What if there was an easy way to be healthy, compassionate, and environmentally friendly? Eating less meat reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, spares the lives of animals on factory farms, and lowers your environmental footprint. But you don’t necessarily need to go vegan to jump on the plant-based bandwagon.
Committing to a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can be daunting. But thankfully, when it comes to meat consumption, it’s not all or nothing – diet is a spectrum, and you can make a huge difference in an easy and practical way. That’s why I coined the term “reducetarian,” – to describe the growing movement of individuals who actively reducing the amount of meat and animal products in their diets, regardless of the degree or motivation. This concept is appealing not only to vegans and vegetarians who seek to make plant-based eating more mainstream, but also to individuals who may not want to commit to a diet 100% free of animal products yet still want to work towards making healthier and more sustainable food choices.
Not sure where to start? Here are some quick tips to improve your diet in only four weeks!
Week 1 – Start Small
The easiest way to get started is by figuring out what works for you. A few popular strategies include Meatless Mondays (or any other day of the week), Meatless before 6pm, or Weekday Vegetarian. Don’t feel obligated to overload yourself, but instead celebrate the small steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Optionally, keeping a food diary is a great way to see your meat reduction over time.
Week 2 – Make Substitutions
Plant-based alternatives are growing in popularity every day. Check your local supermarket to see what assortment of plant-based milks, cheeses, and proteins are available. Be adventurous and try switching up your favorite recipes by making them meatless. If you’re still a bit hesitant, you can always go half and half – order your burrito with half tofu and half meat. You’re still reducing, and it adds up throughout the week!
Week 3 – Create Structure
Cooking good food can be tedious, and not everyone has the time to spare throughout the week. Try getting ahead by preparing a few meals in advance. Make a big pot of meatless soup to reheat, or some homemade trail mix to snack on throughout the week. Freezing your own premade meals works well too, and can save you some time before dinner. After a while, you will begin to discover your “go to” recipes that are easy to make and good to eat.
Week 4 – Keep it Fresh
Speaking of cooking, don’t forget to try out some new recipes! You can find plenty online, or try adapting a recipe by replacing meat with a plant-based protein. You can also expand your horizons by trying new foods. That weird looking fruit you see in the grocery store with a name you can’t pronounce might actually pair well with your lunch, so do some research and switch it up every now and then. Lastly, be sure to share with others. Not only will this encourage them to join you, but it helps you to stay on track and stick to your commitment.
This is a guest post by Brian Kateman, editor of The Reducetarian Solution: How The Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing The Amount of Meat In Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and The Planet (TarcherPerigee) and president and co-founder of The Reducetarian Foundation.