Over the next few months Americans are encouraged to comment on the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (see our recent article.) Dean Ornish,
physician, author, and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, let his thoughts be known in a recent op-ed piece published by the New York Times.
“Many people have been making the case that Americans have grown fat because they eat too much starch and sugar, and not enough meat, fat and eggs,” wrote Dr. Ornish. “Recently, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lifted recommendations that consumption of dietary cholesterol should be restricted, citing research that dietary cholesterol does not have a major effect on blood cholesterol levels.”
Not only does Dr. Ornish dread the predictable headlines telling Americans they can return to eggs & bacon, he’s also concerned that the debate is not as simple as low-fat versus low-carb, but is much more about the amount of animal protein in one’s diet.
“Research shows that animal protein may significantly increase the risk of premature mortality from all causes, among them cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Heavy consumption of saturated fat and trans fats may double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
He cites several more studies implicating animal protein and also attacks the idea that not addressing fats, but simply cutting out carbs, is the best way to lose weight. “When fat calories were carefully controlled, patients lost 67 percent more body fat than when carbohydrates were controlled,” he states.
The Ornish diet was evaluated in the Best Diets of 2015 US News & World Report, and was rated #1 in Best Heart-Healthy Diets and #3 in Best Diabetes Diet & Best Plant-Based Diet. He summarized his approach in the Times op-ed.
“An optimal diet for preventing disease is a whole-foods, plant-based diet that is naturally low in animal protein, harmful fats and refined carbohydrates. What that means in practice is little or no red meat; mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and soy products in their natural forms; very few simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour; and sufficient “good fats” such as fish oil or flax oil, seeds and nuts. A healthful diet should be low in “bad fats,” meaning trans fats, saturated fats and hydrogenated fats. Finally, we need more quality and less quantity.”
As part of his diet he also stresses exercise and stress management through a daily practice utilizing things like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. One of the cons U.S. News brought up about his diet is that staying the course can be tough. However, Meatless Monday is always a good first step.
He also brought up the additional benefits of skipping meat that are familiar to fans of Meatless Monday. “What’s good for you is good for our planet. Livestock production causes more disruption of the climate than all forms of transportation combined. And because it takes as much as 10 times more grain to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, eating a plant-based diet could free up resources for the hungry. What you gain is so much more than what you give up.”
Earlier this month a Road to Paris reception was held at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York City. The Road to Paris is a campaign for businesses, financiers, cities and regions, to support the historic opportunity of a global climate deal in Paris, at the United Nations COP21 climate conference in 2015. Sir Paul McCartney was in attendance and shared a few words about a cause he has been passionate about for many years, Meat Free Monday.
“We have a campaign in England, it’s called Meat Free Monday, here it’s called Meatless Monday, same thing, and we just encourage people to not eat meat on the Monday. And the idea is that that one day can make a huge difference.”
He went on to cite the following statistic: if someone gives up meat every Monday for a year it’s the equivalent in terms of greenhouse gases and emissions, of them not driving their car for an entire month. Not only goes going meatless one day a week make a difference for the planet, he’s observed that it also makes a difference in people’s lives.
“I find so many people want to do their bit,” said the former Beatle, “but they don’t know how to do it…but this is a very doable idea that people, when they get into it, love! They start thinking about what they are going to eat on Monday, they have to actually think about what they are eating. It’s all really very interesting. It’s very compassionate to animals, obviously, it’s very good for your health, and moreover, in this context, it’s damn good for the planet!”
Thanks to the efforts of Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, along with the staff at Meat Free Monday, over 847,000 people have pledged their support, including Sir Richard Branson, Kevin Spacey and Ricky Gervais. They’ve also enlisted schools, universities, and businesses, and feature a breadth of delicious recipes on their site, many created by well-known chefs.
To celebrate Meat Free Monday’s fifth anniversary, they recently invited fans to pick a lyric from Paul McCartney’s song ‘Meat Free Monday’ and represent that lyric in a creative way. They received thousands of entries, from Sweden to South Africa, Tahiti to Taiwan, with images taken on beaches, in restaurants, on top of mountains and even under water! The Meatless Monday animals got into the act, too, with a sign of their own. As the song lyric says:
Meat Free Monday. It’s a fun day.
