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Oct. 12, 2012 -- "Meatless Monday," a campaign to encourage people to skip meat one day a week mainly for health reasons, appears to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables, according to the group's latest survey.

When 1,000 Americans were asked about their meat-eating habits, 59% said they have cut back on meat in the past year, says Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaigns.

This nonprofit initiative runs Meatless Monday and other efforts to prompt behavior changes on the first day of the week, which experts consider a prime time to improve.

The Meatless Monday campaign is associated with The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse and Columbia Universities.

Meanwhile, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association doesn't see the need. It contends that lean beef can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Meatless Monday: Update

Meatless Monday was launched in 2003, says Neu, in response to advice to cut down saturated fat intake and eat healthier.

Skipping meat one day a week could translate to about a 15% reduction in saturated fat, Neu says.

Meatless Monday has become a global movement, according to Neu. Schools, work sites, restaurants, and communities are participating.

Other findings from this year's survey:

  • 41% of those surveyed say they are trying to cut down on the amount of meat they eat.
  • 3% say they have eaten more meat in the past year than before.
  • One-third say they have not cut back and won't consider it.
  • 62% say health is the main reason they are eating less meat or thinking about it.

What do those who skip meat on Monday eat instead?

  • 73% say more vegetables.
  • 65% say more fruits.
  • 42% say more beans.
  • 47% say more whole grains.

The campaign can help people better follow the U.S. 2010 Dietary Guidelines, Neu says. Those call for less saturated fat, more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

Medical research suggests that diets high in saturated fat, especially red and processed meat, raise the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers.

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