Monday Medical: Meatless movement munches on Mondays |

Monday Medical: Meatless movement munches on Mondays

Riley Polumbus/For the Steamboat Today

Yampa Valley Medical Center chef Meredith Herndon prepares pasta primavera, a meatless dish that often is featured on the hospital cafeteria menu.

— Hospital food. The words hardly conjure up thoughts of fine dining — though one would hope that of all places, hospitals serve healthy meals.

Yampa Valley Medical Center already has a great reputation for its healthy and tasty cuisine. Now, we will take menus to a new level as we join the Meatless Monday Movement, starting today.

The movement, in which participants consume meatless meals one day a week, was revitalized in 2003 as a public health awareness program in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for a Livable Future.

The original Meatless Monday campaign happened during World War I, when the U.S. Food Administration urged families to ration meat. The campaign was so successful it returned during World War II.

Today's nonprofit initiative, embraced by restaurants, schools and hospitals around the globe, aims to reduce each participant's meat consumption by 15 percent in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet.

According to the website, "Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."

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YVMC Registered Dietitian Cara Marrs heard about Meatless Monday from friends Bob and Holly Larson, who approached her for advice to pitch the campaign to Steamboat Springs High School. Marrs thought YVMC definitely should support the movement and she brought it to the attention of the hospital's food service staff.

"Meatless Monday is not trying to force people to become vegetarians," Marrs said. "This is a good way to get people to try new things and expand the variety of foods they eat."

Marrs recommends trying ethnic cuisine. Mexican, Italian, Indian and Asian cuisines offer a variety of vegetarian options. She also suggests cooking with spices, which will add more flavor to vegetables without adding salt.

For those concerned about getting enough protein, Marrs points out that there are plenty of plant-based proteins available. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and beans are all good sources of protein.

"It's a misconception that a plant-based diet is missing essential nutrients," Marrs said. "If you eat a well-balanced meal, you will get all the essentials."

Marrs sat down with Melanie Stewart, YVMC's assistant director of food service, to discuss ideas for Meatless Monday menu items. Stewart was very excited about placing an emphasis on more vegetarian items. However, she noted that her staff will ease into the movement.

"We want to start off with meals that people are familiar with," Stewart said. "There will still be meat served, but we will be increasing our vegetarian options."

On Mondays, YVMC's menu will feature two hot, meat­less entrees, a special salad in addition to a well-stocked salad bar, and meatless soup and sandwich options.

Stewart recently attended a talk given to hospital employees by Steamboat Springs inter­­­nal medicine physician Dr. Charlie Petersen. The presentation was titled, "Where's the beef? Should you cut out meat one day a week?"

"One thing Dr. Petersen said that I really liked is that the die-hard meat eater does not have to give up meat," Stewart said. "We're not trying to turn people into vegetarians, but we are saying that it is healthy to increase their vegetable intake."

Stewart suggests livening up vegetable dishes by preparing them in new ways.

"Roast or sauté vegetables rather than steaming or boiling," she said. "It's a nice way to add flavor to vegetables and keep them healthy."

Stewart and Marrs are excited that YVMC has joined the movement. They are optimistic that it will set an example for the community to follow.

"Hopefully, it will get people to look at things differently," Marrs said. "I'm just hoping it gets people to try new things."

Stewart added, "The more we talk about it, the more likely we are to come around to change."

What better day of the week is there to set new intentions?

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

Today’s meatless menu

■ Vegetarian shepherd’s pie

■ Veggie quesadillas with cheese, beans and bell peppers on a whole wheat tortilla

■ Roasted red pepper and fennel bisque

■ Salad of the day: Romaine, arugula, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, red onion, pine nuts and citrus champagne vinaigrette

Meat facts

Dr. Charlie Petersen notes that animal fat is the only source of cholesterol. Animal fat — including all meat, poultry and fatty dairy products — also is high in saturated fat and contains zero fiber. He recommends reducing animal fat in your diet to gain the following health benefits:

■ Reduced risk of heart disease

■ Decreased cancer risk

■ Reduced obesity and diabetes risk

■ Potential for longer life expectancy

A few plant proteins

Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, tofu, lentils, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, oatmeal, whole wheat breads/pasta, soy milk, quinoa, brown rice, corn, broccoli, baked potatoes.

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