Envision your ideal meal for a few seconds…
Is it a giant red steak, marinating in its own juices? Chicken parmesan? Carne asada tacos?
Don’t feel bad if meat is part of your fantasy meal. I’m not here to degrade your food fantasies. After all…
Food is awesome! We should enjoy it.
Instead of waging a war against our tastebuds, let’s live in harmony with them. Rather than ruling meat out completely because of its environmental impact, lets evaluate our relationship with this food group and strike a healthy balance between the environmental benefits of vegetarian life and the joys of meat.
Diets that force us to give up the things we love like cheese, bread, beer, or dessert suck. They have a high rate of failure because we have to fight ourselves every step of the way and exercise an unfair amount of self control.
Our human nature wants us to eat fatty, surgar-filled, and salty foods as much as possible and as often as possible. We are following an old drive that doesn’t know when or where we’ll get our next meal even though our rational minds already know what’s for dinner.
Because our innate tendencies don’t match our modern lifestyles, we all develop ways to compensate. Some of us exercise more to meet our “bad” food habits, some of us try portion control, some go through cycles of getting fat and then slimming down.
By now you know what works for you and if you’re interested in making a conscious effort to reduce your meat consumption, you can apply your own strategy to help reduce your consumption.
I’ve chosen to reduce my meat consumption both for my health and the environmental impact. I haven’t completely cut out meat and I’m nowhere near vegan (I’m not against going vegan, and while I may find that lifestyle right for me one day, it doesn’t put me in the sweet spot of being environmentally conscious right now) but I’ve cut about 90% of my meat consumption without any suffering, craving, or meat sweats.
Change the way you think about meat.
By having meat less often I appreciate it more. Six years ago I set a rule for myself: I only eat meat if I’m out to dinner or it’s a special occasion, and when I do eat meat I try to choose high quality options like free range.
Yes, more sustainable sources of meat cost more, but this initiates a positive feedback loop. When the meat cost more, you value it more and when you value it more it tastes better. You use it more efficiently or sparingly in your dishes and you savor it more. Bonus: These types of meats also tend to be healthier for you.
Regarding meat as a specialty food not only makes me appreciate it more, but it also tends to cut out the shitty low-quality meats from my life. I no longer grab low-quality ground beef by default for a spaghetti or hamburger meal. Over time I’ve learned to cook with alternatives and now I find them just as enjoyable – if not more, because I am conscious of the positive health and environmental implications.
Follow an attainable transition plan.
The key for anyone who is trying to create new habits is to keep the stress level low and work your way up in increments over time. The most devastating thing in any new habit is a relapse which is almost always spurred by too difficult of parameters that are unsustainable over time.
If you’re eating meat every day right now, you may want to try cutting out meat only one day to start. Once you’re comfortable with that you can move to two or three days a week. This slow transition won’t be a shock to your tastebuds and it will give you plenty of time to develop alternative meat-free versions of your favorite meals.
Give meat substitutes and alternatives a chance.
Tofu isn’t going to replace steak any time soon. Some new products are getting better, but no matter how you cut it, it isn’t the same. Rather than expecting the latest tofu burger to be just as good as In-N-Out, let’s place more emphasis on the health and environmental benefits of these alternatives.
Vegetarian alternatives have been around for a while now (think about India!) so there are a lot of really good recipes out there if you’re willing to try something new. The same goes for eating out – vegetarianism is at it’s peak in popularity and it’s never been easier to find alternatives.
Changing the way you think about meat and following a feasible transition plan is the key to successfully reducing your meat consumption. Go slow and setup some parameters that work for you; Going cold turkey is setting yourself up for failure. You can always decrease your meat intake more as you become comfortable with your new diet
Here are some tips to help you:
- Don’t stress it. Feel good about the positive impact your having when you choose a meat alternative rather than beating yourself up about the negative environmental impact every time you eat meat.
- Easy does it. You don’t need to go vegetarian over night. Drastically changing your lifestyle is difficult and a recipe for success. Taking small steps will yield better results over time.
- Some good strategies:
- Eat meat only when you go out.
- Cut out one day a week or one meal a day.
- Buy more sustainably raised meat.
- Give the alternatives a try.
- Learn to appreciate meat more. The more you appreciate meat, the more you can enjoy it on occassion and the less you will take it for granted or make it a necessity of every meal.
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