5 Tips To Help You On Your Way
Did you know that upwards of 70 percent of the world’s water supply is used in farming?! Or that producing a kg of beef uses nearly 50 times the amount of water as a kg of vegetables?! What we eat matters. How our food is grown or produced, matters. Indeed, different types of farming, have different types of impacts.
This can range from water pollution and chemical runoff, to land-use issues and higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – especially from cattle farming. When I first heard of these truths and statistics, I was genuinely shocked! I didn’t really know where to start when it came to responding to all this info, but I knew that my diet needed to change. So I decided to do what I could by reducing my own meat consumption.
The Growing Vegan Movement
In 2019, nearly a quarter of a million people signed up for Veganuary. It’s a global challenge to eat vegan for the entire month of January. In 2020 that number jumped to 400,000!! It’s inspiring to witness the rising number of subscribers to these types of challenges. Of course, this growth can’t be full attributed to environmental concerns, but it is likely a factor.
It was definitely one of my main motivators for change. I’ve already tried (and failed) at going vegan or becoming vegetarian. As much as I wanted to, it just didn’t work out. After my attempts, I wondered if others struggled with this as well. If you’re like me, then this guide is for you! I’ve put together some handy tips and tricks to remember when trying to reduce your meat consumption. In the process, it’ll hopefully encourage you to do what you can to reduce your environmental impact.
1. Start Small
Changing what you eat can be extremely frightening, and even overwhelming at times. My vegan/vegetarian friends had said the switch would be easy – but for me, it never was…
So this is what I learned: try starting small. Personally, I first started with Meatless Mondays. It was a success! From there, I gradually began to cut out certain meats from my regular diet. Making these changes in small steps definitely made it less overwhelming.
Some wins were easier than others. When it came to eating out (way back when), I’d opt for the non-meat options when I could, but this didn’t work as well for me. So I decided to try a different approach. I committed to stop cooking meat at home, only indulging in it when I ate out.
It ultimately worked out better for me! Find what works for you, and what level of change you and the people you eat with are comfortable with. While big changes can feel scary, there is plenty of room for improvement! Hopefully you can also get some support along. Especially after you’ve shared the reason for why you’re doing this.
2. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
I moved back in with my parents at the beginning of this year. With this move, I suddenly lost a lot of control over what I was eating. At first, I was angry with myself. I felt guilty and upset, frustrated that I was unable to continue with my plant-based transition.
Of course, this exasperation got me nowhere. Eventually, I decided to make compromises with my parents. We talked it out and found a meal plan that worked for all of us. As it stands now, we eat vegetarian twice a week and agree to try new vegetarian recipes whenever possible!
That’s my personal takeaway from my changing living conditions. Rather than getting upset, find a way to adapt! Your journey to a plant-based diet isn’t over because you’ve had to suspend it or make compromises. You can totally go back to your original plan for reducing your meat consumption when it works again. To assist with your goals, it certainly helps to have a strategy!
3. Do Your Research
There’s definitely a lot of information out there! From how to go full vegan, to how to find vegetarian options.
There are plenty of resources for changing your diet, so use them to your advantage! While choosing a plant-based diet is probably the best option for the environment, many studies have been done on the environmental impacts of other diets.
A Little As A Lot
For instance, simply choosing to limit your meat consumption and dairy intake can aid in avoiding 5 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent per year! That’s goes up to 8 Gt of CO2 that can be avoided by avoiding animal source food altogether.
Livestock isn’t the only food source that has a high environmental impact. Soy farming has also become extremely controversial due to high land use. Nut farming (especially almonds) is another, with one of the largest draws on freshwater resources next to beef!
In an ideal situation, you should research the impacts of what you’re eating. It’s unfortunate that so much of the burden is on the individual. Hopefully, we can work to change that! But in the meantime, being better informed about your food sources will certainly help you make better decisions regarding the environmental impact of your diet.
4. Try Alternatives
As vegan and vegetarian movements have grown, they’ve also become more mainstream. This mainstream success has definitely helped improve the access to meat-free and meat alternative products. Clearly a win for those on the path to lowering their meat consumption. Indeed, the global demand for plant-based protein has increased substantially. Over the last 5 years the industry actually grew from 2.9 billion (in 2015) to 4 billion dollars in 2020. That’s quite a leap!
When you take a walk through your local grocery store, you can probably see this for yourself. There are more plant-based protein options to choose from. A lot of products these days even taste like real meat! In all honesty, my mind was blown the first time I tried a Beyond Meat Burger! And I know I’m not alone.
Along with with the more popular stuff, I’ve also had the chance to try a number of different plant-based alternatives. From my adventures in food land, I have to say, the Yves Veggie Nuggets are even better than a traditional chicken nugget! I’ve definitely over indulged in these. All that to say, you should try some of these out for yourself. You might be surprised!
Consider The Options
In addition to meat alternatives, certain fruits and vegetables can also serve as direct substitutes. Indeed there are a number of options that’ll still provide some of that meaty textures if prepared correctly. That includes mushrooms! Using Portobello mushrooms instead of a burger patty works out really well. So does eggplant. Avocado can even work as a bacon replacement. There are a bunch of possibilities once you adopt the mindset and get your creativity flowing!
At the end of the day, meat alternatives are popping up everywhere, even at fast-food joints. The best advice I can give is to try a new product whenever possible. It could be as simple as making it a point to pick up a new alternative whenever you’re at the store. Watch out though, you may end up liking them better than real meat!
5. Be Flexible
To me, this is possibly the most important tip. If you don’t allow yourself to be flexible and adapt to changes in your life that may affect your diet you will get nowhere! You don’t need to put a label on your diet in order to make an impact.
Furthermore, changing diets can invoke a lot of stress on an individual. You might find that changing your diet isn’t really a healthy or obtainable choice for you right now. That’s totally ok. You can make changes elsewhere in your lifestyle choices that will lower your impact on the environment.
Even though there is a hyper-focus on meat consumption in relation to sustainability, changing your diet is not the only way to become more sustainable. You could try something else as well. Like avoiding fast fashion for instance – yet another industry with a considerable impact on the environment.
Curb Your Meat Consumption!
Whatever you decide, try to make a start of it. Now is an excellent time to make a change! No matter how big or small – give it a go! With so many options out there, you’re bound to find a diet with lower meat consumption that works for you. Stop putting it off, and follow these easy steps to reduce your meat consumption today!
Editing by Marc-Antoni Tarondo.