Photo Credit: Foodily

On October 1st, millions around the globe celebrated World Vegetarian Day, recognizing the 7 million people worldwide that omit meat from their lifestyles.  For more than ten years, the term "Meatless Monday" has encouraged families around the globe to get creative with their Monday meals by reducing meat consumption and set the stage for a healthy week.

As it turns out, Meatless Monday isn't a new idea. During World War I, resources around the nation were scarce and rationed to provide support for the ongoing war. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for families to cut back on meat consumption at least once per week, launching campaigns called "Meatless Tuesday "and "Wheatless Wednesday" to encourage Americans to reduce these diet staples throughout the week.

The Meatless Monday campaign was re-launched in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for a Livable Future, inspiring millions to omit meat just one day a week. Many doctors, social media campaigns and nonprofits have joined the efforts, with dozens of sites offering vegetarian menu options every week.

Reducing meat consumption once a week has positive effects on your body! Exchanging meat with other proteins such as beans, peas and nuts, which contain little saturated fats, help sustain low cholesterol and limit cancer risk. Diets filled with fruits and vegetables can also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, curb obesity and reduce heart disease: leading to a longer, fuller life.

Along with the health benefits of reducing meat consumption, going meatless is also good for the planet: the meat industry generates much of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and requires millions of gallons of water each day.

Contrary to popular belief, meat isn't the only way to get nutritious protein!

Eggs and dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, are vegetarian options that you can enjoy for any meal of the day.Load up on green leafy vegetables like spinach, which packs fiber and a protein punch of 5 grams per cup!Whole grains, such as quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), oats and whole wheat pasta, can be paired with vegetables for a wholesome and filling dinner.Peanut butter and all nut varieties are full of protein and easy to pack in your bag for the busy day ahead: go ahead, enjoy that peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch!Beans and legumes are a great way to get your protein, and the texture and consistency often mimics the heartiness of meat. Try kidney beans, fava beans and black beans for 8 grams of protein per cup!

The vegetarian lifestyle is adaptable and filled with yummy, protein-packed options to satisfy any palate.  With a little creativity and an appetite for something new, you might find that being a vegetarian is the pathway to the new you!