On June 28th, Acacia Courtney was crowned Miss Connecticut. Her personal platform is “The Monday Campaigns: A Guide to a Healthier World,” a platform we’re completely behind. Last week, Acacia stopped by Monday Campaigns HQ to answer questions, take some photos, and meet the staff.
Meatless Monday: First, congratulations on a winning the Miss Connecticut Crown. How did it feel, what was going through your head at the time?
Acacia Courtney: Thank you! It was a very surreal moment. This was my fourth year competing at the state level in the Miss America Organization, and even though I felt that I was ready to do the job of Miss Connecticut, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When I heard my name called, it was a beautiful instant full of shock, joy, and an overwhelming sense of excitement and gratitude. It felt very surreal, and yet, at the same time it also felt right. I am someone who has grown up through the Miss America Organization, and I am beyond honored to have the chance to serve my state.
MM: Calling the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Program a “pageant” isn’t really enough is it? It’s more: for one, it’s a scholarship program and it’s also a forum for you to give voice to the issues (regional or global) that concern you. Beyond the ‘pageantry’, can you tell us a bit about what the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Program is all about?
AC: While we only see the contestants onstage during the final night of competition, so much of what the Miss America Organization truly is actually takes place in the months leading up to the pageant. The organization has labeled the four points of the crown as service, scholarship, success, and style, and we all strive to embody these characteristics every day. Each contestant has a personal platform that she promotes and advocates for, and each contestant is very involved in her community. The program expects a high level of academic achievement, and in turn makes available more than $45 million in scholarships each year. In addition, contestants work on a talent that they perform. All of the women that compete for the job of Miss Connecticut and Miss America are well-rounded role models who make a difference in the world around them.
The Miss Connecticut Scholarship Program has given me so much as a contestant, and as a young woman determined to succeed in the “real world.” The connections I have made, relationships I have formed, and opportunities I have been given have helped prepare me for college, internships, and a professional career.
MM: Why did you choose to run on “The Monday Campaigns: A Guide to a Healthier World”? And can you tell us your goal for Meatless Monday and your goal for Move It Monday?
AC: I chose to promote “The Monday Campaigns: A Guide to a Healthier World” as my platform because I want to be a part of changing the way we approach the concept of health. I am very aware of the obesity epidemic in the United States and have observed that there is an extreme disconnect between the farm and the plate—eating has become mindless and routine. I personally do not eat meat and am very active, but I love the Monday Campaigns because they advocate for small, easy-to-adopt changes that can make it easier for people to implement in their everyday lives.
My top goal for Meatless Monday right now is to create a citywide Meatless Monday resolution in both Hartford and New Haven, two of Connecticut’s biggest cities. I have followed the development of a similar initiative in Philadelphia, PA, and I believe that eatless Monday could be incredibly successful here in CT. I am excited to see what we can do and how I might leave this as one of my legacies as Miss Connecticut 2014.
For Move It Monday, I am working on planning various fundraising events throughout the state of Connecticut that will encourage exercise and physical activity. Zumba fundraisers, walks, and runs all have provided an opportunity to raise funds and to spread the word about Move It Monday. I also understand the power of social media in creating a weekly Monday challenge for followers and potential followers. I am very passionate about sharing Meatless Monday and Move It Monday, and the tremendous benefits of both campaigns.
MM: Can you share your favorite recipe for a Meatless Monday dish?
AC: My mom makes an unbelievable kale and bean soup! It’s just a tablespoon of olive oil, chopped garlic, onion, kale, and tomatoes, vegetable stock, navy beans, and some seasoning. It’s easy, filling, healthy, and vegan!
MM: How do you “move it” on Mondays?
AC: Dancing is my favorite way to move it on Mondays! I am a classically trained ballerina (ballet en pointe will be my talent for Miss America), but I also study jazz, musical theater, and international ballroom. I always suggest dance classes to those looking for ways to incorporate Move It Monday into their daily lifestyle because it is so fun that it often doesn’t feel like exercise. Dancing is a great way to express yourself, meet new people, and stay fit and healthy.
