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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Meatless Mondays


Recently you may have heard of a new movement in the school lunch programs, referred to as Meatless Mondays. Using a marketing dichotomy targeted at adolescents, Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative that encourages eliminating meat from your diet every Monday of every week.

I have a problem with this idea of eliminating one food group in meals served to school-aged children for the following simple reasons:

  1. I think the aim should be to teach children to make healthy eating decisions every day. Healthy, square meals include moderated servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. I don't like the idea of trying to teach children this concept, by eliminating one of the food groups on one day of the week. We all, and especially children, need all of the food groups EVERY DAY of the week.
  2. Budgets drive school lunch menu decisions, and we'd all like to see meal options improve in schools, however eliminating a major protein source from the meal is not the answer. Students need nutritious meals to fuel their activities throughout the day and that includes a meal with meat.
  3. Ounce for ounce, meat provides more vitamins and minerals than any other food products. Nutrient dense food products like beef, which provides zinc, iron, protein and Vitamin B12, should be included in a healthy lunch.
These are the three reasons that I don't agree with the promotion of Meatless Mondays and I am some of you have an opinion on the matter. Pro or con, let me know what you think about this initiative in schools across the US. Leave some comments and good discussion!

All my best,

Tera Rooney

3 comments:

  1. Tera,

    In response to each of your points:

    1. Meat is not a food group on the food pyramid. The USDA uses the category meat/beans. Others view this category as "protein." Meatless Monday therefore does not remove a food group from any meal.

    2. Meals without meat can be just as nutritious as those with meat, especially when considered in the framework of one week worth of meals. Many families find that eating less meat is an easy way to cut down on food costs. Meatless Monday can help students see healthy meatless meals as an option once they are on their own, rather than resorting to cheap processed foods that are calorie dense but nutritionally empty.

    3. Meat may provide many vitamins and minerals, but so do many non-meat options. Furthermore, the meat that is served in many school cafeterias is so highly processed that I don't believe it's valid to compare it to more nutrient-dense meat sources. Finally, Meatless Monday does not call for the removal of meat from school menus entirely, simply on one day of the week. A healthy vegetarian meal one day a week would surely provide as many nutrients as the chicken crispitos and super nachos that are frequently on the meal in our school cafeteria.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  2. I appreciate the comment and discussion on the topic. I think it is a good way to generate other viewpoints to form a more informed opinion.

    Bottom line, meat or no meat, Monday or Thursday, I think we could all agree on one thing - the school lunch program could use improvement. I don't have the answers on that one and wish there were easier ones to sort out in order to benefit the overall nutrition of school-aged children.

    I would also have to agree that chicken crispitos and tater tots, while probably inexpensive and a crowd favorite, don't belong on the menu in a perfect system.

    I hope some more people leave their thoughts!!!

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  3. Personally I prefer "More Meat Monday." After struggling for years with some really strange health issues I've learned that protein is the answer. Because I'm a hypoglycemic, I need to have large amounts of animal protein all day long.

    For me there apparently is no amount of soy, whey or plant protein that I can absorb in a way that keeps my blood sugar regulated. Believe me I've tried everything.

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