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Q. Dear Umbra,

Thanks to your last column, I’ve committed myself to a New Year’s Solution that makes sense. You mentioned eating meatless on Mondays. I’m excited to make this shift. But given my limited cooking skills and affinity for chicken wings, I’m not sure if it’s a sustainable solution. What’s a fella to do?

Wing Man
Lanham, MD

Meatless cookbookA. Dearest Wing Man,

Happy New Year, and congratulations on your commitment to a solution that makes sense for 2011. Going meatless on Mondays is a simple, full-of-impact change you can make for your own health and the health of the planet. If more of us take even just one day a week off from eating meat, we are reducing our participation in an energy-intensive contributor to global warming. Our per capita consumption of meat in the U.S. is 200-plus pounds a year. And we know from “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” a 2006 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, that the livestock sector is “responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent.”

Now, how do you make your sustainable solution sustainable, Wing-owitz? Willpower alone will only get you so far. Success comes to those with specific goals. Instead of just winging it, Wing Man, let’s get you a plan.

According to social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, the “If-Then Plan” is a good way to be resolute in your resolutions. “If X happens, then I will do Y,” she writes in a piece on the science of success in Psychology Today. Halvorson notes, “Ninety-one percent of people who used an if-then plan stuck to an exercise program, versus 39 percent of non-planners.”

So how does that translate for you, Wing-enstein? If it’s Monday (X) and you know you need to have a meat-free lunch, make it yourself the night before (Y). Or, if it’s Monday night and you’re going out to eat, aim to dine somewhere with great meatless options — and opt out on heading to the chophouse. A little planning ahead for carnivorous contingencies will make all the difference in your days of steak-free success.

So what does a plan for a Wing Man look like? You need inspiration.

Thankfully, there are great resources out there for you, like Kim O’ Donnel‘s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour. O’Donnel has created a meatless game plan for the year, with 52 tasty and toothy meatless menus sure to appeal to any carnivore (or non-carnivore).

“I find that ongoing incremental change — like one (or two) meatless days a week — is easier to commit to than the extremes of a crash diet. And it’s the kind of change that tends to stick,” says O’Donnel. “It feels manageable, it works within the context of our busy lives. And yes, the dawn of a new year is an auspicious time to embark on an eat-less-meat journey.”

She adds, “In my experience, those most resistant to eating more vegetables have been eating slimy boiled or steamed vegetables. In this case, the focus needs to be on discovering how scrumptious plants can be — by roasting vegetables. In the oven, vegetables soften, sweeten and absorb seasoning in a way that never happens in a pot of boiling water. Meanwhile if your reader still wants to do chicken wings, by all means do that. But make some room on the plate for a fried eggplant stack on wing night, and start getting used to the idea of balance. Only then will it start to make sense to do a meatless supper once a week. Crumb by crumb, change really can happen!”

That’s far from a crummy outcome.

Best of luck!

On a wing and a poached pear,
Umbra

Get off your ass alert: For recipes, ideas and inspiration to keep Meatless Monday goals for the New Year in sight: