On Oct. 6, more than 8,000 people will gather in Philadelphia for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference (FNCE). The hot topic is how dietitians and nutritional professionals can shift Americans away from a diet high in saturated fat, sugar, and processed foods to a more balanced diet of lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains called for in the MyPlate guidelines.
The Monday Campaigns and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future announced the results of a national survey that suggest how Meatless Monday can be an effective tool to meet this challenge. An online survey conducted by FGI Research found that Meatless Monday not only influences people to reduce meat intake, but encourages them to incorporate healthier alternatives into their weekly routine.
The survey found that more than one-third of people (36 percent) aware of Meatless Monday said that the campaign has influenced their decision to cut back or to consider cutting back on meat. Overall, this group reported improvements in consumption of a range of healthy foods, with 73 percent saying they eat more vegetables, 64 percent eating more fruits, 42 percent eating more beans, and 47 percent eating more whole grains.
Perhaps most significantly, the results suggest that Meatless Monday is helping people create a habit of eating more meatless meals and is inspiring cooks and diners to experiment with new options. Sixty-two percent of those influenced by Meatless Monday say they are working to incorporate Meatless Monday into their weekly routine. Half of the respondents say they've experimented with new meatless recipes when they cook at home and 42 percent have tried more meatless meals when eating out.
"We started out with the simple goal of cutting back on meat and saturated fat and along the way found that Meatless Monday had become a way to get lots of delicious meatless alternatives on America’s plates," says Sid Lerner, chairman and founder of The Monday Campaigns. "Meatless Monday gives chefs and home cooks a weekly opportunity to think creatively about what to cook instead of meat."
Nutrition professionals can easily take advantage of Meatless Monday's simple message. "In a clinical setting, dietitians can counsel patients on the benefits of eating weekly meatless meals and even send out pre-Monday reminders via e-newsletter or social media," says Allison Righter, MSPH, R.D. with the Center for a Livable Future. "Dietitians working in food service, with community organizations, in education or research, or in a private practice can all adapt the campaign in their own way — through creating interactive and informational displays, developing and promoting healthy meatless options, leading cooking classes, or organizing consumer contests."