And it’s happening all around the world.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. Much attention has been focused on improving screening and treatment. Enhancing prevention by reducing risk factors is also important, and the focus of new research.
Previous studies have provided convincing evidence that consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and that foods containing dietary fiber are linked to decreased risk. This new study, appearing in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), looked at the relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and incidents of colorectal cancer, and it’s good news for those who eat lots of vegetables.
The study is known as Adventist Healthy Study 2, because it was based on an analytic sample of nearly 78,000 Seventh-Day Adventist men and women. They are an ideal group for this kind of study because they are diverse in terms of age, sex, race, geographic location, and socioeconomic status, but homogeneous in many ways that reduce variables for a health study (there’s low use of tobacco and alcohol, a shared religious affiliation, and many adhere to some form of vegetarian diet.)
Previous studies of this group’s vegetarian diet patterns have been associated with several beneficial health outcomes, including lower mortality, lower prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The new study’s findings demonstrate an association between vegetarian dietary patterns and reduced risk of colorectal cancers. Estimates were as follows:
Vegetarians had a 22% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to non-vegetarians. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who consume no animal flesh but do consume dairy and eggs) had an 18% lower risk; vegans had a 16% lower risk; and semi-vegetarians had an 8% lower risk. Leading the way were pesco-vegetarians – people who follow a vegetarian diet with fish consumption 1 or more times a month – with a 43% lower risk than non-vegetarians.
While more research needs to be done, the study authors conclude that these findings may be important in the primary prevention of colorectal cancer and should be considered carefully in making dietary choices and in giving dietary guidance.
Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse in Greenwich is the quintessential steakhouse. The stately dining room is framed by dark wood floors, Venetian plaster walls, and a coffered ceiling.
The bar, with its wood-burning stone fireplace, feels like an elegant social club. But thanks to a suggestion from a loyal patron and friend, the steak house is the latest restaurant to join the Meatless Monday movement.
“When it was first suggested to me it seemed…kind of bizarre. I mean, we’re a steakhouse,” said Managing Partner/ Maître d’ Tony Capasso. “But people can still come here and order a steak. There are just more options for vegetarians or anyone who wants to have a healthier day on Monday, to reboot their diet.”
According to Mr. Capasso they picked up about 30 reservations that first Monday, March 2nd. “Someone saw the Meatless Monday sign and said, ‘You don’t serve meat on Mondays?’ Sure we do, it’s just about giving people more options It’s all positive because people can have whatever they want here.”
While there are several salads and other meat-free items on their regular menu, the first Meatless Monday offering was risotto primavera and trenette, a homemade pasta, with a truffle puree. It was a big hit. Since then the chef has tried new things every week, recently using quinoa instead of rice in a dish.
“Whatever your reason is – people wanting to be healthy, the environment, if you’re an animal lover – we just want to give people options,” said Mr. Capasso, who brings over 30 years of food and wine expertise to Gabrielle’s. “This is new to me, like the quinoa, but we’re having fun and learning as we go.”
At Gabrielle’s they’re looking forward to creating many new healthy dishes for fans of Meatless Monday.
According to new research recently presented to the American Heart Association (AHA), substituting some of the meat in your diet with vegetables may lower your risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. What makes these findings even more significant is they come from a large-scale study.
Researchers analyzed the eating and lifestyle habits of over 450,000 Europeans, ages 35 to 70, following them for an average of 12 years. Those whose diets were about 70 percent plant-based – meaning vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains and nuts – had a significantly lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Their risk was 20 percent lower than people whose diet was the least plant-based (over 50 percent meat, dairy, eggs and fish.)
Lead researcher Camille Lassale, PH.D, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, was careful to say that the findings do not prove that plant-based foods deserve the credit, though her team did account for some of the other potential explanations such as people’s weight, exercise habits and education levels. However, the results are in line with a wealth of other research pointing to the health benefits of eating more plant-based foods.
