The new year is a time to re-evaluate your habits and strive to make beneficial changes. Perhaps you’ve hopped on the “Dry January” bandwagon, giving up alcohol for the month. Or maybe you want to reduce your meat intake to improve your overall diet.
Consuming less meat doesn’t mean you have to adhere to a strict vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Meats are a popular staple in many meals, so it takes intention to move toward different ways of eating. Educating yourself is a powerful first step in changing your practices. You can begin by considering these five good reasons to cut your meat consumption.
1. To Shrink Your Grocery Bill
Practically everyone is looking for ways to save on grocery bills right now. Food costs, particularly for meat products, have skyrocketed over the last year due to rising inflation. This includes red meat, poultry, pork, and seafood. Reducing the amount of meat you consume on a regular basis could significantly benefit your family’s bottom line.
You can skip the meat aisle and still manage to meet all of your nutritional needs. Shop for some plant-based protein to eat healthier and save money at the same time. Cost-friendly options include lentils, beans, seeds, chickpeas, and leafy greens. Planning meals around these ingredients can have a positive impact on your grocery budget.
2. To Lower Your Risk of Poor Health Outcomes
Whether it’s a well-marbled steak or a nitrate-riddled sausage, meat has a well-deserved reputation as a problematic food choice. Studies consistently show that a diet packed with red or processed meats can be damaging to your overall health. Possible adverse health outcomes include stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
The saturated fats packed into processed meats might also elevate your cholesterol levels and could negatively affect your gut health. Sticking to a meal plan with less or no meat could notably improve your physical well-being. This is especially true if you’re swapping the meats for foods high in nutritional value and low in fat.
3. To Help Fight Climate Change and Protect the Planet
The meat industry has a huge carbon footprint that continues to harm the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions like methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide are common byproducts of meat production. These compounds contribute to warming temperatures and hinder the fight against climate change. Factory farms also are notorious for their unethical treatment of animals and the deplorable living conditions in which they keep them.
Furthermore, the industry consumes a significant amount of water. An estimated 70% of freshwater consumption worldwide goes to crops and livestock for farming and meat production. Consumption of meat has been on the rise for several decades. The problems will likely only worsen as the world’s population grows. As scientists sound the alarm on the effects of climate change, consider how your diet might make an impact.
4. To Enhance Your Palate
Removing meat frees up space on your plate to get creative with your cuisine. Rethinking how you cook and eat is a great opportunity to try out some new recipes. Start by preparing one dinner per week that doesn’t include meat. Slowly build up to your meat-free eating goal by eliminating or reducing meals that contain meat products.
Don’t be afraid to try something different and out of your comfort zone: international markets are a great source of novel ingredients. Try out a new fruit or find a unique way to incorporate your favorite vegetables. Explore the varieties of seeds, nuts, and legumes that will help replace the protein you’d usually get from meat. You could also incorporate tofu and tempeh into favorite dishes that traditionally contain meat.
5. To Maintain a Healthy Weight
Cutting out meat products from your diet could lead to a drop in the numbers on the scale. Sticking to a diet of greens, fresh fruits, whole grains, and plant-based proteins can definitely benefit your waistline. Many meats are packed with saturated fats, which can lead to weight gain and overall poor health.
Vegan and vegetarian diets generally contain fewer calories and less saturated fat. This makes it easier to achieve and maintain an ideal weight. It is still important to keep an eye on your calorie intake, even if you eliminate meat from the menu. If you replace meaty dishes with sugary ones, you won’t see much progress toward your weight-loss goals. Avoid consuming too many refined carbs, which can leave you feeling hungry and eventually lead to overeating.
Finding the Right Eating Habits for You
Deciding what foods to eat and lifestyles to adopt are some of the most personal choices you can make. People choose to cut out meat and animal products for a variety of reasons. Someone might abstain from certain types of meat on ethical or religious grounds. Others could be more focused on long-term health outcomes and lowering their grocery bills.
Whatever your reasons, educate yourself on the benefits of rethinking your relationship with meat. Consider how changes could affect your diet, food costs, health, and overall impact on the environment. It’s OK to slowly work your way to more meatless menus if you don’t want to cut out meat all at once. Allow yourself room to discover the eating habits and choices that best align with your desired lifestyle