
-Diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Whereas, red and processed meat consumption are linked to colon cancer.
-Studies have shown that countries with a higher intake of fat, especially fat from animal products, such as meat and dairy products, have a higher incidence of breast cancer.
– Fiber is only found in fruit and vegetables. Fiber makes you full on fewer calories, hence less overeating and greater weight control.

These are just a few of the many health benefits of a diet focused on fresh vegetables and fruits. Adopt to MM and see the results for yourself.

Vegetable “Lasagna”

-Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Vegetable Parmesan

I love this dish because it’s versatile and you can use any vegetables you have on hand. I like using “meaty” vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, and mushrooms. You can add a layer of no-boil-lasagna sheets for an extra bite and sustenance. I choose to substitute the lasagna sheets for slices of potatoes. Potatoes have fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. What I love about this dish is that it tastes better the next day and the days after…I make extra, so I don’t have to worry about cooking so much the rest of the week.  This dish isn’t heavy, cheesy, or saucy. Rather, it’s light,  satiating, and fresh! Another great thing about this dish is that I really am not cooking- the oven does all the work! Just chop, mix, assemble on a baking dish, throw it in the oven and forget about it for the next 40 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • Butter, for greasing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried basil or Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped chard, stem discarded
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thick slices
  • 1 medium potato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or  ricotta (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix salt, pepper and herbs. Coat the vegetables with this mixture.

Spoon 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the potato slices and then the eggplant slices on top of the marinara. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese  or spoon 1/2 cup of ricotta over the eggplant. Arrange the peppers first, tomatoes second, and then the zucchini in a single layer on top.  Spoon 3/4 cup of marinara sauce over the zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella/ricotta cheese. Arrange the chard and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Scatter the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, about 45 minutes.

Use a locally grown tomatoes for ultimate flavor

Ricotta or mozarella works well.

Rainbow Chard

Enjoy natures bounty!

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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7 thoughts on “Meatless Monday: Health Benefits

  1. I am a veg, but it is hard to stay full and choose healthy items..I end up eating a lot of bread and eat rice with stewed veggies that already lost it’s nutrients..
    I like the veggie lasanga item..what are other ways to make veggies appealing?

  2. You can choose to eat wild, brown rice, quinoa, and couscous, which all have protein, fiber, and vitamins which plain white rice lacks. The fiber and protein will keep you fuller longer. White rice is not bad if you pair it with nutritionally dense foods like curries, beans, legumes, etc. Ethnic foods are great at doing this! I love using quinoa, because it keeps you full and tastes goods. It’s also low in calories. Bread that only contains minimal ingredients and no added “crap” is the best. Which means you may have to step away from your grocery store to find good bread. Most breads add bleaching agents, strip the flour of its nutrients, then artificially add them back in, add hard to pronounce preservatives and sugars to the bread. Bread should simply be: flour, water, salt, and yeast. I actually had a side of good sour dough baguette with the lasagna today. Vegetables are best consumed in season, so you can actually taste and feel the difference. They are more fun to eat and you won’t be hesitant. Check out last week’s recipe on a gourmet meatless sandwich.

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