Eat More Plants & Help the Planet

Eat More Plants & Help the Planet | A Couple Cooks

It’s a new year, and you might be evaluating how you want to eat for 2015. Can we put in a plug for plants? Not only are they one of the best things you can eat for your health, eating more veg can help to ensure our world is a safe and beautiful place for years to come.

Climate change is gradually becoming less political and more accepted as scientific fact: we humans are spewing tons of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, drastically effecting our climate. You may not know that much of these greenhouse gases are due in large part to industrial-scale food production: huge factory farms, transportation of food over long distances, and so forth. So move over power plants and trains, planes and automobiles: the way we eat can have a big effect on climate change too.

Here’s some good news: a recent study in the UK that shows that cutting back on meat can cut your carbon footprint in half. Sure, there are caveats, but the main message is: even eating just less meat (and not going completely veggie) can help reduce emissions.

Since it’s also amazing for your health, why not start amping up the veg in your diet? Instead of thinking of it as “going vegetarian”, consider it just experimenting with meatless meals. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m 100% behind all it takes to have a beautiful, clean Earth to leave to our children. Here’s my vision: we can do it together. By the way we eat and the food we purchase, we can change this world for the better. We can buy more vegetables and cut down on emissions. We can make home-cooked meals instead of buying processed foods. We can demand that animals be farmed in ethical ways instead of factory farmed. We can buy local food to support small farmers.

This is not new news; scientists and advocates all over the globe have been spreading this message for decades. But I wanted to bring it to forefront today because I believe we as consumers have a huge role to play in this issue. And we don’t have to do anything but vote with our forks.

So how to do it practically? Alex and I certainly weren’t looking for a lifestyle change when we took the plunge five years ago, and we were as big of meat lovers as anyone. Here are a few tips for choosing vegetarian in 2015:

  1. Pick a percentage that works for you (for example, we picked 90% vegetarian). If you’re eating vegetarian to improve the world and your health, it’s not mandatory to eat vegetarian 100% of the time; though props if you choose to do it! For us, navigating social situations like being offered meat in a friend’s home or going out for special occasions make it hard to eat 100% veg — plus, we like fish and meat! Special occasions and guests in our home are our chance to splurge on some meat, if desired.  Choose a percentage that works in your lifestyle: for example, try eating vegetarian meals 50% of the time.
  2. Choose hearty vegetarian dishes. One misconception we found when we started eating more vegetables was the thought that carrot sticks + lettuce leaves = a vegetarian meal. Wrong! In order to stay full, you’ll need a full dose of vegetable protein. Make sure your meals have plenty of beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, or cheese.
  3. Use meat as a condiment instead of the main dish. If you just can’t imagine life without bacon, try buying some local bacon from a small farmer and crumbling it onto a salad, pizza, or frittata, You’ll eat less and still have the delicious taste you crave.
  4. Remember natural, whole foods are the goal. You can easily eat vegetarian and consume 100% processed foods. Resist the urge to stick with frozen veggie pizzas: load up on seasonal, local vegetables and whole grains. Make a resolution to cook more in 2015!

Some seasonal recipes to get your feet wet:

Tomato Artichoke Lentil Stew | A Couple Cooks

Grilled Vegetable Fajitas (for winter, sauté the vegetables instead of grilling)

Tortilla Bowl Salad with Green Goddess Dressing | A Couple Cooks

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

23 Comments

  • Reply
    Robyn @realfoodwholelife
    January 6, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Love these tips, and the entire concept. We do several meat-free dinners eat week, and I try to do vegan for breakfast most days. So many great benefits of eating more plants!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      This is wonderful, Robyn! I realized my breakfast is vegan too (peanut butter and whole grain English muffin – love it!)

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    January 7, 2015 at 2:38 am

    This post you done is really inspiring. I am currently look for ways to make my family healthier as I cook most of the meals for them. Tofu and lentils have to be the greatest things I have come across to satisfy meat eaters.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      Belinda – I agree, lentils are wonderful! We have a lentil taco recipe that satisfies meat lovers and vegetarians alike. We don’t cook with tofu often, but we enjoy it when we do.

  • Reply
    Nina
    January 7, 2015 at 5:16 am

    LOVE this post because this is exactly what I think about my diet! 4 years ago, I made the choice to eat less meat for this exact reason : reducing my greenhouse gas emissions (but also b/c I am not so much of a meat lover as well, that veggies are better for your health and b/c I don’t want to support intensive farming and all the cruelty towards animals that goes with it, neither the processed food industry!). I also choose to buy almost all my veggies from local farmers. Recently, I have been thinking of going 100% vegetarian (mostly for ethical reasons) but I do like some meat from time to time, and as you say, there are some situations when it’s diffucult to have a meatless meal, especially given that most of my friends (and my family) have very different food habits than mine! Also, my bf couldn’t go 100% vegetarian either, though I admit we could sometimes cook different meals. Sometimes, I think that I am just making up excuses for not going 100% vegetarian (or even vegan!) and that I shouldn’t let these external factors go in my way, but I simply have to admitt that I like a bit of meat/fish, diary and eggs in my diet, and even though it is sad to kill animals to eat them, we have always done so and we are omnivorous after all. So at least I can make a difference with choosing local and ethical products.

