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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
About the Authors
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 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.