MM: Where do you see yourself in five years?
AC: My dream job is to be a sports broadcaster specializing in horse racing. In five years I see myself working for NBC Sports Network as a broadcaster and trackside analyst in the horse racing industry. In addition, I also plan to continue promoting Meatless Monday and Move It Monday as a speaker and ambassador, sharing my commitment to the creation of a healthier world.
It’s summer and farmers’ markets everywhere are flooded with locally grown fresh produce, herbs, flowers and breads. Diana Rice, our resident Meatless Monday Registered Dietitian, took me a guided tour through the Greenmarket in Union Square, NYC. And being an opportunist, I resolve to leverage her expert opinion to plan a dinner.
To impose a little order, I decide to limit myself to $20. It’s the peak of summer, and without such restrictions, I could end up sore-backed and–with all the choices–sore of wallet. She alleviates my financial woes immediately; I wouldn’t be spending $20 on this meal. The Greenmarket in Union Square is a year-round farmers’ market with over 230 family farms and fishermen participants.
At the first stand, we find “the center of the plate” vegetable—the hearty eggplant. People are often stuck in the rut of eggplant parmesan, but really the eggplant is quite versatile, according to Diana. The smaller, narrower varieties (such as Chinese eggplant) are typically great for stir-fries, while the bigger ones are great for baking or grilling. At this point I’m not certain what my meal will turn into so I go with a bigger Sicilian eggplant—and as I’m not a purist in the kitchen, I’m not worried that this decision will determine the direction of my meal.
Next we add a yellow tomato to the basket. Diana mentions that a big difference between the tomatoes from the grocery store versus the tomatoes at a farmers’ market is that the grocery store tomatoes are bred for appearance; color and roundness matter. At local markets, the old adage, “the uglier, the more flavorful” may be a better approach.
Then we add both a green and a yellow zucchini. She tells me the carotenoids and antioxidants are largely responsible for the orange-yellow color of the yellow zucchini (or yellow squash, if you prefer). But this doesn’t mean that the green squash is lacking in carotenoids and antioxidants, just that the green pigment overwhelms the yellow-orange color.
We check the onions. “This time of year, you never know what you’ll find from one stand to the next.” Diana says, “I always like to do a quick sweep of the offerings before I make final decision.” This is a smart way to combat the dilemma of too many delicious fresh produce options.
The meal is starting to come together, at least loosely. It’s looking like there will be a pasta or grain with fried eggplant and veggies and that there will also be a salad to put the tomato to good use.
At the next stand there are many varieties of lettuce. We decide to go with arugula—it’s more peppery, more bitter than a lot of the other varieties. And what better way to complement that flavor with a little sweet. We head to another vendor to select two peaches. And as almost an afterthought, we also pick up some fresh basil. Later this basil will become the flavor-thread that ties the salad and the main course together.
The total bill ended up being under $12 and with what I picked up at the market and the few spices and pasta I had at home, I fed 4.
Diana’s farmer market tips
• Try things you might not find in grocery stores: heirloom tomatoes, patty pan squash; these options often don’t hold up well over long periods of transport since they’re bred for taste, not durability
• You can always ask the booth attendant for tips on what to cook with unique offerings
• If possible, do a full sweep of the market to see what most appeals to you before you start making purchases
• If one item is priced higher at one booth than the next, there might be a good reason: organic growing methods, a more flavorful, yet harder to cultivate varietal…you can always ask!
Sharon Palmer would like more people to fall in love with vegetables. With the release of her new book, Plant-Powered For Life, Palmer continues the conversation she started with The Plant-Powered Diet and brings her whole food, plant-based philosophy into the kitchen. A registered dietitian, editor of the award-winning newsletter Environmental Nutrition and a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, Sharon thinks everyone can benefit from setting weekly goals, eating more food that’s ‘close to the earth,’ and, simply enough, by planting a small kitchen garden.
