Meat-less = Less meat, not necessarily no meat.
I have been trying, for a long time, to incorporate more vegetarian meals and less meat in general into my family’s diet. Why? Honestly, the first reason – I’m sick of meat! How many different ways can you cook a chicken?! I would love to find some alternatives to the standard american dinner -some sort of meat, starch and a veggie. There are so many cultures around the world that have really tasty vegetable main dishes – Indian, Armenian, Greek, Italian…
Eating less meat – and I mean all kinds of meat, poultry, fish, pork and red meat – is consider green. Why is eating less meat green?
- Raising cows contributes to the thinning ozone layer. Cattle release a significant amount of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This represents more than transportation emissions.
- Animals require large amounts of water. It is estimated that 2 to 5 times the amount of water is needed to raise a cow than to raise the equivalent amount of food in plant form.
- Anywhere from 50 – 70% of antibiotics used in the US is used on animals. Antibiotics are routinely given to the animals to keep them healthy while they are raised for our consumption. This is a possible cause for the rise of antibiotic resistant germs.
- Huge amounts of food are grown for the animals to eat so we can eat them. Seems so inefficient! Just use the land to grow plants for us to eat and eliminate the “middle-man”.
As I learned more, there are so many other important reasons to limit meat.
- Alternative proteins are really good for you. Beans are a great low-fat source of fiber, which can lower cholesterol, combat heart disease, stabilize blood sugar, and protect against some cancers.
- Reduce the risk of some cancers. The Cancer Project discusses how eating meat can affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Others say meat can increase chances of developing other cancers such as colon and prostate.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes After watching the film Forks Over Knives, I was even more convinced that we should be eating more veggies and less meat.
- Meatless meals are less expensive. It is a lot cheaper to buy beans, whether you cook them yourself or buy in cans.
How To Actually Do It
I have tried vegetarian meals. The kids are not too fond of them. My husband, bless his heart, will eat anything I put in front of him. He is just glad he didn’t have to cook! Most of the time I enjoy the meal, but end up feeling hungry later.
So instead of cutting out meat entirely for one or 2 meals per week, I reduce the amount at most meals. Here are few examples:
If I make lasagna, I really like the flavor ground beef adds to it. I only use about a 1/2 pound for the entire lasagna. Just enough to get the flavor, but no where near the almost 2 pounds of meat a lot of recipes call for.
When I make taco filling, I start with ground beef or turkey and add beans (black beans, black-eyed peas or even re-fried beans), onions, corn and any other veggies I have chopped very small. It about doubles the filling so we are probably only eating half the meat. Plus it tastes great!
At the same time I am exploring alternatives. So far falafel, eggplant, and pizza with veggies has worked.
I think it’s important to remember that our bodies don’t need as much protein as we may think and that meat is not the only source of protein.
I posed this question on the Facebook page about a month ago:
I received the greatest suggestions! Nuts, beans, eggs, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, nut butters, edamame. Someone also posted this great chart with an explanation on how much protein we actually need and how much is in all other sorts of foods.
What are you favorite recipes that include little or no meat?