Reducing your meat intake is possible, and making an effort to eat more plant-based options will help foster a more sustainable planet and healthful lifestyle.
This week, we’re celebrating Earth Day (on April 22nd, to be exact), and one of the actions we can take to improve our environment is very simple but perhaps difficult to accept: reducing our meat consumption. If you are thinking about making this change, you’re sure to get all kinds of questions. Aren’t you worried that you won’t get enough protein? How can you live without eating a nice, juicy steak? Do you really think that the world is going to change just because one person stops eating meat?
If you’re asking yourself why it’s important to reduce the amount of industrially raised meat you eat, the answer is that it’s to combat the exploitation of our earth through pasture farming and lessen the emission of greenhouse gasses. About 90% of all deforestation is done in the name of the meat industry. In addition, animal agriculture is responsible for around 15-20% of total greenhouse gas emissions on a global level. These are huge environmental issues.
When cows burp or pass gas, the methane produced is released into the environment. Methane is even worse than C02 when it comes to climate change. As the number of cows on the planet continues to increment, so will the effects of climate change. 50% of all of the fresh water in the United States is used in raising animals for consumption, and the average pig farm in the US or Europe generates the same amount of waste as 10,000 humans in New York. As we know, the creation of waste is another environmental problem altogether. Don’t you think we should stop destroying the environment in this way?
If you are thinking about making a change, here are some tips for reducing your footprint on the environment. The first step is to plan your meals. You can do this every Sunday so that you get your week off to a good start. Try planning one day without meat per week, and once you’ve adapted to that, try adding a second meatless day. People might not always see the value in meal planning, but I promise that if you don’t do it, you’ll just end up consuming what you always do. If you normally order a pizza or defrost some chicken nuggets in a pinch, you’ll just keep doing that. Dietary habits are very hard to break.
When you make meal-planning part of your routine, you’ll start seeing the benefits on your health and mind very quickly. I’d also recommend prepping your lunch before going to work or school so that you avoid falling into the trap of having to buy something quick, which will likely be meat-based, or having to make the excuse that there were no plant-based options available at the school cafeteria.
Another great tip is to try to fool your senses a bit. There are tons of brands that make meat substitutes: hot dogs, hamburgers, ground meat, and so on—all from plant-based ingredients. It might not taste exactly the same but it’s a good way to start getting creative and challenge your inner chef to use these products in recipes that would have traditionally contained meat. Many of these products also have a high protein content because they are made from soy or other legumes, like lentils and beans.
My favorite thing to do when it comes to getting more veggies onto my plate is follow IG accounts that post plant-based recipes. I promise you’ll stop thinking that eating “green” is boring and flavorless. Just making my own food at home and knowing what goes into it has changed my life. Just seeing how many delicious meals can be made without any meat at all has revolutionized my thinking. I think your friends and family members will also be surprised when you invite them over to eat one of these kinds of meals.
Finally, try out new vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seeds. Write down what you usually eat from these food groups, and you’ll see just how little variety there is. Eating colorful foods is a trend that not only makes your plate look beautiful but ensures a wide array of nutrients.