Mondays are challenging enough, so you can bet that if I asked my young kids to embrace the "Meatless Monday" fad by ditching their favorite eggs and bacon breakfast, they would revolt, and my wife would be dragging after her morning run. So, with Bacon Fest just wrapping up after thousands gathered to celebrate bacon, I propose "Meat Lovers Monday" instead to celebrate the nutritional, tasty choices that meat and poultry provide.

I love incorporating a variety of meats into the meals I prepare for my family, and if I eliminated it from Monday night dinner, I would have a couple of meat-loving kids asking, “Hey, Dad, where’s the meat?” Our four-year-old loves anything from the grill, particularly cheeseburgers and pork chops. Our almost-three-year-old prefers chicken breast and fish, but they can both smell a steak from a mile away, and they never let me have my favorite cut without asking for several bites. 

Balanced meals and a healthy lifestyle are important to our family, and like most parents I know, providing safe and healthy meals for our kids is our top priority. Meat is a staple of the well-balanced meals I prepare at home, and there are so many lean proteins that make healthy options. High-quality, or "complete," proteins found in animal-based foods, such as beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy, contain all the essential amino acids and are easily digestible, according to nutrition expert, Nicole Tramp.

Animal proteins are also a good source of important nutrients such as B12 for brain function; iron, which helps your body use oxygen; calcium, which is essential for bone health; and zinc, which benefits the immune system. These nutrients are more difficult to get from plant proteins alone.

I’ve enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember, and I’m always seeking out a variety of new meat recipes and different cooking methods. February is also Heart Month, and the American Heart Association recommends choosing lean cuts of meat, trimming off excess fat and using cooking methods such as baking, broiling, stewing or grilling.

Additionally, farmers have been reducing their carbon footprint since the 1950s, while increasing the food, fiber and fuel they provide to a growing population. And, in a state where one in five jobs is dependent upon agriculture, and 99 percent of Iowa households consume meat, it’s clear Iowans love meat and the farmers who raise it.

Whether I’m baking, grilling, smoking or searing dinner, I enjoy it. It’s rewarding to put a homemade, tasty and healthy meal on the table. So I say celebrate food choice, and if you prefer meat, join me in #MeatLoversMonday and share your favorite meat or poultry recipe! I’d love to try a new one out for my family!

By Andrew Wheeler. Andrew is Iowa Farm Bureau's Public Relations Coordinator.