Meatless Monday: Your new book, Plant Powered For Life, is organized into 52 simple habits that people can incorporate into their lifestyle week after week. Let’s say… every Monday.
Sharon Palmer: Exactly. The idea behind Plant Powered For Life is: what if you could condense everything you needed to know into 52 easy rules. Some people will want to read the entire book at once, but some may want to take smaller steps. The way it’s set up, you can achieve 52 healthy habits slowly, over a long period of time. And by the end, you would really be enjoying a whole-foods, plant-based lifestyle.
MM: And each of the habits is very simple to act on. From “Be Picky About Carbs” to “Foster Friendly Bacteria” to “Put Real Foods First,” these are small changes that anyone can incorporate into their lifestyle right away. And then, each tip is followed by a few recipes so we can put it into action.
SP: Yes, the recipes really help illustrate each of the 52 habits. For instance, one the habits is “Take Meat Off The Center of Your Plate.” The tip discusses some of the issues of our increased consumption of meat. And then we include a few recipes, like Tofu Mushroom Tacos and an Arugula Salad Pizza, to help the reader act on the tip.
MM: I like your opening line. You ask people to “fall in love with plants.”
SP: Yes. And this is a generalization, but people have lost their appreciation for how beautiful plant foods are. Throughout human history, we have enjoyed plants, either by foraging or by having a kitchen garden at home. People have relied on plants to add color and flavor, but as the majority of us now live in cities, we have lost our connection with the earth. I think chefs are doing a lot in this area to bring us back. Many chefs are completely focused on vegetables, on shopping at farmers’ markets, on using the freshest ingredients. So it’s happening in the culinary world. I hope more people start getting back to this connection we have with the earth.
MM: Let’s discuss the importance of making goals. For anyone trying to make positive dietary changes, the first tip you offer is: “Create Your Own Plant-Powered Goal.”
SP: I think people do really well with setting goals. My idea behind this was based on a survey done by the Vegetarian Resource Group. They found that 47% of Americans are eating vegetarian meals at least once a week. So if someone wants to eat a more whole foods, plant-based diet, you want to create your own goal. For some people, the goal might be to simply eat more vegetarian meals in a week. If you’re a vegetarian already, you might want to try vegan meals for a short time. If you’re an omnivore and you never considered giving up meat, you could do something like Meatless Monday. These are the goals I’m talking about. In my experience, one’s diet is a very personal choice.
MM: And ultimately, one’s diet, and the goals they set, can have a positive affect on their health.
SP: Whether someone is vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, pescatarian–wherever you fall in that spectrum–I think it is good to have some kind of health goal. My philosophy is that regardless of what dietary lifestyle you follow, everyone can benefit from eating more plant-based foods. For example, there are some vegans and vegetarians who aren’t necessarily eating a nutritious diet. So my focus is on eating whole, minimally processed plant foods, and I believe in appealing to everybody. Meatless Monday agrees with this, too. Not everyone wants to say ‘no’ to meat everyday, but there is rising interest in people who, once a week, will try to eat vegetarian. You don’t have to be a total vegetarian, but it’s fun to try a vegetarian meal. That’s where I come from.
MM: You’ve been an advocate for Meatless Monday for years. How did that begin?
SP: I’ve been recommending Meatless Monday since it began. I work as a journalist, and from the beginning, I would write food and nutrition articles and refer to Meatless Monday’s recipes on the website. Around 2011, I wrote two in-depth articles about the program, and included information about it in my talks and in my books. And as a dietitian, I often work with other dietitians. I’m always recommending Meatless Monday as a great tool to use for their patients. It’s accessible, there are recipes, and it’s fun.
MM: When you put Plant Powered For Life next to your first book, The Plant Powered Diet, it’s a one-two punch of information and recipes. They are companion pieces.
