Take a pass on eating meat just one day a week and you’ll reap these excellent benefits.

By Virginia Sole-Smith
Updated August 19, 2009
Variety of vegetables on a cutting board
Credit: Jennifer Causey

1. Better Health

Animal foods, especially red meat, are among the largest sources of saturated fats in our diet. Eliminating meat―beef, pork, lamb, poultry―one day a week can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and some cancers. What’s more, “cutting down on meat encourages people to eat more vegetables,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, in New York City. Adding a serving of produce to your diet each day (say, ½ cup of melon or broccoli) may lower your risk of heart disease by 4 percent and your risk of stroke by 6 percent.

2. More Money in Your Pocket

Consuming less meat boosts your bottom line. The average cost of a pound of sirloin is $6.20, compared with 90 cents for a 15-ounce can of beans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If a family of four replaces a steak dinner ($9.30 for 1½ pounds) with a fresh bean and vegetable salad ($1.80 for two cans of beans) once a week, they will save $7.50. After a year, that’s an extra $390.

3. A Greener Planet

The livestock industry creates almost a fifth of all greenhouse gases and takes up 30 percent of the earth’s usable land, according to a United Nations report. (Vegetables and other produce don’t even come close.) Eliminate 1½ pounds of meat (about what a family of four eats for dinner) once a week, says Gidon Eshel, a professor of physics at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, “and you’ll get almost the same benefits as trading in a standard sedan for an ultra-efficient Prius hybrid.”