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FHC Meatless MondaysWell, another month down-hard to believe. For many individuals and families this is the last week of summer before school is back in session, and the calendar is starting to become scary with all of the activities, meetings and plans. (On a positive note, September means football is starting back up!) It’s easy to lean toward making poor nutritional choices when the schedule gets crazy and convenience takes priority. Perhaps this school year new goals for tackling new health regimes can be made for you and your family!

Growing up, I broke the mold with diet and nutrition and stopped eating meat when I was in first grade. My family is very “meat and potatoes” and did everything they could think of to get me to eat meat. However, I spent dinnertime picking out every minute piece of hamburger and chicken out of my dinner because I hated the taste and texture. Bless my parents’ hearts for trying, but I was a lost cause becoming a carnivore.

There was always a separate meal for me growing up and my mom went above and beyond to make sure I had enough protein sources and was always introducing new foods such as quinoa and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to ensure I had enough to eat. Dad always made sure there was enough celery in the fridge. As the years went on and as I started high school, more and more meals with the family were vegetarian and I could count on at least one meal a week where everything was “safe” from meat. This brought our family together, and encouraged a healthier day during the week.

Now, I won’t go on a rant about converting everyone reading this into a vegetarian, as it may not be a good fit for everyone. But, a well-balanced vegetarian diet tends to be lower in cholesterol, certain fats and calories and can offer numerous health benefits. Even just replacing the meat in one meal a week can kick-start healthier habits.

Meatless Mondays is a concept I have heard about in magazines and from other families and individuals adapting their lives on a quest for a healthier lifestyle. Once a week, (Mondays in this example) one meal is made entirely sans meat. It’s an easy way to branch out and to make an adjustment during the week that is health conscious and a great way to try new foods. Many vegetarian recipes that are available simply omit meat and/or add vegetables and have all the flavors of the original dish. Examples of this would be spaghetti with sauce and vegetables, chili with extra beans, and tacos with vegetables and guacamole.

If the thought of one vegetarian meal a week scares you, adding vegetables or fruit to each meal may be a better starting point. Start with one day a week adding a fruit, or a vegetable and work your way up to most meals of the week. There are so many options available, and a variety of ways to season and cook them that can jive up the flavors and make it an easy transition for day to day usage. Branching out and trying new foods can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially when you find fruits and vegetables that are winners in your family.

As a resounding theme this month, farmers markets and stands are a great place to peruse and pick up vegetables, fruit and other products during the week that can be incorporated into meal planning. The produce is almost always fresher straight from the farm than in the supermarket, and many times you can taste the difference-making eating vegetables a little more fun and palatable. Make it a goal to start small and continue to make changes that will benefit your body today and in the future!