SP: My first book, The Plant Powered Diet, is what I call the bible of plant-based eating. It contains everything someone would need to know about a whole-foods plant-based diet. There is a chapter on whole grains, another on plant fats, another on plant protein, and so on. When people start planning a plant-based meal, they sometimes get a little hung up and ask, ‘so what’s my protein?’ This book answers those questions by going through all that information. It’s all scientifically based; I have hundreds of references that back up the health benefits. It’s very comprehensive.
MM: Since you mentioned the “p” word, as an Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, do you find people are still confused about plant-based meals and protein?
SP: The number one thing is: all whole plant foods have protein. It’s just a matter of varying degrees. For instance, fruits don’t have a lot of protein but vegetables have a surprising amount; on average, they have about 3 grams per serving, which is about half as much protein as an ounce of meat. On top of that, I recommend people include “plant proteins” at every plant-based meal. These are the foods that are particularly high in protein: beans, lentils, soy foods. Then you add grains; some grains have up to 9 grams of protein per 1-cup serving. People have to realize that once you start eating all these foods, the proteins really start adding up.
MM: Obviously, being an RDN has influenced your cooking style. A lot of cookbooks are focused on big flavors, or a certain ethnic cuisine. But the advantage of Plant Powered For Life is that you’ve combined great flavors and nutrition.
SP: I just believe nutritious food can be delicious. As an RDN, I see a lot of cookbooks that are beautiful, but I wouldn’t consider them healthy at all. I have criteria that I use for my recipes; in my book, even desserts are healthy! Overall, I have a Mediterranean philosophy. I use extra virgin olive oil, but in moderation. You want that beautiful flavor, but you don’t need to use a half cup. I’m also moderate about sodium. I’ve picked up the chefs’ habit of adding salt at the very end of the cooking process, not during. At the end, just taste your food and if it needs a little salt, you add a pinch. One pinch is like 150 mg of sodium. And when you wait until the end, what happens a lot of times you find you don’t need salt at all, the natural flavors of plant food really shine through. These are the kinds of things you’ll find in a cookbook written by a dietitian.
MM: In your first book, The Plant Powered Diet, you encourage people to “avoid diets altogether because they make you feel guilty.” Instead of saying “don’t eat this” or “don’t eat that,” your approach is very positive and inclusive.
SP: My philosophy is: we shouldn’t be on a “diet.” We should have a lifestyle where we choose to eat in a way that makes us feel good about our own health and about the environment. There are studies that show you can lose weight on just about any kind of diet plan, because it’s just a matter of restricting calories. But most diet plans ultimately don’t work because people will go off them, and then they gain the weight back. But by adapting a healthy lifestyle that you feel good about, that doesn’t leave you deprived, that leaves you satisfied, that’s what we need to be doing. My hope is that everyone could adapt a healthy lifestyle and never go on a “diet” again.
MM: July is a great time to release a veggie-focused book because across the country, farmers’ markets are in full swing. Any advice on navigating local markets?
SP: There are no hard rules, but in general, I recommend eating as much local produce as possible. Almost all regions in summer can produce local berries, tomatoes, lettuces, stone fruits. So my first choice is to shop local because it will be fresher. But then during the off-season, local means you’ll have to take it back to root vegetables and those items that are available in colder months. But if you want a salad in the winter, it’s okay to buy greens that aren’t local. I’m an advocate of olive oil, but the only place that grows olives in the U.S. is California. So if you want olive oil, it’s going to have to be shipped from California, and that’s fine. Same thing with items like nuts and citrus fruits. These are very nutritious items. So you do your best to eat locally, and then you supplement your local produce with these items. Like my approach to dieting, I just encourage people to do the best they can.
MM: Last question: what is one thing everyone can do today to start reconnecting with the earth?
