Why Should We Eat Less Meat? 9 Worthwhile Reasons
Whether you’re thinking of going vegan, vegetarian, or just cutting down your meat intake, there are plenty of great reasons to reduce your consumption.
As a registered vegan dietitian, I am here to help you discover how eating more veggies, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds instead of meat is an amazing decision for your health, and the planet’s health as well.
Have you been thinking about reducing the amount of meat in your diet and need some more encouragement? Discover 9 motivating reasons to eat less meat.
Reason 1: To Maintain a Healthy Weight
People on low-meat, vegetarian, or plant-based/vegan diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass. Similarly, consuming plant-based protein sources like chickpeas or lentils leads to higher intakes of fibre, protein, folate, zinc, iron, and magnesium.
Did you know that a vegan or plant-based diet can also help you lose weight? Plant foods are naturally less calorie-dense and, as mentioned above, higher in fibre. Fibre-rich foods can lead to feeling fullness without overeating.
A lot of my clients that are looking to lose weight on a vegan diet and are following a vegan weight loss program notice that they become less interested in snacking.
Reason 2: To Save Money
You will save a ton on your grocery bills. According to a group of scientists from Oxford University, switching to a meatless diet can help slash food costs by up to a third. In fact, vegan diets came out on top as the cheapest in their study!
A whole foods vegan diet is composed of the cheapest staples out there! Lentils, legumes, oats, rice, and fruits like bananas are very affordable compared to processed goods. Most plant-based pantry essentials can be bought in bulk and have long shelf-lives.
Don’t forget! Eating local and seasonal foods is a wonderful way to support local farmers and community agriculture (and your wallet will thank you too!). Stock up on juicy tomatoes in the summer and hearty winter squash during colder months.
Reason 3: To Improve Gut Health
Since diets that exclude meat are often rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and other plant foods, they tend to be high in dietary fibre.
Fibre feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut that produce compounds with anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting roles in the body.
Higher fibre intakes also improve digestive health and promote regular bowel movements. Reducing your meat consumption and eating more plants can be especially helpful if you suffer from chronic abdominal discomfort, bloating, and constipation.
Reason 4: To Get Creative in the Kitchen
There are countless delicious, simple, and beginner vegan diet meal ideas out there! Have fun experimenting in the kitchen and discovering new recipes.
Some of my favourites are:
- Easy Vegan Peanut Noodles
- Easy Vegan Moroccan Soup
- Quick Sunshine Coconut Bowl
- Ultimate Crispy Veggie Sandwich
- Shredded Tofu 6 Ways
- Quick Shawarma Salad
Reason 5: To Avoid Chronic Diseases
There’s strong scientific evidence that many chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more) can be prevented and controlled with a healthy plant-based diet.
Some eye-opening statistics about following a vegan diet:
- Lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes by 62%
- Reduces your risk of cancer by 15%
- Lowers your risk of heart disease-related death by 19%
Hundreds of studies indicate that diets high in fruits and veggies may reduce cancer risk. On the other hand, both red and processed meat consumption are tied to colon cancer.
Often, people also have more energy, reduced inflammation, and they feel better overall after reducing or removing animal products from their diet.
Reason 6: To Live a Longer Life
National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner developed the concept of Blue Zones, which are areas across the globe where people tend to live the longest and have remarkably low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Buettner and his team have given official Blue Zone status to five places in the world that met all their criteria: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica.
Although food choices vary from region to region, Blue Zone diets are primarily plant-based, with as much as 95% of daily food intake coming from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Sticking to a vibrant, nutrient-rich eating plan appears to play a key role in the exceptional health of Blue Zone dwellers.
Reason 7: To Reduce Animal Cruelty
Modern animal agriculture causes a great deal of suffering to animals. Reducing your consumption of meat and other animal-sourced foods is largely about becoming less self-centered and becoming more compassionate.
Shifting towards a plant-based diet is about making an ethical decision to become more aware of our connections to fellow living creatures and respecting their right to exist. It’s about placing ourselves amongst all living beings, rather than at the top.
When you choose to follow a plant-based diet, you are consciously reducing the number of animals that are unnecessarily being exploited by the meat and dairy industries. Going vegan is one of the best things you can do to help stop animal cruelty.
Reason 9: To Help the Environment
Animal agriculture is among the worst polluters of air, water, and soil and has been found to be the greatest contributor to deforestation and species extinction. Production of plant foods uses much fewer natural resources and produces a fraction of the amount of greenhouse gases compared to animal agriculture. Let’s look at some numbers:
Plant-based protein sources – tofu, beans, peas, and nuts – have the lowest carbon footprint. Even when you compare the extremes, there’s not much overlap in emissions between the worst producers of plant proteins and the best producers of meat and dairy.
The data tells the story quite clearly – if you want a lower-carbon diet, eating less meat is nearly always better than eating the most sustainable meat.
Food lies at the heart of trying to tackle climate change, reducing water stress, pollution, restoring lands back to forests or grasslands, and protecting the world’s wildlife. Given this reality, a shift towards a plant-based or vegan diet is one of the most powerful steps a person can take towards the preservation of our planet.
Start by Taking Baby Steps
Don’t feel pressure to change your entire diet all at once.
For most people, reducing their meat consumption or removing it from their diet entirely can be a big challenge. It is normal to need some time to adjust. Take it slow, be kind to yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
If you feel like you could benefit from some extra support in making this lifestyle change, reach out for your FREE 15-minute discovery session with a vegan dietitian today.
Follow these tips to help kickstart your positive change!
4 Easy Tips for Reducing Your Meat Intake
1) Start by Eliminating Red Meat, Then Chicken
Swap out red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal, and goat) and choose leaner animal-based protein sources like chicken, turkey, or seafood instead. Studies have shown that eating red and processed meat increases cancer risk.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every 50-gram portion of processed meat (bacon, hot dogs, salami, ham, sausages, etc.) eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.
2) Stretch Meat with Plant Proteins
Try bulking up traditionally meat-heavy dishes with plant foods so they last longer! Try making tacos with lentils or textured vegetable protein (TVP) in place of half of the ground meat. You can use the rest of the meat in a chili paired with red kidney beans.
3) Try Different Plant-Based Protein Sources
Many plant foods provide protein, including black beans, chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and soy-based products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Choose one of these instead of meat in meals or snacks.
4) Take the Meatless Monday Pledge
Take a few minutes each week to plan for a delicious plant-based dinner (no need to wait for a Monday!). Slowly integrate plant-based meals into your weekly routine.
Once you have some solid recipes you know you can count on, progressively phase out the other animal products in your diet and see how it goes.