How to Reduce Your Meat Intake and – Stick to It!

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Are you considering reducing your meat intake? You’re not alone. One in three Canadians, or almost 12 million people in Canada, are either already vegetarian or are eating less meat [1]. There are many reasons behind this recent trend in reducing meat consumption, but none so big as the impact it can have on our environment.

Meat Consumption and the Environment

In addition to the ethical issues around eating animals, reducing meat consumption is one of the most significant steps you can take to decreasing your carbon footprint and overall environmental impact. In a 2009 report, the WorldWatch Institute calculated that livestock and poultry production accounted for around 51% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions [2].

Cutting down on meat not only supports the health of the planet, it is also good for you and your fellow earthlings. Meat and dairy are major sources of saturated fat in the average diet, so making the switch to beans and pulses is one of the easiest ways to decrease saturated fat intake and increase fiber intake while maintaining optimal protein levels: a recipe for heart health!

5 Simple Strategies for Reducing Your Meat Intake

I could spend all day throwing statistics and rationales around to demonstrate the benefits of cutting down on meat, but none of that really helps if it still feels like too much of a struggle to shake up your typical diet. As such, here are five simple strategies that can help you reduce your meat intake – and stick with it:

1. Track It

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Many of us are obsessed with our smartphones and fitness trackers, so why not use the technology available to make cutting back your meat intake even easier!

One fantastic (and free) app,  MyEarth, was designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology to help you track your carbon footprint by checking off everyday activities that fit into five main categories: electricity, recycling, travel, food, and usage. The app encourages you to input your meat and dairy consumption and illustrates the impact your meatless choices have on the world.

For those trying to reduce meat consumption for personal health, there are plenty of other apps that offer recipes, advice on common dietary pitfalls, nutrition tracking, and even peer support. One popular app, created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, was designed on the premise that it takes 21 days to break a habit. The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart app is an ideal guide that will help launch you into a healthier diet over the course of just three weeks – and it’s free!

2. Reframe It

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The idea of “giving up” meat can sound pretty negative. So set yourself up for success by reframing this dietary change, not as giving anything up, but as optimizing your diet and discovering new, delicious foods.

With this new outlook, you may just find that you love the taste of grilled eggplant, roasted chickpeas, sun-blushed tomatoes stuffed with cashew ricotta, or any number of other foods overlooked for the sake of simply picking the same lackluster burger you always do. What’s more, by eating a varied diet that is full of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, you’ll dramatically improve your intake of antioxidants and other nutrients. Doesn’t sound to me like you’re giving much up at all!

3. Start out Easy

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Some people find it easiest to take small steps towards a mostly vegetarian or plant-based diet (the popular Meatless Monday movement, for example). Others find it best to leap right into veganism (21-Day Vegan Kickstart!) and fully immerse themselves so as to feel committed and motivated.

Whichever strategy works best for you, go with that, even if advice from others is in stark contrast. And, if you try to completely eliminate meat from your diet and find it’s not working for you, resist the urge to give up entirely and adjust to simply cutting back. Eating meat just two or three times a week is still much better for your health and that of the planet than chowing down on it every day.

4. Pick Your Battles

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If you’re interested in reducing your meat intake but don’t know where to start, try focusing on processed meats first. These are some of the easiest things to switch out for healthier plant-based options that are just as convenient. Veggie hot dogs are now widely available, as are sandwich slices, sausages, ground round, and veggie burgers. There’s even tofu jerky, if you’re feeling adventurous!

From here you might progress to whole food options such as a veggie chilli with beans, or a chickpea, vegetable, and tofu stir-fry. This way, you’re still getting all the protein you need with the added benefit of nutrients and fibre that are lacking in processed meats.

Once you’ve spent about three weeks cutting out processed meat products, move on to cutting down on red meat, to support cardiovascular health.*

5. Restock Your Pantry

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Even with the best of intentions, our dietary goals can fall by the wayside when life gets busy. Make it easy to cook a meat-free dinner by stocking your pantry with key staples. This means having cooked beans on hand to make a chilli, simple veggie burger, or to throw into a salad.

If your pantry is full of meaty items that just prove too tempting, donate these to your nearest food bank and stock up on meat-free foods like instant falafel mix, split red lentils (make a dhal in 15 minutes!), or packets of refried beans to make a burrito with lots of fresh vegetables.

When you have healthy, meat-free choices on hand it is so much easier to stay committed to your goal of cutting down on meat for personal and planetary health.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

References:

[1] Vancouver Humane Society. (2015). Almost 12 Million Canadians Now Vegetarian Or Trying To Eat Less Meat! Accessed 9th March 2016 at: http://www.vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/almost-12-million-canadians-now-vegetarian-or-trying-to-eat-less-meat/

[2] Goodland R, & Anhang J. Livestock and Climate Change. The WorldWatch Institute, November/December, 2009. Accessed 9th March 2016 at: https://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf