While I enjoy plant-powered meals on the regular, I don’t consider myself a vegan or a vegetarian. Rather than putting labels on my diet, I’ve made the choice to eat what is most sustainable for my body, my long-term health, and the livelihood of our planet.
If I had to describe my diet, I’d say that it most closely resembles a pescetarian diet (fish and seafood as a staple protein). I chose to cut out several types of meat after conducting heavy research on the topic. My research on alternative diets, health, and wellness is constantly evolving to keep current with changing times.
To be completely honest, I love the taste of a perfect mid-rare rib eye steak. But after reading up on the damage that the beef industry causes the world — and learning more and more about how it affects the human body — I’ve made the decision to STOP eating red meat.
It’s important to understand why red meat is harmful over time, especially when it’s eaten too frequently. A post by Forks Over Knives showcases what happens to your body when you stop eating red meat:
- You’ll feel less bloated, less inflamed, and your cholesterol will drop.
- Your body will have a better pH balance because red meat is an acid-forming food.
- Your skin may improve, especially if you start eating more produce.
- You will lower your risk for certain cancers, as well as obesity and diabetes.
- Your chance of having a heart attack goes down, as poor diet is a major contributing factor.
When you cut out red meat from your diet, understand that you’re helping the environment immensely, as well. This is especially the case in the U.S., where the average carnivore eats just over 270 pounds of red meat each year, per person!
This is in stark contrast to the amount of red meat the average person in the world eats: only four pounds a year.
A mind-blowing 51 percent of lingering greenhouse gasses hanging around Earth is a direct by-product of the animal agriculture industry. At the forefront of this issue: cows. Skeptical Science put together an in-depth study to help answer the question of how eating red meat contributes to global warming:
“. . .Beef requires 28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer and 11 times more water than producing pork or chicken. As a result, the study estimated that producing beef releases 4 times more greenhouse gases than a calorie-equivalent amount of pork, and 5 times as much as an equivalent amount of poultry.”
The beef industry also uses more water than nearly any other food. It takes over 1,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of meat. The world is wasting outlandish amounts of water, despite the fact that we are already facing water scarcity issues.
Image source: Edible Madison
We must change our habits of over-consumption; we are already starting to see the effects on our changing climate associated with excessive methane produced by cattle. For those of you eating red meat every day (or for every meal), it’s time to make some changes in your diet!
5 Tips to Stop Eating Red Meat
1.) Take a Gradual Approach
Keep in mind change doesn’t occur overnight. If you take a ‘cold turkey’ approach, carnivorous cravings may start to take hold. Start small and work your way toward the goal of a red-meat-free life.
You may choose to start by cutting out one food at a time. Rather than thinking, “starting today I will never eat red meat again,” try weening out foods individually. Instead, take a mindset of “starting today I will never eat meatloaf again” or whatever particular meaty food you choose at the time.
2.) Consider an Additional Goal
While changing what you eat is a fantastic goal on its own, tacking on an additional, related goal may be advantageous.
For example: if you are trying to stop eating red meat because you are passionate about water conservation, it may be a good idea to also tackle the objective of taking shorter showers. You’ll remind yourself WHY you set these goals in the first place every time you take a quick shower, or pass up a carne asada burrito.
However, keep in mind that if you do decide to take on another goal for motivational purposes, be careful NOT to overwhelm yourself. Additional goals must work in harmony with the existing objectives. Otherwise, they are defeating the purpose. The last thing you want is for add-on goals to supersede and replace the original.
3.) Plan Your Meals
It’s easier to stay on track with a restricted diet when you plan and prepare meals in advance.
For many people, the hardest part of sticking to a new diet is around lunch time. The urge to eat out is hard to ignore, especially in cases where your workplace is surrounded by restaurants.
I use a lunch meal plan guide (image below) to keep myself on-track with meal prepping. Focus on protein sources that will stay good for a few days. Vouch for quality over quantity – you don’t have to prep out a full week of meals at a time!
Planning guide source: LifeStorage
Still not convinced that meal planning and prepping is incredible? These beautiful examples of meal prep showcase proper meal prep, and will likely make you salivate as well!
4.) Consider Alternatives
Food tech is booming these days, so there are more beef replacements than ever. Some plant-based substitutes even ‘bleed’ like traditional burger patties. When it comes to beef alternatives, I consider myself to be a foods whiz (I’ve worked in several vegan-friendly restaurants and health food stores).
The following foods are my go-to red meat alternatives:
- Fake meats, although I stay away from those that are highly processed
- Nuts, beans, and legumes
- Jackfruit, mushrooms, and other similar ‘meaty’ produce
- Fish and seafood
- Healthy soy products such as tempeh, seitan, and tofu
Here are some specific recipes to hopefully spark some meal planning motivation. I find myself constantly revisiting the following dishes:
- Cauli-power Fettuccine Alfredo
- BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches
- Savory Chickpea Pancakes
- Loaded Sweet Potatoes
- Meat-free tacos (they are one of the most versatile foods—you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!)
Feel free to look up more recipes online or on social media.
5.) Be Open-Minded
One of the best ways to have a more well-rounded diet is by simply trying new things.
This doesn’t mean you have to eat quinoa all day to make better choices. Be willing to experiment with other cultures’ cuisines. If you haven’t tried it, you will more than likely enjoy Ethiopian food. The same can be said about Indian cuisine, which rarely ever includes red meat.
The world is a diverse place with countless healthy foods to explore. So do yourself a favor: stray away from the ‘meat and potatoes’ mindset that many people in the U.S. so tightly hold onto. Try NOT eating red meat and see the difference in your mind and body.