The Valley Hospital has launched a campaign called Meatless Monday to encourage healthier and more sustainable eating among patients, visitors and staff. Valley is the latest hospital, and the first in New Jersey, to join the international Meatless Monday movement which urges consumers to cut out meat from their diet one day a week.
The goal is to help people reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent in order to improve their personal health. Meatless Monday is also intended to raise awareness of the environmental and public health impact of industrial meat production linked to water use, climate change, and pollution. Meat production uses large amounts of land and water, and is a major factor in water pollution worldwide.
“Encouraging people to eat fewer animal products is a natural extension of our commitment to sustainability and promoting healthy eating,” says Dawn Cascio, RD, Director of Food Services at The Valley Hospital. “Diets high in fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables are environmentally friendly, less expensive and better for your health.” Reducing meat intake can lessen a person’s risk for developing chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Recent data from a Harvard School of Public Health study found that replacing one serving of red meat with one serving of healthy protein sources like nuts, legumes, and whole grains was associated with a lower mortality rate of up to 19 percent.
“When you get the idea of meat being center of the plate out of your head, everything else just falls into place” says Valley’s Executive Chef, John Graziano. To encourage people to go meatless on Mondays at home, Graziano suggests trying new ingredients. “Whole grains like wheat berries, new herbs like lemon thyme and Thai basil, and interesting fruits like pomegranate and papaya make it fun.”
By supporting food production that is local, humane, and protective of the environment and health, Valley is leading the way in helping redefine health food. Kristie Middleton, food policy manager at The Humane Society of the United States, applauds Valley’s new program. “If each American chose plant, instead of meat, based meals even just on Mondays, factory farm production would be reduced, our environment would be better off, and our health would improve,” said Middleton. “Valley is the latest hospital to show that being socially responsible can also be delicious.”