Celebrating Meatless Monday's 10th Anniversary

As Meatless Monday marks its 10th anniversary, here’s a look at why it works.

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If someone asked me when the best time to start a diet is, I would say "anytime." But ask a chronic dieter which day is most popular to begin watching his or her weight, and I'd bet that the most common response would be "Monday." 

Bonnie Taub-Dix
Bonnie Taub-Dix
Monday is the day of the week that has a reputation for welcoming change and beginning better habits. Whether it's about encouraging healthy eating (Healthy Monday), stopping smoking (Quit and Stay Quit Monday), wearing condoms (Man Up Monday) or kicking off an exercise program (Move It Monday), there are several blazingly hot campaigns you may want to be a part of to help start your week on the right foot.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of when Meatless Monday (a personal favorite crusade) was born. Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, had just started taking a cholesterol-lowering drug and became more aware of research studies that linked excessive fat consumption to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. He learned that a 15 percent decrease in meat consumption (equivalent to 3 meals, or 1 day a week) might help prevent these diseases. He recalled Meatless Monday from WWI and WWII days when it was used for rationing. With his background in advertising and a bit of creativity, he set out to revive Meatless Monday as a public health marketing campaign. 

[Read: Me, Give Up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity.] 

Meatless Monday is very easy to follow – just one day a week, you cut out meat for the sake of your health and the health of our planet. Here's a slice of what has evolved since 2003: 

• A recent Monday Campaigns survey showed that 43 percent of Americans participate in Meatless Monday on an occasional basis. At present, 29 countries participate in MM activities, since this way of eating embraces diverse cultures through meatless dishes enjoyed across the globe. 

• Celebs like Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Al Gore and Michael Pollan participate in Meatless Monday. So do celebrated chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Giada De Laurentiis and Mario Batali and many of his colleagues at "The Chew," to name a few.

[Read: Why These Famous Vegetarians and Vegans Pass on Meat.] 

• MM's focus on reducing saturated fat and cholesterol by cutting back on meat has also highlighed other benefits to meatless meals, including preventing health issues like diabetes and cancer. 

• Environmental advocates welcome efforts to go moderately meatless, too. They're concerned about reducing carbon footprint and saving precious resources like water. 

• Meatless Monday has brought families together and introduced young minds and bodies to plant protein choices like tofu, yogurt and a bounty of colorful vegetables and fruits. Another Monday Campaign, The Kids Cook Monday, does a wonderful job of setting a healthy, inviting table. 

[Read: Why and How to Consume Plant-Based Protein.] 

Visit MondayCampaigns.org for more details, including research that backs the power of Monday and sumptuous recipes to make you want to continue healthy behaviors through the rest of your week. Here's a peek at one of my family's favorite recipes that we all like to prepare together. This DIY pizza takes only minutes to prepare, but it will create an ingredient list that encourages a lifetime of healthy habits. 

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns and feedback. 

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is BetterThanDieting.com.