Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some things to think about for Meatless Monday

Something to think about....

When I used to be pure veggie, people used to often ask me- as you may have already guessed -why? They'd also ask me things like, But, don't you like the taste of meat? Is that why you're so skinny? Do you ever feel FULL? Really ridiculous things to ask, I felt at the time, but I guess if you are not educated on where your food comes from, those are reasonable things to ponder.

Most Americans- most people in the world, in fact -are omnivores. And most omnivores don't care about where their meat comes from, as long as it's cooked right and tastes good. Sure, most people probably are at least somewhat aware of the health risks involved with eating meat, especially red meat and pork, but I think that even more people think it's a greater risk to not eat meat at all.

Case in point- when I was pregnant, I told my boss I was planning to raise my child vegetarian. He winced in obvious disagreement and told me he didn't think that was a good idea. His reason? Children just need meat to grow since meat provides certain proteins that other foods just don't have. I explained to him that this was simply not true, that for one thing, plenty of children (especially in parts of Asia) are raised purely vegetarian and have no health issues concerning a lack of protein or B vitamins since they eat plenty of eggs, beans, nuts and vegetables containing them to make up for it. Also, those children have much lower risks of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, and maintain a balanced weight and function just as well as any meat-eating child, in some cases probably better. My boss was at a lack of argument, and I realized after speaking to a few other people about it, that his concern was not singular. In fact, many people think that raising a child on a meat-free diet is a poor decision. Many of these people read Dr. Spock's works as well, but somehow must've missed the part where he recommended raising children vegan.

As I've written in a previous post, I was a vegetarian on and off for a long time, and I'm sure I'll get back on the completely meat-free bandwagon again someday. Yet, because I have not erradicated meat from diet again since giving birth, I decided it was only fair to allow my daughter to eat some meat as well. You should also know that we eat very little meat in my house, usually 1-3 times a week. Some weeks we don't eat meat at all, but might eat fish. And Lily is in the 75th percentile for weight and height and has no health concerns whatsoever.

What prompts me to suddenly go on a slight tangent about healthy meatless eating? Well, other than the fact that it's Meatless Monday, in a recent issue of my beloved Eating Well magazine, there was an article that included the image below.

It's taken from the Environmental Working Group's- who I've mentioned and referenced before -report for meat-eaters. The report covers the environmental and health-related circumstances surrounding each type of food we consume, going on to say that raising and processing meats, cheese and some fish emit the largest amount of greenhouse gases due to large intakes of fuel, pesticide usage, and feed, as well as other elements. The chart explains it in a clear and prompt manner, marking lamb as the most significant carbon footprint maker and lentils at the least (here's Nanny Rose's lentil soup recipe and my red curry in a hurry with lentils!).

Clearly, if you are a meat-eater who is also concerned about the environment, hopefully this chart and EWG's report will at least encourage you to make more well-informed choices about what you choose to eat. Lamb is a poor choice for so many reasons other than the ones the EWG lays out: not only is it the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but being a red meat, lamb is very fatty and high in cholesterol because- remember -this is the flesh of a baby animal, often just weaned from its mother. I don't know about you, but that has always been enough to turn me off from it. Sure, not all lamb is exactly infant meat, but lamb meat is usually taken from a sheep that is around 1 year old or less; in some countries I have been told the flesh of a lamb just weaned from it's mother is considered a delicacy. This just grosses me out on so many levels.

So, now learning that raising lamb as livestock leaves the largest carbon footprint, I am inspired to share with others who may be ignorant or uncaring to the origin of their food. I know lamb is not a common thing for most people to eat, and I will also admit that it actually does possess quite a bit of nutrition despite the fattiness, I would recommend if you are thinking about lowering your consumption of meat, removing lamb from your diet completely would be a great first step. Eating less steaks and cheeseburgers would be a good idea too!

Now, in honor of this important information brought to light, please enjoy this lovely Meatless Monday dish:
Fusilli and Asparagus with Creamy Lemon Sauce


8 oz package of fusilli
½ lb asparagus
1 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup light cream
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Lemon zest for topping + extra pepper

Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, rinse, trim and chop the asparagus into 1-2” sections; add the chopped asparagus to the pasta water right before you turn off the heat; allow the asparagus to sit in the water and blanche for about 1 minutes, then drain it all and return to pot.

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat, then sautee the garlic for about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch into the cup of water until it forms a white, pasty liquid, then mix into boiling broth until the mixture thickens; make and add more until it reaches desired consistency. Add the lemon juice and cream, cook for 1 minute then remove from heat. Allow sauce to cool for a minute, then add to the pasta and asparagus and mix in. Serve with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Delicious...this is a new favorite of ours,including Lily. Your kids should like it, but if they are a little picky about it, sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top too and that might give the dish an impression of an Italian-style mac 'n cheese.

For baby, serve up some mushy pasta with cheese. If baby is 8 months or older, serve them some asparagus too. Younger babies, especially those who are prone to gas, may not take well to the asparagus. Although asparagus benefits older digestive systems due to its large content of fiber, for younger digestive systems the fiber can be a little hard to digest and cause gasiness. Asparagus also contains a large amount of vitamin K and folate, as well as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Enjoy your Meatless Monday and day off if you have one for this "holiday." Take care of yourself and your family!

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