SP: I think everyone should grow some kind of kitchen garden. Generations ago, most people had a kitchen garden. This was the whole culture in America where everyone had a garden. In
the summer, you would grow your produce and preserve it. Today, you see homes with huge ornamental gardens with lawns and shrubs, but we don’t have kitchen gardens anymore. The good news is, home kitchen gardens are making a bit of a comeback. And this is something almost everyone can do. Even if you start out small with one tomato plant. Or indoors, if you have one small herb plant, or one pot with a few different herbs. It doesn’t get any more sustainable than growing food at home.
Celebrate Bastille Day by exploring the rich cuisine of the French. What better way to add a little romance to your Meatless Monday? Sure France isn’t exactly renowned for it’s vegetarian options, but here are few recipes that can cut the meat and keep the flavor.
Braised Green Beans & Summer Vegetables
It’s summer, why not put it to good use with this seasonal vegetable dish by taking a trip to your local farmers’ market? With this Braised Green Beans & Summer Vegetables recipe from EatingWell, you’ll eat fresh and the recipe requires minimal time over the stove, so you can maximize your time at the table.
Lentils are a great source of protein and iron, and evidently a great source of flavor. Here’s a terrific recipe from the Laura Calder, a chef versed in French cuisine, a best-selling author, and a TV personality. It’s French Lentils with walnuts, goat cheese, and thyme. It’s a dish with excellent textures and rich flavors.
What does Laura have to say about food and about life? We’ll turns out it’s pretty inspirational—“Putting pleasure first means that we shop better, we cook better, we eat better, and, by extension, we live and love better.”
French Onion Soup
Here’s a new take on the traditional French Onion Soup—it’s gone meatless, vegan in fact—from Olives for Dinner. This recipe and the blog were largely born out of necessity. Too often Erin found her dietary preferences and flavor lived worlds apart. So she had to make some tweaks and some adjustments.
“My approach to cooking is centered around the strategic selection and application of spices, herbs and oils with other complimentary textures and flavors.” She writes, “I specifically enjoy veganizing classic dishes…” And thus a Meatless Monday-friendly French Onion Soup is born.
Ratatouille is a simple dish that is just quintessential summer. Built around the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash, ratatouille is bright in both taste and color. And this particular recipe is nature-forward flavor from the cook, author, and foodblogger Deb Perelman. One thing interesting about the Smitten Kitchen foodblog is the meals are all concocted in 42 square foot, tiny, New York City apartment kitchen.
“What I’m wary of is: excessively fussy foods and/or pretentious ingredients.” She writes, “I don’t do truffle oil, Himalayan pink salt at $10 per quarter-ounce…”
Red Potato and Beet Bourguignon
Yes. Someone was kind enough to take Beef Bourguignon and translate it into vegetable. Thank you, Katie. This new take on a traditional dish retains its richness by mingling the earthy flavors of beets and lentils with the umami richness of mushrooms (certainly elevated with the help of a little Worcestershire sauce).
The recipe is the creation of the imagination of a foodblogger in Alaska. “My mission is to help inspire people to lead kinder lives;” she writes, “lives with less impact on the planet and healthier lives.”
Still not satiated? Here are two more recipes from Parisian chef, Ôna Maiocco of Super Naturelle. Ôna is one of the many talented chefs that supports France’s version of Meatless Monday, “Jeudi Veggie” (Veggie Thursday).
Vive la Meatless Monday Révolution!
Miki Haimovich—who singlehandedly launched Meatless Monday Israel—was awarded the prestigious Green Globe on June 17 by the Israeli non-profit organization Life and Environment. Miki was one of eleven recipients honored for advancing public health and environmental initiatives.
Miki has a long history with the Meatless Monday campaign. In 2012, Miki met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in an effort to convince him of the program’s worth. Then Miki gained the support of Knesset member Dov Lipman (Yest Atid) and they presented the Meatless Monday model to the Israeli legislative branch, where they made their argument for taking a break from meat on Mondays.
