Whether you want to #EatPlantsForAChange because you care about animal welfare, the environment and our changing climate, your personal health, or the many socio-economic issues that impact our diets, there is an ever-growing list of reasons to cut back on meat, eggs, and dairy.
Those of you who are embarking on this journey, congratulations!
No matter your motivation, cutting back a little can have a lot of impact. Reducing your intake of animal products creates demand for companies to adopt better practices for animals, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes—and what’s more, the future of our very planet may hang in the balance: Research has shown our food system will require a massive shift in the near future to sustain the 10 billion people who will populate the earth by 2030.
While change may be necessary, it can seem daunting at first. After all, meat has traditionally been the star of most meals in the United States! With animal products lurking almost everywhere you turn, it’s easy to fall back on old habits when you’re at the grocery store looking to throw together some easy meals for the week. When you’ve never done it before, it can be challenging to know how to make plants the main character—and let meat and other animal products play the supporting roles.
When making this transition, it’s important to start on the right foot. Quitting cold turkey (pardon the pun) is okay for some, but for many of us, that only increases the risk of backsliding. For those who require a more gradual approach, it’s all about doing things in moderation and building a support network of friends, family, or coworkers willing to provide some extra motivation and try new things with you.
For those just starting out on your plant-based journey—or finding it challenging to stay on track—here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you reduce meat, eggs, and dairy each week:
1. Begin a routine with Meatless Mondays!
Even if you’d eventually like to reduce—or, perhaps, eliminate—meat every day, there are simple steps you can take to test the waters first.
The present-day Meatless Monday movement was inspired by the Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday campaigns during World War II, intended to manage food rations.These days, many people practice Meatless Mondays for various reasons—including concerns about animal welfare, personal health, and our individual impacts on the environment. Starting your week with one meat-free day helps you reset from the weekend and supercharge your motivation for the rest of the week!
Check out the Meatless Mondays website, or watch this TED Talk for more info.
2. Eat less and better—and stay away from processed meat.
Eating fewer animal products means more room in your budget—and with those savings, it becomes easier to purchase more sustainable, higher welfare products if you do still want to include some meat, eggs, or dairy in your diet. Eating less and better go hand-in-hand! For more info on how to identify higher welfare products, download our free Compassionate Food Guide to get a better sense of what to look for.
Another quick tip: Along the lines of eating “better,” you can also commit to eliminating or reducing the amount of processed meat products you consume—like bacon, sausages, nuggets and other frozen foods, or cold cuts.
3. Make it social!
Just like our farmed animal friends, humans are social animals! And we need other people to keep us happy and motivated.
Sure, it’s one thing to shift your diet when you’re on your own, but what about when you’re ready to socialize or go out to eat with your friends? (For more on that, stay tuned for the next tip!) A good way to create a community to support and celebrate this transition is to host your own potluck with vegan or vegetarian dishes.
You can also join a cooking club or a social media group like our private Eat Plants. For a Change. Facebook community! Not only will you get ideas for new meals, but you might even make some friends with similar goals who will support you on your journey.
4. Try cuisines that have lots of vegetarian options.
Going out for dinner is a great way to break up the routine of your day-to-day meals (and let someone else cook for you, when you’re not feeling it). But you may worry about finding places near you that serve delicious, plant-based meals. Of course, it isn’t news to us that American cuisine is meat-heavy—so instead, take advantage of local restaurants that serve more plant-friendly cuisines, or check out these Indian, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, and Latin American recipes if you want to try them at home!
5. Find a meat substitute or blended product for your favorite dishes.
Luckily for you, there are more delicious, easily-accessible meat alternatives on supermarket shelves every single day! Take a look at our six favorites here.
If you want to take things at a slower pace, blended products may be a suitable option—products and recipes that mix meat and plant-based proteins together. Get more info on blended products here. Use these while you transition, reduce your meat intake, and increase plants in your meals.
6. Build meals around plants and relegate meat to side dish status.
We’re used to seeing that big steak, chicken breast, or fish filet as the only or biggest part of our meal, with the veggies playing second fiddle. It’s time to flip the script! A great way to cut back on meat is to use it to accent your vegetables, rather than the other way around. This allows you to cut back on the portion of the animal product that you’re consuming.
Planning on trying out any of the above? Let us know by using #EatPlantsForAChange and tagging us @CompassionUSA on social media!