Are you interested in incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet without the all-or-nothing commitment of going vegetarian or vegan?
You’re not alone.
In fact, there is a growing number of people who are reducing their intake of animal products rather than cutting them out altogether. According to a recent survey, 35 percent of Brits are eating less meat than they did a year ago. This holds true for Americans, too.
What’s particularly fascinating about this decline is that vegans and vegetarians aren’t the ones behind it. A recent poll found that only 5 percent of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan—a percentage that hasn’t changed for many years. Instead, the movement is caused in large part by people who are simply cutting back on their red meat, poultry, and seafood intake.
I coined the term “reducetarian” to celebrate this large portion of the population that is choosing to eat fewer animal products. Reducetarians work to cut down their carnivorous consumption by gradually reducing their meat, egg, and dairy intake. They play around with Meatless Mondays, veggie-heavy lunches, and smaller protein portions to see what works best for them.
Here are 10 reasons this flexible approach to meat eating will help you become a happier, healthier person in your own time:
1. It’s good for your health.
When you eat fewer animal products, you typically replace them with more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes—foods that are lower in saturated fats. By simply incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet, you’ll decrease your risk of everything from diabetes and strokes to heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. A recent study reinforced the benefits of a plant-based diet, demonstrating that vegetarians have a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
2. It’s good for the environment.
Climate change and meat production are closely linked. Conventional animal agriculture is responsible for upward of 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 27 percent of water usage. The issue is only worsening, with emissions for agriculture projected to increase by 80 percent by 2050. Cutting back on your consumption of animal products will significantly lower your carbon and water footprint. Small acts lead to big results, especially when we all work together.
3. You will save animals from cruelty.
Did you know the average American eats a staggering 7,000 animals in his or her lifetime? Globally, more than 60 billion factory-farmed animals are killed per year. These animals are subject to countless stresses and painful physical violations in today's brutally efficient agricultural systems. By limiting the amount of animal products you consume, you will make a big difference toward saving the lives of farmed animals over a lifetime.
4. It’s easy.
Cutting back on animal products doesn't have to be difficult—especially if you do it gradually. Consider getting started by cutting out meat one day a week, going vegan before 6 p.m., or adopting a vegetarian diet on weekdays. There are countless plant-based alternatives to classic meaty dishes, and these swaps are relatively easy (and tasty). For example, consider replacing your favorite lamb tikka masala with vegetable tikka masala, and choosing a veggie burrito instead of a beef one. And if you want a meal with meat in it, just try cutting back on your portion size. Use half the meat and double the vegetables in your favorite homemade chili recipe, or select an 8-ounce steak instead of a 16-ounce one.
5. You will save money.
Though healthy diets are often thought to be more expensive, research suggests that adopting a vegetarian meal plan can actually knock $750 off your grocery bill each year. A study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition shows that a veggie-heavy diet offers around 25 more servings of vegetables, eight more servings of fruit, and 14 more servings of whole grains than a meat-heavy one, and it cost $38.75 compared to $53.11.
6. It’s accessible.
From by CHLOE, the vegan chain taking Manhattan by storm to America's first vegan supermarket in Portland to the frozen food aisles chock-full of new veggie burgers and meat alternatives, plant-based restaurants and retailers are easier to find than ever.
7. It’s a conversation starter.
Even if your friends, family, and co-workers have already heard the term reducetarianism, it's still a very timely and interesting topic. As social creatures drawn to introspection and personal development, we’re naturally intrigued by the way others design their lives. And who knows, your conversations might even inspire someone to join you in eating fewer animal products!
8. You’ll feel better.
It takes longer to digest meat than it does vegetables, so eating more plant-based meals is a surefire way to feel lighter. Not only will you feel better on the inside, but you'll look healthier on the outside, too. Nutritious plant-based foods like apples, berries, and broccoli are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, water, chlorophyll, and vitamin E—all of which are great for your skin.
9. You’ll live longer.
Eating less meat and more whole, plant-based foods is one of the lifestyle habits that unites the people living to 100 and beyond in hot spots of longevity—regions called Blue Zones. One study found that among 73,308 Seventh-Day Adventist men and women, compared with typical omnivores, those who ate less meat had upward of a 15 percent lower risk of death.
10. "Perfect is the enemy of the good."
We know adopting and sticking to an entirely meatless lifestyle is much easier said than done. One study found that those who follow a vegan diet are likely to return to their meat-eating ways at some point. When it comes to meat consumption, I think our obsession with purity hinders us from making sustainable and meaningful behavioral change.
In reality, the difference between someone who decreases their meat consumption from 200 to 20 pounds of meat a year is far greater than the difference between someone who decreases it from 10 pounds to zero. So rather than feeling guilty or disappointed about the occasional meaty meal, adopt a reducetarianism view and celebrate each and every plant-based feast—your body, the planet, and the animals will thank you for it.