Their hope is they’ll encourage others, create awareness and make participation easier by doing small things like adding more vegetarian options to the menu of the Knesset cafeteria.
Miki’s persistence and grassroots efforts are paying off. She’s gained the support of over 20.8% of the Israeli population and the backing of the Israeli Dieticians Society and Israeli Cardiology Foundation.
Citing reasons such as the environment, personal health, and the moral significance of the Meatless Monday campaign, Miki said “I am happy to be behind the mobilization and commitment of the campaign to reduce meat consumption. This is a happy day for me and for all those who support the initiative.”
And while Miki continues to champion the Meatless Monday model, she also devotes her energies to other positive causes such as increasing voter turnout in elections and lending her voice to a documentary about food waste in Israel. If you’d like to visit the Meatless Monday Israel website, you can find it at: http://meatlessmonday.co.il
Looking for some delicious, colorful summer reading? If you’re the type of person who goes from the beach to the farmers’ market, two books that recently came across our desks will provide plenty of menu options for all the seasonal produce now in stores.
Melissa’s Great Book of Produce and The Great Pepper Cookbook are both produced by Melissa’s, the largest distributor of specialty fruits and vegetables in the United States. The Melissa’s Great Book of Produce seeks to demystify the dizzying array of produce available at many markets. A compendium of fruits and vegetables, Melissa’s Great Book of Produce is less of a cookbook–although it contains 100 creative, colorful recipes–and more of a definitive guide to a wide range of seasonal and exotic produce, a user’s manual for how to select, store and prepare everything from alligator pears to zapote.
The book unlocks the mystery of how to pick a ripe pineapple, how to slice a mango, or what to do with the bizarre-looking fruits like buddha’s hand or jack fruit. And while some of the focus is on rare and exotic produce like cardoni, jicama and malanga, Melissa’s Great Book of Produce also provides essential information for everyday items, introducing the reader to 12 varieties of mushrooms, how to make a colorful “Red, White & Blue Potato Salad,” and buying and storing summer squash. So the next time you’re in a store and see something you don’t recognize, there’s one thing to do: buy it, look it up in Melissa’s Great Book of Produce, and enjoy.
Want to add some heat to your Meatless Monday? The Great Book of Peppers is an introduction to the “fiery, flavorful world of peppers.” From mild to wicked, from Southwestern to Asian, this heat-forward cookbook offers 140 recipes that will introduce readers to all varieties of peppers, both fresh and dried, plenty of colorful photos and useful seasonality information. Want to see how high you can go on the Scoville chart? Here, there are plenty of flavorful vegetarian Meatless Monday recipes, and for the omnivores looking for something for the rest of the week, plenty of pepper-centric meat dishes.
Meatless Monday is going to Washington, D.C. And a second grade student deserves all the credit.
Lily Vinch, an 8-year old who attends Andersen Elementary School, Guam, created a winning recipe and will be traveling with 54 other students, all of whom earned a trip to the third annual “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” in Washington. Created by Epicurious and designed to challenge students to create nutritious meals according the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge will also be attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, who will be hosting a “State Dinner” for all the student participants.
“I am looking forward to hosting the winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge here at the White House,” said Mrs. Obama. “This event gives us the opportunity to showcase healthy creations from talented kid chefs from across our country, and I can’t wait to see—and taste—this year’s selections.”
Lily’s winning entry is called “Mo-Rockin’ Meatless Monday Special,” a dish the First Lady’s office called “particularly impressive, as it was creative, tasted great, and most importantly, was healthy, so that’s why in a recent judging, we picked yours as the best from your state.”
So what is a Mo-Rockin’ Meatless Monday Special? It’s a couscous and spinach salad with Moroccan spices and dried fruit. “We thought we had a good chance of winning with a recipe for a meal that we love to eat,” Lily told a local reporter. “I’m really looking forward to meeting the First Lady and hopefully the President of the United States.”
