DC Refined: Everything you need to know about #MeatlessMondays

From DC Refined by Lani Furbank:

“There’s nothing new under the sun, and Meatless Mondays are no exception. What may seem like a new trend actually dates back all the way to World War I. In order to aid the war effort, families were urged to reduce their consumption of important staples like meat, wheat, sugar, and fats. More than 13 million families signed a pledge to take part in these conservation efforts. The campaign was instituted again during World War II.

Meatless Monday as we know it today was revived in 2003 thanks to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. It’s now a public health campaign that encourages Americans to reduce their meat consumption to lower their risk of preventable conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

A study by the National Cancer Institute found that people who ate significant amounts of red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die during a 10-year period than those who ate very little. The Mayo Clinic reports that vegetarians generally weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who eat meat.

There are also environmental benefits to reducing meat consumption. Meat has a high carbon footprint because it is energy intensive to produce. An average meat eater’s 2,000 Calorie diet results in twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as an average vegan’s 2,000 Calorie diet. Therefore, reducing meat consumption is one of the most efficient ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Eating less meat is also easier on the wallet when you hit the grocery store.

If you’re considering joining the Meatless Monday movement, not to worry – skipping meat doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or protein. Chef Todd Gray of Equinox and Chef Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers and Fare Well are two of the city’s most respected authorities on cooking without meat, and they shared their expertise with us.

Why do you personally choose to avoid meat?

Todd Gray: I still eat meat, but less than I used to. My wife, Ellen, was a big influence on me. She hasn’t eaten meat in 22 years.

Doron Petersan: Avoiding animal products keeps me from adding to the harm being done to the environment and to each animal. I can make a difference at every meal by choosing to eat “without harm.” Selfishly, I also enjoy gloating after my yearly physicals. It’s the only report card I’ve ever received with all As. I put my body through the ringer running two restaurants (while keeping up with my five-year-old). My doctor credits my vegan diet for helping me keep up with my lifestyle.

How can vegetarians and vegans get enough protein?

DP: Nuts, peas, leafy greens, broccoli, legumes, and tempeh all pack more than enough complete proteins, and provide added benefits like soluble fiber, b-vitamins, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats.

For people who are hardcore carnivores, what are some of the best ways to find satisfaction and umami without meat?

DP: My magic ingredients often include garlic, onion, porcini powder, and powdered sun-dried tomatoes. I make bases for most dishes with some combination of the above, and then layer vegetables that pick up flavors or complement them, such as cauliflower, mushroom, quinoa, or cannellini beans.

How do you ensure that meat-free dishes are just as delicious and flavorful as meat dishes?

TG: Chefs who consume meat understand the depth of flavor that animal protein can provide, so they can recreate those textures and flavors. I use good, concentrated vegetable stock, miso, lots of rich spices and seasonings (like fresh turmeric root), seaweed, potato and tapioca starch to emulate eggs, nuts and nut milk or cream, flax seed, and nutritional yeast. Also, bananas are great for baking — they add sweetness and viscosity.

DP: Think of all the things you enjoy eating and why. Oftentimes the enjoyment is much more about the seasonings and sauces rather than just the meat.

What are some of the best meat substitutes that don’t sacrifice flavor?

TG: Mushrooms are very hearty texture-wise. I like to reconstitute dried morel mushrooms. A lot of the ancient grains, like bulgur, couscous, and farro. Beans are also very versatile and hearty.

DP: My favorite brand of meat substitute is Field Roast. They never disappoint.”

Read the rest of the article and check out the recipes here!

Featured photo courtesy of Equinox.