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HealthWatch: Public Health Experts Tout ‘Meatless Mondays’

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Produce on display at a farmers’ market. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — What are you serving for dinner tonight? If it’s meat, some public health experts hope to change your menu at the start of the workweek.

The campaign is called Meatless Monday. The idea: to cut all meat from their diet, including chicken and fish for one day a week. It’s a grassroots campaign in association with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The goal is to cut down on meat for your health and the health of the planet.

But that might be a hard sell in some parts of San Francisco. A long line quickly forms in front of Bacon Bacon, the first food truck dedicated to bacon.

“I don’t think you can go wrong with bacon. Bacon can be added to anything,” said Jamal Edwards, a bacon aficionado.

When told of the campaign. Bacon lover Rosana Japay-Baxter responded skeptically, “Oh, I don’t know about that”.

However, UCSF registered dietician Toby Morris thinks Meatless Monday is a great idea. Morris said instead of eating meat, eat a meal rich in plant-based foods.

“Plant based foods tend to be higher in fiber than animal proteins, they tend to be much higher in antioxidants and perhaps lower in some of the carcinogens that we know to be present in meats,” Morris said.

Studies show plant based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. If you’re worried about losing out on protein, experts reassure that you won’t.

“You’re not going to suffer from protein deficiency because one day a week, you went to a Meatless Monday,” said registered dietician Jo Ann Hattner.

Hattner said instead of meat, choose protein rich beans, legumes, even nuts or seeds. “There are many, many choices out there that you can actually select,” Hattner said.

The campaign’s already a big hit at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, which had a Meatless Monday in place for nearly 2 years. A staff survey shows employees love it.

“Overwhelmingly, they felt that Kaiser Permanente was looking out for their health and well-being” said Cait James, a senior health educator at Kaiser.

Every Monday, the hospital’s cafeteria serves two vegetarian entrees, one grilled vegetarian entree and vegetarian soup.

James said the more plants in the diet, the greater the benefit for Kaiser Members and employees.

As for the health of the planet, the campaign points to data that estimate how the meat industry generates nearly 1/5th of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that, it says, are accelerating climate change worldwide.

As for our bacon lovers at the food truck, Jamal Edwards said he eats vegetables, and that he even eats salads. However, he added, “I put bacon on the salad you know that’s how you do it.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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