    The last few months hovewer, I felt that I have been doing bad choices with my diet (more meat/fish, processed food or food at takeouts) for many reasons. So my resolution for 2015 is to go back to the diet I chose 4 years ago, and even to go vegan more often. I like the idea of choosing a percentage of vegetarian meals, so accordind to my calculation, my goal is to be 97% vegetarian (yes, I did the maths ;) ), which means eating meat twice a month only. I know this will be hard, especially at the beginning, but I’ll do my best while not being to hard on me if I have to make a few more exceptions in the month. And since meat will be a rare treat, I’ll try to make sure that I’ll pick locally and ethically produced meat!

    Also, I want to keep on supporting local farmers and eat as much in season as possible. For the non-local stuff, I’ll ty to go for organic/and or fair trade stuff as much as possible. I am lucky to live in a place that offers a wonderful choice of beautiful local veggies and organic products, so I’m having so much fun when cooking!

    May 2015 be a wonderful year for both of you, full of beautiful kitchen inspiration! Best health wishes to Sonja as well!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      Nina, this sounds wonderful! I love your choice of 97% vegetarian. I think what’s been important for us is to not be filled with guilt when we don’t meet our eating goals, so using the percentage has been very helpful in that way. For me the hard part isn’t eating all veggies, it’s not eating too much chocolate — so the percentage is helpful there too :) Best of luck on these intentions and let us know how it goes this year!

  • Reply
    Janine
    January 7, 2015 at 5:55 am

    I feel very inspired by this post. Thinking about reducing the meat I eat and simply increasing the veggies I consume seems less daunting than becoming a vegetarian!

    New resolution made!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      Awesome! It is wonderful that framing it in a new way makes it seem doable. Keep us posted on how it goes!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    January 7, 2015 at 9:45 am

    You have some great suggestions for helping people take small steps towards a more veg-centric way of eating. And I love that you’re highlighting the sustainability issue around meat-heavy diets, something I need to talk more about too. Your tomato artichoke lentil stew is on my dinner list later this week – I’ll report back soon. ;-)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      The lentil stew is one of our favorites! Yes, let us know what you think :)

  • Reply
    Joyce
    January 7, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Now if we could just figure out how to rid the planet of Chemtrails, GMO’s, and Flouride in our water, and pesticides……the Planet would thank us for sure, and our bodies would show their appreciation!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      It’s true – there’s a long way to go! But at least we can take some baby steps with our diet :)

  • Reply
    Chris
    January 7, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    This is such a reasonable approach to what may seem a daunting thing! Here in the US, it was meat and potatoes, with a little veg, for so many of us growing up. That’s what Mom made and that’s what we ate. And it was good and I am grateful, but we know that is not the healthiest way to eat and feel good. Thanks for the post!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      That was what we grew up with too! It’s easy to want to point fingers, but that’s all we knew at the time. Who knows what we’ll know about our diets in another 20 to 30 years!

  • Reply
    Russell
    January 7, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    As the self proclaimed biggest fan of this food blog, I can attest that if you cook these recipes, you’ll find that eating vegetarian is just as good if not better than a carnivorous diet. Get ready to have your world rocked!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Haha — you crack us up! Thank you for being a fan and trying so many of our recipes!

  • Reply
    Kerry @ Kerry Cooks
    January 9, 2015 at 8:54 am

    What a great post guys! It’s the kind of thing I think about and advocate all the time but we need more word-spreading for sure! I’m loving the look of the burrito bowl too, I’m making one of those stat!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Exactly! Thanks for helping to join with us in spreading the word and loving those plants :)

  • Reply
    Rachel
    January 9, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Amazing and inspiring post, well put and very straightforward. I’ve been a vegetarian since teen-hood and over the last couple years become rather lazy with it, mostly due to a nomadic lifestyle: not so much processed food but heavily reliant on cheese.
    Last autumn I gave up dairy for six weeks and it was incredible the difference it made, removing the cheese element pushed me to much healthier options and without butter I cut down/adjusted on my sweet baking too. I felt a million times healthier.
    Over the winter I’ve gone back to dairy, I’ve been travelling around northern Europe and it makes feeding myself so much easier, however, when I get back to the UK I will definitely revert partly back to non-dairy: just keeping it for special occasions, going out etc. Better for me, better for the world :)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      Yes! We’ve taken some baby steps to reduce our dairy, but it’s hard been being such cheese lovers :) We’ve mainly focused on increasing plants, but it’s also great not to be fully reliant on dairy if possible. And we agree – it is so difficult logistically when you are traveling to find the right food choices! Best of luck on your journey!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    January 9, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    I love everything about this post. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost two years now and just stumbled upon your blog a couple weeks ago. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      You are so welcome! Thanks for reading, Nicole!

  • Reply
    Sandra from saltsole.com
    October 1, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Love this post. A few years ago we made a big food switch to clean eating, mostly plants, very little dairy (maybe only once or twice a month). We have had so many healthy benefits that we will never go back to how we were eating. And yes the cheese was a big one to give up, but we replaced cheese with avocado. Thats been the key for us to just find healthy replacements for everything we love.

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