Eat Less Meat
In collaboration with Meatless Monday and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Ambika Satija from the Harvard School of Public Health
What’s In & What’s Out
- Avoid meat and poultry, as well as meat and poultry broths for your meatless meals.
- When practicing #MeatlessMonday, stick to vegetarian proteins.
- Yes to fish on Tuesday through Sunday! Wild Alaskan salmon is one of the most nutritious—high in omega-3s and fairly low in mercury, as are sardines and anchovies. Generally smaller fish are lower in mercury and often more sustainably caught, so keep that in mind.
- No, you can’t just eat bacon and eliminate the rest.
- Eggs are allowed, and mighty good for you too. When buying eggs, opt for pasture-raised and organic to ensure your eggs are raised humanely.
- Dairy is fine too, in moderation. Unsweetened plain yogurt is particularly encouraged!
- Veggie burgers and veggie bacon are fine, but make sure to check the label for quality ingredients—meat substitutes tend to be highly processed so opt to make your own, or try a lower-processed, organic option like Amy’s California Veggie Burger, Hilary’s, or Qrunch.
- Use your free passes for high-quality, sustainable meats. And if you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track for the rest of the day.
- If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track for the rest of the day.
Why This Is A Good Idea
Eat for your body, and the environment—a diet with less meat saves your arteries and helps counteract climate change, particularly one with less red and and processed meat. Did you know that the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined? Scary huh! Plus, scaling down your meat consumption leaves more room in your diet for fruits, vegetables and whole grains that help lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, in limited quantities, meat can play a nutritious role in your diet. So if you choose to eat meat, choose sustainably-raised, local, organic varieties, and avoid red and highly processed meats such as hot dogs and sausage that have been associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke. And stick to small portions of lean meat (such as chicken)—2-5 ounces a couple times per week depending on your age and gender. Think of meat as an accessory on your plate, instead of the star of the show, and rely on other protein-rich foods like nuts, beans, plain yogurt and fish to play a larger role in your diet.
Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.
Basic Tips & Useful Hints
- Be sure to check in at every meal; it’s more effective than waiting till the end of the day. Draw a check mark if you had a meal with no meat. If you had meat in your meal, use a free pass or a 1/2 a pass.
- Start by doing #MeatlessMonday, and try one day with only plant-based proteins!
- Dishes you love that typically involve meat but don’t revolve around it are good places to start—like whole grain pastas, stir-frys and other brown rice dishes, curry, soup, salad, tacos or burritos. Simply omit the meat or replace it with something plant-based (like veggies, tofu, or beans) for a familiar favorite that still obeys the rules.
- Here fishy fishy. Make fish the star of the show Tuesday through Sunday (try going completely vegetarian on Mondays). Replace your burger patty with a piece of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, or grill up a piece of fish with teriyaki for a dish you love, but without the meat. And be sure to choose fish that are low in mercury like salmon, anchovies, sardines, scallops, or trout.
- Portobello mushrooms are meaty, and have an umami flavor that can help satisfy and kick your meat craving out of the kitchen. Grill, roast, sauté for the best flavor.
- Marinate tofu in your favorite marinade and grill it just like you would meat.
- Grill and roast vegetables to bring out a smokey, meatier flavor that will help you feel satisfied and miss meat less.
- Use olive oil (or flax, hemp or walnut oil) and seasoning mix, or herbs, spices, and good ol’ salt and pepper to make your veggie dishes wow you with flavor. Try fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, rosemary and thyme. And cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, curry powder and fennel seed are spice drawer staples.
- Try protein-rich whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, and quinoa—they are high in fiber and keep you full longer.
- Beans and bean-based foods like falafel and hummus are full of protein and fiber and keep you full.
- Add nuts and/or seeds to your salads for some healthy fat to help curb your meat cravings.
- Get support! Tell your friends you’re trying to eat less meat so they can help you stick to it, and ask the waiter for veg suggestions or to hold the meat when eating out.
- Mediterranean, Indian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Mexican and Thai cuisines tend to make it easy to navigate around meat.
- If you’re stuck in a place with only fast food options, try to find a grocery store nearby instead. Grab a quick snack of carrot sticks and hummus or fruit and some nuts to tide you over.
- Prepare for healthy snacking as you get used to your meat-free self—veggies and hummus, almond butter on an apple or toast, roasted chickpeas, and nuts are all great options.
- Ditch the meat counter for the fish counter and the produce department. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon and cod are good lower-mercury choices.
- Canned fish is great too, and so hot right now.
- Canned beans too! Dried beans can save you money, but if you’re cramped for time, simply rinse and go.
- Farmers markets, farm stands, and your garden are your new best friends. Pick up meaty/hearty vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, squash, and sweet potato to help you kick the meat.
- Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of nutritious whole grains—try amaranth, bulgur, quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat.
- Visit the ethnic foods aisle for Indian and Asian cuisine inspiration.
- Stock up on spices, and replace the old ones you have on your spice shelf. They lose flavor over time. Try a blend of cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and curry powder.
Smart Things To Read And Watch
- Protein - do we really need it
- Eating less meat may help you gut
- Meatless Monday Health guide
- Harvard School of Public Health - what you need to know about protein
- Cutting red meat for a longer life
- Would eating less meat really combat climate change?
- Silicon Valley’s Bloody Plant Burger
- Some Governments Are Endorsing Sustainable Diets
- Taxing Red Meat Could Be Key to Fighting Climate Change
- Meat consumption raises mortality rates
- Researchers find early onset puberty affected by red meat intake
- The top 10 foods with the biggest environmental footprint
- The China Study: 10 things you need to know
- WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic
- 10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating
- 12 NYC Restaurants That Will Make You Forget About Meat
- Meaty Issues
- Examples of commonly mislabeled seafood. Check this list before you buy
- Eliminate Most of Your Chronic Disease Risk in Four Steps
Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.