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You have likely heard the phrase “meatless Monday” at some point in recent years. Food blogs and magazines provide countless recipes to make your meatless Monday a success and it is a simple way to enrich your diet with just a few more vegetables each week. But, did you know the concept dates back over 100 years?

During the First World War, the U.S. Food Administration urged people to change their diets — consuming fewer staples — in order to provide more food for our troops. “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were both introduced as a way to encourage home cooks to remove meat and wheat items from the daily menu on their respective days. It worked — more than 13 million Americans signed a pledge to do their part on Mondays and Wednesdays. The campaign returned during WWII for the same reason — for Americans to conserve food on the homefront so troops would have what they needed overseas. The campaign continued during the post-war years to help feed war-ravaged Europe.

In 2003, “Meatless Mondays” was reintroduced as a public health awareness campaign by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. This campaign focused on reducing excessive meat consumption which could cause preventable illnesses. At the time, Americans were eating 221.9 pounds of meat per person each year. That was 75 more pounds than in generations past and it was beginning to cause health problems. “One day a week, cut out meat” was used to encourage people to do something good for their own health.

The message continues today and has grown into a global movement. However, even with this popular message, meat consumption is still high. Americans were estimated to eat a record-breaking 222.2 pounds of meat per person in 2018. Maybe it is time to take another look at Meatless Mondays!

Going without meat does not mean you have to stare at a dinner plate full of boring, lifeless vegetables and a slice of bread. The Internet abounds with fabulous recipes to help you start on this one-day-a-week cooking adventure. In fact, if you think of it as an adventure, you will undoubtedly be more successful. Barring any dietary restrictions, going meatless can yield some surprisingly tasty results.

Recipes as simple as meatless nachos and pizzas to the more complex creamy risottos to ethnic dishes like Shakshuka are great ways to cut out meat. If you cook for kids, fritters and pasta dishes might be the way to go. Sweet stuffed crepes for breakfast, a hearty salad for lunch, and shells stuffed with cheesy spinach filling baked in spicy marinara make for a pretty good Monday.

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Niki Davis can be reached at rootedinfoods@gmail.com. You can find more recipes and food history on her blog Rooted In Foods at www.rootedinfoods.com.

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