“Instead of drastic avoidance of animal-based foods, substituting some of the meat in your diet with plant-based sources may be a very simple, useful way to lower cardiovascular morality,” said Lassale.
She termed a “pro-vegetarian diet” one that doesn’t make absolute recommendations about specific nutrients, but instead focuses on increasing the proportion of plant-based foods relative to animal-based foods to find the right balance.
Rachel Johnson, PH.D., MPH, RD, Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and past chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee agreed. “The results are important because they demonstrate that people do not need to follow a total vegetarian diet to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. Moving toward a more plant-based diet appears to be beneficial without going completely vegetarian.”
The American Heart Association recommends following a heart-healthy diet, which could also be described as a pro-vegetarian diet. It is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, and nuts, low-fat dairy, beans, skinless poultry, and fish. It encourages eating foods low in saturated and trans fats and sodium, and limiting added sugars and red meats. Going meatless on Monday seems like a great place to start.
Comprised of California walnuts, Wisconsin cheese, and some select secret ingredients, the Walnut Burger is beloved by vegetarians and meat eaters alike. But as the Jenkins’ family, who created the Walnut Burger, will tell you, it may come as a burger but it can quickly be transformed into a veggie ball, a pizza topping, or who knows what else. Which is why their contest, which invited people to ‘go nuts’ was such a great idea –all those clever culinary artists out there could boldly take the Walnut Burger to places it had never gone before.
Walnut Burger began in the back kitchen of the Jenkins family restaurant in small town Wisconsin, where Mama & Papa Jenkins cooked up a tasty meatless burger that impressed both vegetarians and meat lovers. It’s still a family business with Mama & Papa now joined by daughter Kestrel and son Forest, on a mission to bring the Walnut Burger’s flavor and healthy benefits to more of the world.
Kestrel Jenkins publicly thanked all those who had entered the recipe contest and said they had inspired the family to think about new and innovative ways to use the Walnut Burger. “It was super fun to see so many unique creations come through the pipeline.”
Submissions were judged by members of the Meatless Monday staff led by R.D. Diana Rice, and were based on originality, ingredient combinations, and the quality of the photos.
First place went to…drumroll please…Brittany & Brett’s Walnut Burger Enchiladas.
Brittany, a graduate student studying nutrition, loves being in the kitchen, and takes pride in serving up delicious creations for those around her to enjoy. If she’s the brains of the operation then Brett must be the taste buds.
Runner up: Mikaela & Milou’s : Walnut Burger Crepes.
“This recipe is perfect for picky toddlers as you can ‘hide’ some lovely dark greens like kale and spinach inside the pancake mixture,” said Mikaela, Mom of the adorable sue chef shown in the photo. “The amazing cheesy walnut burger flavor is loved by every kid I have served this to. AND the recipe is so easy, it’s a great one to cook together with your kids.”
Runner up: Sam’s Walnut Burger Shepherd’s Pie.
Sam, who’s an outdoorsman and loves a good brew, came up with a recipe that pairs perfectly with an Idaho dark beer.
Any of these three recipes would make for a delicious Meatless Monday. So, it appears that the winners of the contest were actually all of us who get to try these recipes. Thank you to Walnut Burger and the three winners.
On Tuesday, March 3, Careers Through Culinary Arts Program held their annual benefit, this year honoring business leader & philanthropist Dick Parsons and chef/restaurateur Alexander Smalls. For those of you who couldn’t afford the $1000 ticket or don’t live near New York, here’s a brief summary of the event: Delicious. Inspiring. Incredible.
C-CAP is a national non-profit that prepares at-risk high school students for college, and careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Founded in 1990, C-CAP has awarded over $43 million in scholarships, and classrooms have received $3.8 million worth of supplies and equipment. Meatless Monday has been a major supporter of the program for many years.
Marcus Samuelsson and other illustrious New York chefs, several of them C-CAP alums, gathered to support the cause. Together with their restaurants, each chef prepared a signature dish; then the crowd of supporters, celebrities, and the media roamed the tables and sampled the exquisite offerings.
