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It's Monday – Do You Know Where Your Meatless Meal Is, Connecticut?

June 27, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Beef. It's what's NOT always for dinner at a growing number of restaurants in Connecticut and around the country, as more establishments work to offer vegetarian options to consumers. A countrywide campaign called "Meatless Mondays" encourages diners to explore plant-based menu options once a week. The goal is for people to reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent.

Chris Elam, program director of Meatless Mondays, says restaurants, chains and celebrity chefs are embracing the idea, or at the very least adding veggie options.

"We want it to be very simple for a restaurant. We encourage restaurants not to take meat off the proverbial table, but just to add veggie options, or even highlight them on Mondays to encourage people to think about this idea of cutting back just one day a week."

Started in 2003, the Meatless Monday movement is making inroads. Elam says a recent research poll they commissioned showed 50 percent of the American public were aware of Meatless Monday and of those, 27 percent said it had influenced their decision to cut back on meat.

A New Haven blogger has gotten into the act. Elaine Piraino-Holevoet's blog, On the Road to Greenness, includes a Meatless Monday post every week. She says the concept expanded in 2009 to go beyond reducing saturated fat in people's diets.

"So now, they promote Meatless Monday for health, but they also talk about the impacts on the planet if people would eat less meat."

That includes the amount of land dedicated to raising animals, water use, waste disposal, and transportation costs.

Piraino-Holevoet says she and her husband are omnivores, but they both enjoy eating new foods, often from the local farmers' market.

"I have found there's a lot of different foods out there which are very interesting, and once you learn to make them, you can add them to your repertoire and it's not a challenge at all, once you've discovered them."

Erica Meier is executive director of the Washington-based group Compassion Over Killing, which works to shed light on what it considers cruelty to animals raised for food, while promoting healthy eating.

"It's exposing people to these options, letting them know they're available. They want to make the right choice when they realize that vegetarian foods are better for their health, it's better for animals, and it's better for the environment."

Meier and her group regularly work with restaurant chains to help them build more vegetarian options into their menus. Currently, they're lobbying the Subway chain to offer a meatless deli slice.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT