Eating less meat has multiple health benefits and is also good for the environment.
The Mayo Clinic reports that people who don’t eat meat (such as vegetarians), “generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.” And, simply reducing your intake of red meat and processed meats can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
Cutting meat consumption also helps protect the planet. According to the World Resources Institute, the current food system makes “significant impacts on the environment.” Namely, clearing trees to expand agricultural land causes 10 percent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions. And, another 14 percent hails from “livestock, fertilizer use, rice production, and farm-related energy consumption.”
For meat lovers, making the shift to a meatless diet might seem overwhelming. In this case, it’s important to remember that making any kind of lifestyle change is difficult. Instead of giving up eating meat altogether, a reducetarian plan promotes reducing the amount of meat and animal product you consume.
So, for those who aren’t looking to adopt an “all-or-nothing” meatless diet, here are some easy ways to eat less meat each week.
Enjoy Meatless Mondays
One of the easiest ways to reduce your meat consumption is by eating meatless meals every Monday. This popular eco-friendly practice has become a global movement.
Just browse online or flip through a cookbook to find some veggie-based recipes that sound good and shop for ingredients over the weekend. If you’re going to dine out, pick a vegan or vegetarian hotspot and even preview the menu before you go.
Overall, it’ll be easier to stick to a meatless menu if you plan what you’re going to cook or where you’re going to dine out in advance. Once Meatless Mondays become routine, you may also want to consider adding additional meatless days to your week.
Make Gradual Reductions
With any health or lifestyle shift, setting small goals and making gradual changes is much easier for most people than trying to do too much too soon.
For example, if you don’t get much physical exercise and want to start a fitness plan, you don’t want to run five miles at top speed on your first day. Instead, you might walk for 15 minutes and increase your time, distance, and pace as you build muscles and stamina.
The same philosophy applies to reduce your meat intake. To start small, cut meat out of one of your three meals and reduce the portion size. Eat half of a turkey sandwich, instead of a whole. Eliminate the grilled chicken on your salad and skip breakfast sausage. Once you’re used to these changes, making bigger meat cuts won’t be so hard.
Prep and Pack Grab and Go Fruits and Veggies
Heavy work demands and hectic after school activity schedules force many families to eat on the run. Unfortunately, this makes hitting a drive-thru for a quick cheeseburger and fries a convenient and popular option.
For a healthier choice, spend some time in the morning or evening washing, chopping, and packing some grab and go fruits and veggies that you and your family can eat ahead of a meeting, soccer game, or swimming class.
In doing this prep work, you’ll probably find that half of the battle is won by making healthy meat-free snacks and meals readily available. Grabbing and eating these accessible foods will also help you avoid deeply engrained animal product eating routines.
Try a Veggie Burger
Trying new foods can be a rewarding and delicious adventure. If you love burgers but are cutting back on meat, veggie burgers are a great alternative. Lots of restaurants serve them and you can even find veggie patties in the grocery store. Veggie patties can be made of beans, soybeans, tofu, grains, seeds, and more. Pile the patty with all your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomato, mustard, onions and enjoy!
Experiment with Recipes and Eat Protein Alternatives
To reduce the amount of meat in your diet, do some research and experiment with meatless versions of your favorite recipes. You’ll also want to start eating some protein alternatives. For example, make bean tacos and burritos instead of chicken or beef, or have spinach lasagna or pizza. Once you discover some veggie or plant-based recipes and meat-free protein sources that you love, eating less meat every week will only get easier.
By Lori Melton
For more ideas on how you can save the planet, visit 1Thing.