Many people are looking for ways to to adopt a more healthy, humane, and environmentally-friendly lifestyle but don’t feel ready to switch to a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet. That’s understandable. I grew up eating meat and feeling guilty about supporting cruelty to animals, humans, and the earth; but I didn’t think I could ever give up the delicious bacon, burgers, and chicken I was so deeply accustomed to eating.
About three or four years ago, I discovered the secret to making any kind of dietary change is to focus less on what you WON’T eat, and more on what you WILL eat instead. Whether your goal is to eat fewer animal products, fewer carbs, less gluten, less soda, less cake, or whatever, you’re more likely to be successful if you think about substitution, rather than elimination. I sought out vegetarian recipes and taught myself to cook plant-based meals while still allowing myself to eat meat when I wanted. The “overlap period” lasted several months. Pretty soon, I simply didn’t need meat anymore because I ate plenty of other things that were just as satisfying and delicious. The transition was seamless.
By now, I’ve gone back to eating fish, plus other meats just every once in awhile. I’d say about 85% of my diet is plant-based, and I feel good about that. (I still don’t miss steak.) You don’t have to strictly adhere to an existing diet plan to make a difference. Every little bit counts. Americans eat significantly more meat than necessary — the notion of meat as the meal’s centerpiece and veggies as its sides is backward. Ancient human civilizations consumed mostly plants (whatever they could farm or forage); meat was scarce because they had to hunt it themselves with spears or bows and arrows. (Imagine eating meat only when your husband could catch you a rabbit or spear a buffalo! Most of us would be doomed.)
As long as you eat primarily health-conscious foods, you don’t have to feel bad about the occasional indulgence. And again, don’t wait until you’re ready to cut out meat altogether before incorporating plant-based meals into your repertoire. You can start today!
My philosophy in a nutshell:
Just eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Exercise regularly. Indulge guilt-free.
So what WILL you eat now?? Stay tuned for my next posts, which will feature healthy recipes and tips on swapping out meaty ingredients. Don’t worry, you won’t miss meat a bit.