Here at Meatless Monday, we congratulate Lily for her accomplishment, and for getting the Meatless Monday name on this health-focused national stage. This also confirms that when children cook with their parents–the mission behind The Kids Cook Monday–kids develop a passion for food that is delicious and nutritious.
This certainly seems to be the case in the Vinch household. “We had a few healthy, tried and true recipes our family enjoys,” Sarah Vinch, Lily’s mom, said. “So we tested a few, and I let Lily choose which one she thought would be our best chance at winning. I’m so proud of her for wanting to enter the contest, and just plain ecstatic that we are going to the White House. Sometimes a little effort, like entering a contest, can have a huge reward! It’s a great lesson for life.”
Like Batman and Robin, hats and scarves, or Guac and Chips, some things are better in pairs. Just like the words “Monday” and “healthy.” That’s one reason why Meatless Monday has grown from an idea to an international movement; for individuals and institutions, Meatless Monday is an easy program in which to participate while offering a range of healthy benefits.
The Orange County Register recently wrote about the success of Meatless Monday on the campus of University of California, Irvine, and the many reasons Meatless Monday works. One reason the program has taken off is because it’s so easy to launch and sustain; when an organization like a college campus “goes meatless,” no major changes to their existing menu are required. According to UCI’s Sustainability Newsletter, Meatless Monday simply “highlights our many meatless options every Monday (though we still have our meat options available) to encourage people to go meatless just one day a week for both their health and the health of the planet.” Organizations don’t even need an art department; a range of posters, promotional items and ideas can be found here.
Meatless Monday is also healthy in that it confirms an institution’s commitment to a much larger sustainability effort. Many times, Meatless Monday will either complement, or run alongside, other efforts a school or company may be involved in. For example, UCI regularly earns recognition as one of the Sierra Club’s Top Ten Coolest Schools. The reasons cited include the school’s conservation efforts, LEED-certified new construction, and, yes, its commitment to movements like Meatless Monday.
Meatless Monday is healthy for the local economy, as well. When institutions stock up on extra veggies, did you ever think where they come from? By sourcing more produce, chances are that produce is coming from local farms, and this is certainly the case at UCI. Offering food from “a variety of local producers in all dining locations across campus… these local foods are sourced within 250 miles of the campus, ensuring that UCI reduces transportation emissions and provides fresh, healthy food.”
But the real reason Meatless Monday is healthy is because it falls on a Monday. The reason a “Meatless Wednesday” or “Meatless Saturday” wouldn’t be as successful is because humans, thanks to the cycle of the week, are more open to receiving health-related messages and making small, positive changes on Monday more than any other day of the week. “There’s a whole body of evidence around Monday being a great day to promote health,” says Morgan Johnson, Program Development and Research Director at The Monday Campaigns. “From health-related Google searches to gym check-ins and calls to quit smoking hotlines, people are more interested and engaged in healthy behavior on Mondays.”
So for your health, the health of the planet, and for a lot of other reasons, today the perfect day to make a healthy fresh start.
When the calendar turns to late June, not only do we want to eat different foods, we want to eat them differently. Soups that would normally be served hot are just fine at room temperature or even chilled. Roasted veggies can be prepared long before mealtime and simply kept on the kitchen counter; nothing needs to be hot out of the oven. Heck, who even wants to turn on the oven?
Which brings us to one of the healthiest, and certainly one of the most creative, types of food there is: the ubiquitous salad.
Salads are a snapshot of the present. They reflect what’s in the market on any given day, what dry goods you may have in the pantry or what fruit is on the counter, or even, what leftovers are hiding in the back of your fridge. Bring these ingredients together with a few simple techniques and you’re eating a meal you will never create exactly again.
To start our exploration of all things salad, we head to California and Earthbound Farm. As you would expect from the country’s largest grower of organic produce, there are scores of salad recipes on the Earthbound Farm website. This California Salad from Myra Goodman’s Food To Live By celebrates all the foods associated with the Golden State: avocados, dried apricots, almonds, goat cheese and beautiful baby greens.