Besides offering the opportunity to taste luscious creations the event also provided a chance to speak with chefs about the latest trends in cooking, especially if they’re friends of Meatless Monday like chef/owner Bill Telepan of Telepan. “A lot of restaurants are seeing an upturn in vegetarians coming in. I started seeing it about ten years ago so we’ve included a lot of vegetarian dishes on our menu…and there’s so much great produce in this area, that it’s crazy not to utilize it…It helps us be more creative as chefs.”
Jonathan Waxman, Chef at Barbuto, created a delectable farro salad with fennel, olive, meyer lemon & almond for the occasion. When asked what vegetables were particularly popular right now, he said, “Honestly I think vegetables in general are the trend…People are not only recognizing that vegetables are good for them, and delicious, but they can be spectacular. You don’t need to have meat. You don’t need to have cheese. You don’t need to have anything else. You can just have vegetables.”
The Corporate Chef at Dos Caminos, Ivy Stark, sounded a similar note. “Vegetables are huge right now.…just the fact that more and more chefs are using them as the center of the plate item is the trend…it’s a good thing.”
Chef Bryce Shuman from Betony served up beets with horseradish and goat’s milk for the crowd. According to him, people are more excited than ever about enjoying vegetables.
“Think about how many meats we eat. Ten, maybe twelve. Or different types of seafood you eat? Forty or fifty? But then veggies – it’s just like thousands and thousands of different types of vegetables. You have so many vegetables to cook, so much variety to choose from…I’m really excited to see the trend. Because…I love veggies.”
While chefs got to show off and New York society got to enjoy some spectacular food, the auctions and sponsorships made sure more underserved kids will get the opportunity to be tomorrow’s brilliant chefs and restaurateurs.
March 9th, 2015 is National Meatball Day. It’s also National Get-Over-It Day and National Napping Day (welcome back Daylight Savings Time) but the one worth celebrating is definitely Meatball Day. And to commemorate this important holiday, all of The Meatball Shop locations in New York City will be kicking off a new partnership with Meatless Monday. It’ll be a whole new ballgame, with some very special vegetarian meatballs to follow.
Or should we say meatless meatballs? Actually, The Meatball Shop calls them ‘Veggie Balls’ which is more accurate and they have a place of pride among the other ‘Naked Balls’ on the menu.
The Meatball Shop got the ball rolling five years ago on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and from day one people have been lining up to get in. The brilliant collaboration of boyhood friends Michael Chernow and Chef Daniel Holzman, there are now five locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. These two dynamic restaurateurs are really building momentum – think of that stone in Raiders of the Lost Ark as a giant meatball rumbling forward – that kind of momentum.
Daniel may be a master of meatballs, but he also has a deep and abiding love of vegetables. Having been a chef at both vegetarian and vegan restaurants, he savors the seasonality that vegetables bring to the table. From the outset Daniel offered a veggie ball on the menu, and currently there are also veggie heroes, veggie sliders, a wealth of green sides, and the famous Kitchen Sink Salad. The story behind the kitchen sink: Michael would always ask his partner to make him a salad for lunch with whatever vegetables were handy and a couple of balls on top. Patrons saw Michael eating it at the bar and said, “Hey, I want one of those. Where’s that on the menu?” These two always have their eye on the ball, so they quickly added it to the menu where it’s lived ever since.
Given his love of vegetables, Daniel didn’t take lightly the challenge of creating a veggie ball for his menu. Shying away from ingredients like seitan (“I didn’t want it to feel like a ‘fake-meat’ meatball”) he embraced one of his favorite legumes: the lentil.
“I love the flavor, the profile, the texture, the mouth-feel of lentils,” he said. Asked if recipe creation involves much trial & error, he said, “At this point, I know what makes a great meatball. It’s kind of like being a musician – you get to know the instrument and then you can just play.”
If you want to celebrate National Meatball Day at the mecca of meatballs, get to Williamsburg or one of the five Manhattan locations. And don’t be surprised if, on Mondays to come, you see new options such as broccoli and cheddar balls
For all the Meatless Monday fans spread across 37 countries who can’t get to a Meatball shop, Daniel has graciously provided his original veggie ball recipe. So, have a ball!
