By: Eve Nevelos, Editorial Staff ‘24

Since the start of the 21st century, vegetarianism and veganism have been on the rise due to an increase in concern about the global climate crisis. According to Stanford Children’s Health, an estimated 1 in 50 American teens and adolescents are vegetarian for religious, financial, or ethical reasons. Both environmentally and wellness wise, making a cut in the number of animal products consumed can make a world of difference. 

Benefits of participating in Meatless Mondays:

  • Increased consumption of vegetables: To make up for the protein and caloric loss of meat, vegetarians will reach for other plant-based protein sources like tofu, legumes, and lentils. According to a Frontiers study, vegetarians consume more magnesium, folates, vitamin C, and thiamin as a result of this!
  • Funding plant-based companies: When you buy a plant-based protein product, it tells companies that it’s a success and that they should continue to invest in that sector of business. When there are more plant-based options on the market, consumers will be more inclined to try products to their liking. 
  • Saving money: Yes, some vegetarian meat replacements can be ridiculously expensive- costing as much as 20 dollars per serving- but eating traditionally vegetarian can save consumers money. A serving of chicken, if bought whole, is about 90 cents, while a serving of chickpeas or black beans is more like 20 cents. 
  • Decreasing carbon footprint: Washington State University reports that “ […] each day you leave meat off your plate, you can reduce your carbon footprint by over 8 pounds […].” Vegetarian diets use twenty times fewer carbon emissions than meat-based ones. 
  • Encourages consumers to think about their food choices: Asking, “Where does my food come from?” is important, plant-based or not. Buying high-quality meats is likely better healthwise as well as being ethically sourced. Buying ethically produced products is important as it improves the prospects of this planet’s future and encourages better treatment of workers and farm animals. Anytime a barcode is scanned, it lets companies know to keep producing that item. The only way to create systemic change is to start with the consumer. 

If concerned about the effects of not consuming meat as an adolescent, Stanford Children’s Health says, “You need not fret about a child’s growth as long as you provide dairy and eggs, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes […],” however, teens should consult with their pediatrician or local dietician before deciding to go fully vegetarian/vegan. Eating a plant-based diet has been shown to actually improve teens’ mental health and increase their energy levels. Truly, eating less meat can vastly improve all aspects of health. 

In this world, it’s less about committing to going fully vegetarian, it’s more about reducing the consumption of animal products. Making a simple swap of soy milk for cow’s milk can make a difference. Michigan State University’s Jessica Yasser says, “I used to be a vegetarian, but I’m not anymore. […] Now I call myself a ‘reduce-atarian.’ I abstain from meat when eating at home, but I don’t limit myself when I eat out. I do this because I am convinced of the environmental benefits of avoiding meat, but sometimes I also crave a cheeseburger.” There shouldn’t be an ‘all or nothing’ attitude, it should be more of a ‘do what you can where you can’ attitude when it comes to reducing meat consumption.

For more information and recipe recommendations, visit mondaycampaigns.org/meatless-monday.