Earlier this month, Noelle Carter in the L.A. Times wrote “Refreshing Salad Options for Meatless Monday,” presenting three vegetarian salads that add a little cool to your kitchen, including a Tomato & Watermelon Salad, Cool Rice and Cucumber Salad, and a Curried Couscous with Roasted Cauliflower, which Carter describes as a “brightly colorful and refreshing couscous salad… a perfect way to celebrate warmer weather any time of the year.”
To understand the health benefits of getting a wide variety of greens into your salad bowl, Prevention recently published “10 Healthiest Greens You Can Eat For The Least Amount of Calories.” From parsley at 22 calories per cup all the way down to Romaine Lettuce at 1 calorie per cup, here are 10 recipes that will help you add a mix of greens into your diet, instead of defaulting to the same easy salad. (Kale, we’re looking at you.)
If you’ve never downloaded the free Meatless Monday 10th Anniversary Cookbook, now is a perfect time. Among a selection of entrees and side dishes from celebrity chefs, three salads standout in terms of color and creativity: Jeffrey Gimmel’s Roasted Carrot Salad (pictured), Alicia Walter’s Grilled Greens with Cranberry Beans, and Jason Weiner’s Warm Beet Pistachio Salad.
Finally, if you follow Mario Batali on Twitter, you saw this enthusiastic tweet last week for a simple Watermelon and Red Onion Salad. Note: this version contains Bottarga, which some Meatless Monday fans may or may not want to include in their Monday menus. Like most things in the kitchen, all recipes are flexible.
Are you making a bright, tasty salad on this Meatless Monday? Feel free to snap a picture and share on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Nothing is tastier than sharing good recipes, and we guarantee you’ll get a few likes and retweets.
On June 11, PRO*ACT, America’s leading distributor of fresh produce to the foodservice industry, also delivered a bit of fresh news: PRO*ACT is joining the Meatless Monday movement.
The announcement of the partnership with Meatless Monday was made at United Fresh 2014, an annual trade show presented by the United Fresh Produce Association.
As part of the partnership, PRO*ACT will provide a Meatless Monday Tool Kit for its members to use when meeting with their restaurant and foodservice customers. Tool Kits provide any business that wants to ‘go meatless’ all the resources they need to launch and promote a campaign, boosting sales on a typical slow night while providing an economic boost to produce growers. PRO*ACT will also promote Meatless Monday across its social media channels.
Prior to the formation of the partnership, Peggy Neu, Cherry Dumaual and Diana Rice of The Monday Campaigns held a webinar arranged by Mary-Wright Rana, PRO*ACT Director of Marketing, for its members, to explain the benefits of joining the Meatless Monday movement, from the global reach of the movement to the research of why Monday is the healthiest day of the week to the marketing benefits of communicating Meatless Monday to customers.
Cherry Dumaual, PR & Partnerships Director at the Monday Campaigns, attended United Fresh 2014 and met with the winning chefs of the 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards sponsored by PRO*ACT. Cherry also attended the Chairman’s Reception and Produce Celebration Gala, which featured an award ceremony for the winning chefs of the 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards. The winning chefs participated in a panel discussion about retail merchandising strategies.
And if you want a sneak peek at what foods and trends the produce industry is talking about, topics of discussion included a focus on local produce; a trend toward bold flavors and use of spices; and increase in ethnic influences, i.e., indigenous vegetables from other countries; the continuing trend of produce being the star of the plate; an increase of salad bars in schools; and the question a lot of people are asking: What’s the new kale?
Probably the healthiest trade show you’ll ever attend, United Fresh 2014 featured an endless variety of familiar and exotic fresh fruits and vegetables. And if you ever needed a change of scenery, you could always step inside the tomato greenhouse for a few minutes.