Meatless Monday is partnering with Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI), the leader in health-supportive culinary education, for a special presentation during the International Restaurant & Food Service Show of New York. The show will run March 8 through March 10, 2015, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. It’s the only all-encompassing event in New York for the restaurant and foodservice industry with over 450 leading vendors, tastings, competitions, and forums.
The Meatless Monday/NGI presentation will be held at the Food Trends Demonstration Theater, an educational, interactive and entertaining area for restaurant and foodservice professionals who want to stay current with what’s hot in the food world. Appropriately enough, it will take place on the Monday of the trade show, March 9that 3pm.
During the presentation, Meatless Monday’s Diana Rice, RD, will discuss the benefits of going meat-free one day a week. She’ll explain how it can benefit personal health, by reducing the risk of chronic preventable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity; she’ll also discuss how skipping meat once a week can benefit the health of the planet by conserving valuable resources like fossil fuels and water as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Chef Olivia Roszkowski, Full-time Chef Instructor at NGI, will then demonstrate and offer tasting samples of a delicious meatless dish: Springtime Edamame and Black Quinoa Sliders with Avocado, Sprouts and Crispy Shallots. A graduate of NGI’s Chef’s Training Program, Chef Olivia has previously worked at The Mercer Kitchen and Momofuku Ssam Bar. She specializes in root-to-frond cooking and umami flavors.
“Natural Gourmet Institute is proud to participate in the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show this year. As a leading culinary institution, we are excited to spread the word about innovative healthy cooking techniques, and Olivia is the perfect chef for the task,” says Anthony Fassio, CEO of Natural Gourmet Institute.
Meatless Monday and NGI make a great team, so don’t miss their presentation – and of course taste the samples! Click here for more information.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted their report last week. While normally these reports don’t attract much attention, this one most definitely did. Not only did the Committee consider personal and public health when reviewing the dietary patterns of Americans, they also considered the health of the planet. Their recommendations mirror many of the commonsense practices advocated by Meatless Monday.
The DGAC is made up of 14 outside experts who are nationally recognized in the fields of nutrition, medicine, and public health. They were charged with examining the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and determining how new scientific evidence should inform the next edition of those Guidelines. Their recommendations are important since the Guidelines impact everything from food choices in school cafeterias to public health policy to the environment.
The Committee cited two fundamental realities as guiding their work. First: about half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases and about two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Poor dietary patterns, overconsumption of calories, and a lack of physical activity directly contribute to these conditions, which have been prevalent for more than two decades. Second: individual nutrition and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by social systems and environmental contexts.
“It will take concerted, bold actions,” said the report, “on the part of individuals, families, communities, industry, and government to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population.”
The report called on Americans to make health a national priority, and for organizations, private business, and communities to work together to create a “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, and affordable.
Specific to nutrition, the Committee found that we are under-consuming several nutrients due to low intakes of key food groups including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy. We are also over-consuming sodium, refined grains, added sugars, and saturated fat. Concerning the latter, there was moderate to strong evidence that “higher intake of red and processed meats was identified as detrimental compared to lower intake.” Skipping meat one day a week certainly makes sense in terms of personal health.
Regarding the health of the planet, the Committee shared a strong point of view. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns.” (The dietary patterns it refers to are a Vegetarian diet, a Mediterranean-style diet, and what was termed a ‘Healthy U.S. style’ diet.) “This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns.”
The report goes on to say,
“The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”
How much the USDA and HHS incorporate the Advisory Committee’s recommendations into the 2015 Dietary Guidelines remains to be seen. However, the DGAC has given us all plenty of food for thought.
The public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group’s report and provide written comments at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov for a period of 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The public will also have an opportunity to offer oral comments at a public meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 24, 2015. Those interested in providing oral comments at the March 24, 2015, public meeting can register at www.DietaryGuidelines.gov. Capacity is limited, so participants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.