Every day, we're faced with countless decisions that require balancing our priorities with our goals and resources. Add in demanding workloads and hectic schedules, and it's sometimes easy to forget that many of our habits and routines are in fact a product of our decisions, whether we're consciously making them or not.
Take, for example, one of the most fundamental necessities in life — food. Studies show that we make over 200 food-related decisions each day. What, how, how much, when, where, and so on — many of these micro-decisions are made automatically, without much active thinking.
Yet, what and how we choose to eat impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Food is the medium through which we socialize, defining how we spend much of our free time. More importantly, food choices influence everything from our physical health and well-being to our individual finances and carbon footprints.
What if you could make a food decision today that nourishes your body, protects the environment and saves you money?
You can, and it's simple: eat less meat. And the reasons couldn't be more compelling.
1. Greens are great for your health.
We've all seen the headlines of studies linking lower rates of heart disease in cultures with diets rich in plant-based foods. One of the primary reasons for this correlation is that, by default, these cultures eat less meat.
By comparison, the consumption of meat is associated with increased risk of heart disease. Red meat in particular is also tied to increased risk of many forms of cancer, not to mention obesity and type 2 diabetes, two of the most preventable of all chronic diseases.
With respect to balanced nutrition, there are plenty of greens such as spinach, peas, broccoli and Brussels sprouts that pack a protein punch. Adding in nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains can complement your meatless meal while maintaining overall balance in your diet.
2. The planet will be a bit greener.
From the depletion of natural sources for growing animal feed to the generation of greenhouse gases, meat-based agriculture has a profoundly detrimental effect on our environment. Consider that producing a pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water, which is well over a month's worth of daily 10-minute showers. Compared to growing a pound of vegetables, producing a pound of beef requires nearly 50 times more water.
Even more staggering is meat-based agriculture's contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gases. Cattle is by far the biggest culprit, as the daily emissions impact of a single cow exceeds that of the average car. One of the most environmentally friendly decisions you can make is as easy as foregoing a burger once a week and replacing it with a meatless option. Over a year, that is equivalent to not driving your car for 320 miles.
3. You'll save some green.
Replacing meat with plant-based options is a great way to not only stretch your food dollars but also help reduce health care costs. Since plant-based foods require less resources for production and transportation, they're typically more affordable than meat. Moving from meat-centric meals to more plant-based ones also allows you to explore seasonal produce options, another cost-saving measure that also helps incorporate variety into your diet. And with beef prices up over 25% in just the past two years, opting for the portobello burger just makes good sense for all of us.
With a per capita meat consumption among the highest in the world, Americans stand to gain substantial benefit from a reduced-meat diet. Whether shopping at the grocery store or dining out, shifting just a few of your meal choices toward meat-free has a powerful cascading effect on health, sustainability and economics.
In fact, restaurants, schools, and even entire cities are implementing initiatives to promote more plant-based foods through programs such as Meatless Mondays, a global movement that encourages us to go meat-free just one day a week.
So go ahead, let the greens take over your plate today. Your body, your planet and your wallet will thank you.