Should I eat vegan? Part 1
Part 1: Why Switching to a Vegan Diet Is Good for the Planet (and You!)
If you've considered adopting a more plant-based diet for health reasons, you could be doing a bit of good for Earth at the same time.
What you do on a daily basis, how you live, what you drive, and what you buy, can make a difference in the environment around you. It's no surprise that the message to reduce our carbon footprint is spreading, and more people are looking for easier ways to be less destructive to the Earth.
You might do your part by recycling, choosing a vehicle with better gas mileage, and not letting the water run while you brush your teeth. These small efforts do make differences (every little bit counts), but there's another way to live a significantly greener lifestyle: switching to a vegan diet.
How a Plant-Based Diet Impacts the Earth
Three times each day, you have the choice of what to eat. Through these seemingly small decisions, ranging from asking for almond milk in your latte to asking for no bacon on your salad, you have the ability to impact the environment in meaningful ways.
"We have to be mindful of our activities. Eating is something everyone on the planet does, and everybody has the ability to have some control over it. A plant-based diet as opposed to a meat diet uses much less natural resources to produce."
Research shows that reducing animal-based products in our diet can have a significant environmental impact: a typical non-vegetarian diet uses 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more energy and 13 times more fertilizer than a vegetarian diet, according to a study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A decade ago, the United Nations reported that meat production produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry, and recommended governments set targets for reducing meat consumption.
A Less-Meat Approach Is Helpful Too
If you like the idea of eating greener but you're not keen to give up all meat and animal products, don't worry. You can still help the environment without removing entire food groups.
The good thing is that it is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, reductions in meat consumption, whether in frequency or amount, have benefits. Low-meat diets, such as pescatarian (eating fish but no other meat), can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
If you're on the fence about reducing your meat consumption, then consider taking the plunge for another important reason: yourself.
"Plant-based diets may lower the risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers," Sabaté says. Benefits of going vegan can include weight loss, better heart health and an overall longer lifespan. The Mediterranean diet has very similar benefits to veganism, with the added bonus of boosting brain health and providing anti-inflammatory properties.
How to Start Eating Less Meat
To keep your meat consumption in check, for the health of the planet and yourself, you can implement one or more of these strategies:
- Try the Meatless Mondays. This strategy calls for eating meatless at all three meals one day per week. When you feel you've mastered that, expand to two days. Keep bumping up until you're eating a mostly meat-free diet.
- Balance your day by eating Vegan Before 6. The brainchild of author and food columnist Mark Bittman, the Vegan Before 6 movement encourages people to eat no meat or animal products before dinner. It's an easy approach to eating more vegan dishes, and it still allows flexibility.
- Focus on using meat as a condiment instead of a main dish. Look for dishes where meat doesn't play the starring role. Pastas and rice dishes are a great option here, as are stir-fries, soups and curries. Seek out whole grains to keep these meals nutritious.
- Eat your way through our 4-week Vegan Challenge program. At Nutrichef, we have 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 6-day and 7-day plans.
- Try our Nutrivegan Plan for just a week. See how delicious eating vegetarian or pescatarian can be by trying this made-for-you meal plan, complete with all three meals and snacks for 5 days/ week. You can then turn to some of the other steps here to continue eating less meat and more plants.
- When traveling, arm yourself with an app that will help you find the closest vegan or vegetarian restaurant. One of our favorites is the Happy Cow app.
The word "vegan" (pronounced 'VEE-gan') originated from a British man named Donald Watson who had wanted an appropriate name to describe what a "100% vegetarian" eats, as distinguished from other types of mixed plant & animal product dietary choices.
He called his newsletter "The Vegan News" and described veganism as "the practice of living on fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and other wholesome non-animal products."