Lean & Green menu options offer chance to delete meat

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Eddie Garza has nearly 200 reasons to avoid eating meat at every meal.

During a presentation to the Dallas ISD Menu Advisory Committee on Wednesday, March 25, he showed a photo of himself as a more than 300-pound college student. Once he made the choice to put more fruit and vegetables on his plate, his health improved significantly and the extra weight came off.

His visit was part of the district’s unveiling of its Lean & Green initiative during a monthly meeting to learn more about Food and Child Nutrition Services’ offerings. Staff, students and parents had the chance to sample upcoming menu items and learn more about reducing meat consumption. Meals served at Dallas ISD schools on April 30 will incorporate meatless items.

Before the meeting, attendees sampled and provided feedback on pasta with sauce that contained a meat substitute, chicken salad with a chicken substitute and a Mediterranean salad.

Projections suggest that by 2030, 42 percent of Americans will be obese, which will contribute to a bevy of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes. “Meatless Monday” encourages Americans to eat meatless meals at least one day a week to promote more balanced food choices.

Garza, who now works as a food-policy consultant for the Humane Society, said the benefits extend beyond personal health and touch on the environment. “It takes a lot more resources to produce meat than it does to produce fruit and vegetables,” he said. Further, citing concerns of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Garza said that providing meat for a growing world population is not sustainable in the long term.

Chef John Mercer of Whole Foods also credits health reasons for his switch to an all-vegan diet (one that includes items not made from any animal or animal product) years ago.

“They gave me blood-pressure medicine the day I started in the Army at age 19,” Mercer said. There are other ways to be healthy, he said, but going vegan was his choice. “It’s very hard sometimes, because food is very personal to us.”

With the help of two students, Mercer demonstrated how to prepare vegan enchiladas with tomato sauce, rice, vegetables and milk-free cheese between layered corn tortillas.

“It’s not about eating a big brick of tofu,” Mercer said. “Anything you like can be wrapped up in a tortilla and called a burrito.”

Dallas ISD Chef Domonique Merriman, with the help of five eager students, showed how to make simple pita-bread pizzas using fresh ingredients including black and pinto beans, shredded spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, tomato sauce and cheese.

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