It can feel like a lot to chew on. Maybe you’ve read about the environmental impact of the meat industry. Or you’ve been hearing about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. But when you think about actually changing your own diet, the prospect seems, well, tough to swallow. Which makes the No Meat May challenge the perfect time to dive into the details.
After all, if you’ve already made the switch from traditional detergents to SaltyLama’s cruelty-free laundry sheets, you’ve taken one positive step forward that will benefit both the health of your home and the planet.
And if you’re now considering taking that initiative from the laundry room to the kitchen, we have some helpful tips on how to become a vegetarian or vegan. Whether you’re looking to improve your health, be kinder to the environment, or simply try something new, making the switch to a meat-free diet can be an exciting and rewarding journey.
Why become a vegetarian, anyway?
It’s estimated about 1.5 billion people around the world are vegetarians, and that number is growing every day. Here’s why people are making the switch to a plant-based diet.
For the planet
One of the main reasons why people become vegetarian or vegan is to do their part for the environment. What and how we eat has the power to shift the trajectory of our planet’s well-being. A study from Oxford University identified going vegan as the “single biggest way” to reduce our carbon footprint, shrinking it up to 73%. To put it in perspective, livestock alone accounts for more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, due to how much methane the animals produce — not to mention the carbon emissions created by processing meat, storing it, and transporting it. On the other hand, plant-based proteins and foods drastically decrease emissions. A recent study showed that replacing just five percent of German beef consumption with pea protein could reduce CO2 emissions by up to eight million tons a year— that’s impressive! Other studies have confirmed veggie burgers are associated with 98% fewer carbon emissions than regular burgers.
Beyond emissions, a plant-based diet also protects rainforests, conserves water, and saves habitats just by eliminating meat. Shockingly, one-third of the Earth’s landmass is dedicated to raising animals for consumption. Imagine the deforestation as well as the animal life destroyed in the process.
For your health
Eating plant-based food is an amazing way to stay on top of your health, so long as you keep your diet balanced.Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians typically consume less saturated fat and cholesterol, and take in more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals (healthy plant chemicals).
As a result, vegetarians are likely to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI). All of this helps regulate your health, increase longevity, and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. By consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins, you’ll be providing your body with all the nutrients it needs to thrive. Plus, research shows time and time again that people who eat red meat are at a higher risk of death from heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. The same risks pop up for processed meats in any form.
Tips for making the switch to a meatless, plant-based lifestyle
Take steps to get comfortable
If you typically consume a lot of meat, you don’t have to go cold turkey (no pun intended). This could cause you to feel overwhelmed and prevent you from sticking to it. So, start by reducing meat to one or two meals a week and slowly increasing it every week or two until you’re comfortable eliminating it altogether from your diet.
Experiment with different cuisines
The beauty of eating plant-based is all the options it offers. There are so many delicious plant-based dishes from all around the world to explore. Try making some Indian, Thai, or Moroccan cuisine that is often meatless or has plant-based options.
Use No Meat May as a time to get excited about going meatless and discover all the delicious alternative dishes you can make or go out to eat and try. You might be surprised just how flavorful and delicious vegetarian and vegan food can be.
Find meat substitutes you enjoy
Many plant-based substitutes on the market mimic the texture and taste of meat, if that’s what you like. Not all of them will fool you, but some popular foods like the Impossible Burger have won over many meat eaters. Try different types of meatless products such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, or plant-based burgers and sausages. See which ones you like the most and begin to incorporate them into your diet. Tofu, for example, is loaded with protein and is unique for being able to take on the flavor of whatever spices or sauces you saturate it with.
Remember there is still plenty of protein to go around
Many meat eaters will ask vegetarians and vegans how they get enough protein in their diet. However, there’s protein in so many foods that aren’t meat. We’ve just been told meat is protein and protein is meat. While meat is a convenient source of protein, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives like beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, peas, spinach — the list goes on. So, incorporating these into your meals will help keep you full and satisfied.
Plotting your meals ahead of time can make the transition to a meatless lifestyle much easier. This will help prevent you from feeling rushed and hungry and finding yourself pulling into the nearest fast-food joint. We recommend meal prepping and having easy-to-grab plant-based snacks on hand so you’re not tempted to reach for meat-based options.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Making the switch to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is not easy for everyone, and it’s okay to slip up and learn along the way. Remember to be kind to yourself and focus on progress, not perfection. Every plant-based meal you eat is a step in the right direction. You’ll be taking care of your body and the planet along the way.
Remember, going meatless doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Even reducing your meat consumption can have a positive impact on your health and the environment. Happy No Meat May!