There are many benefits to eating meat less frequently. Eating less meat is shown to correspond with consuming more plant-based foods like grains, fruits, and vegetables. It can also make buying certified organic, humane, and pasture-raised meats more practical. The price of these organic, humane, and pasture-raised meats may make them seem inaccessible, but the higher price is an investment in your personal health and the health of the planet. If you cut your meat intake in half, buying organic, humane, and pasture-raised meats shouldn’t make your total food budget increase. Supporting certified producers also contributes to the growth and vitality of your local economy, including more jobs and more dollars staying in your region.
Studies have shown that people with very low meat intake had significant decreases in risk of death, and that the longer one adheres to a low meat diet, the more the significant the decrease in mortality. DID YOU KNOW?
Tips for reducing frequency of meat consumption:
Start each week with a Meatless Monday.
A growing body of evidence suggests that healthy thinking and behavior is synchronized to the week, with Monday being the day people associate with healthy resolutions. People are more likely to start diets, exercise regimens, quit smoking or schedule doctor’s appointments on Monday than on other days of the week. The Meatless Monday movement, a campaign revived by Sid Lerner and the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), gained nationwide attention as many individuals, restaurants, school districts, celebrities, and businesses participating. With the intent of drawing attention to excessive meat consumption globally and educating the public on the environmental and human health impacts of such meat consumption, there are Meatless Monday campaigns in 29 countries. A study conducted in 2012 by CLF attempted to quantify the impacts of the campaign and found that 62% of the 1,000 respondents stated that the campaign influenced their dietary habits and they try to incorporate Meatless Mondays into their weekly routines. Studies have shown that going just one day per week without any meat for a family of four equates to taking your car off the road for five weeks.
For one meal each day, replace meat with plant foods.
A 2014 survey found that people were generally most comfortable with simply removing meat from meals occasionally without substitution rather than seeking out other meat substitutions (e.g., tofu, meatless “burgers,” tempeh, etc.). While it may not be necessary to include a protein in every meal, it is important to eat diverse, well-rounded meals whenever possible. If you choose to eliminate meat from a meal, look for healthy, organic plant proteins to substitute it with, like beans, nuts and seeds.
Reframe meals so meat is not the central component.
In the West, meat tends eat to occupy the central position on our plates, and is often depicted as the focus of meals. There is a strong misconception that meat is a necessity with every meal. People often think about what to cook or order by determining what type or cut of meat they want and building the other decisions around it. It may take some time, but refocusing your meal planning by making decisions based on other meal components beyond the protein can help identify creative ways to increase plant-based items in a meal or cut the meat entirely. Another strategy is to eat smaller portions when choosing to include meat in a meal. Reducing meat portions and the intake of animal proteins per meal can improve heart health and reduce risk of disease. Additionally, by eating a reduced portion, the certified humane, organic, and pasture-raised meat you paid a price premium for in the market will cover more meals, leading to a lower cost per meal than consuming it all at once. Eating smaller portions of meat at each meal helps in so many ways: you can incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet; increase your access to certified humane, organic, and pasture-raised meats; improve your personal health and quality of life; and send a critical signal to the industrial meat complex.
Tell your local markets and restaurants that you want more plant-based options.
Make it known to your local food businesses that you would purchase meals with plant-based proteins. The more they hear from you, the more they will include organic and non-GMO plant protein items on their shelves and menus.
Tips for eating reduced portions of meat:
Cut the meat by HALF.
If you are taking part in our “HALF for WHOLE” challenge by committing to cut your meat consumption by half, the simplest way is to literally eat half the portion of meat you normally would with your meal. Take the pledge!
Give your favorite recipes a flexitarian spin.
That sounds a lot stranger than it is, but all it’s really quite simple: add some plant-based ingredients to your meat products to reduce the actual portion of meat in the dish. Researchers call this “sustainability by stealth,” which is a creative way of saying making changes to your meals that aren’t noticeable. For example, by mixing mushrooms into ground beef for hamburger patties, you reduce the portion of beef per patty while maintaining the texture, taste, and overall portion size of the burger.
Diversify your dish.
Rather than a meat-centric entrée with vegetable and a starchy side dishes, change the way you think about the definition of a meal. Focus on plant-based foods first, like beans, vegetables, or grains, and bring any meat in as a small component of the broader dish rather than the main star. That way you will also have plenty of plant-based ingredients to satisfy your hunger rather than relying primarily on the meat portion to fill you up.
Restaurants around the country are diversifying menus by offering dishes and even entire pre fixe menus that put plants in the center of the plate. In addition to the growing number of exclusively plant-based restaurants, many chefs are choosing creative strategies for incorporating more plants and serving meat as a smaller component of well-rounded, healthy meals. Even the Culinary Institute of America challenged chefs in 2016 to rethink the protein on their menus.