Benefits of Cutting out Meat a Few Times per Week
The idea of cutting out meat may be a daunting one for many people, but it could have a lot of positive benefits on your health and the health of the environment. The good news is, you don’t have to become a full-on vegan or vegetarian to reap the benefits of less meat, simply choosing to eat a few meat-free meals per week can do a lot for your health.
Numerous studies have found that eating meat can be directly linked to obesity and a higher body-mass index.1 By cutting out meat you might be able to maintain a slim figure, cut the risk of heart disease (which is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.), and even save money.
If protein intake is one of your concerns, there are many great sources of plant protein that cook and taste like meat. Beans and peas make a great protein substitution and can be added to dishes such as soups and salads. Low-fat dairy products also have a good level of protein, so adding servings of low-fat yogurt or milk will help ensure you are getting the protein you need. Most Americans are getting more protein than they need per day, and cutting out meat a few times per week will not cause you to become protein deficient.
Another great argument for eating less meat is that you are helping the environment. Raising livestock is one of the largest sources ofboth global greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon's lush forest is being destroyed at staggering levels to make room for grain farms and livestock grazing areas.
For the first time in 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee looked at not only the health implications of a diet high in animal products but also at the environmental implications while making their revised dietary guidelines. This heartened supporters of the environmental movement, demonstrating that more and more people were becoming concerned about the negative impacts the industrial farming industry was having on the health of their environment.
Producing one pound of beef uses 1,847 gallons of water, while a pound of broccoli only uses about 34 gallons to produce.2 So switching a few meals per week to vegetarian will save thousands of gallons of water per year.
An increasingly popular diet trend, flexitarian, is based on the idea of eating a mostly vegetarian diet but not cutting meat out completely. Being a flexitarian is about making a conscious choice to eat less meat without putting harsh limitations on yourself such as with a vegan or vegetarian diet. While some vegetarians and vegans see the flexitarian approach as a sort of cop out or a way to not fully commit to making dietary changes, it is a great way to cut down on the health and environmental implications of eating meat without having to go all in.
It’s important to remember that if completely cutting meat out of your diet is not practical for you, cutting it out a few times per week can have significant benefits for your health and the health of our environment. Adopting a flexitarian diet is a great compromise to make when full-on veganism or vegetarianism won’t work for your lifestyle.
In the meat-less spirit, here are some of our favorite EAT SMARTER vegetarian recipes:
Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Bundt Cake
1. Wang, Y and Beydoun, MA. “Meat consumption is associated with obesity and central obesity among US adults.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, 24 March 2009. Web.
2. Boehrer, Katherine. “This is How Much Water it Takes to Make your Favorite Foods.” HuffPost Green. The Huffington Post, 13 October 2014. Web.