How to eat fewer animal products, now that you have found out that there is no good reason at all to consume them?
Hello there! Lots of people have been asking me for tips on how to eat less meat without necessarily becoming a vegetarian, or how to consume less animal products in general without being a strict vegan. So I decided to write a post where I can reveal what I have learned from almost three years of being a vegetarian and often vegan. It is important to note that this is my personal experience, and although there are universal facts worth knowing and applying, everyone is different; our bodies react differently to the way we treat them and the only way to learn how your body works in order to be healthier and live longer is to not to be scared to try different things.
A few things before we start:
I highly invite you to read my first post, which is quite short, on my first reflection on why I should think more about where my food comes from and question animal products: https://thinkmoveeat.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/no-more-bacon/
If you are wondering why it can be healthier to consume less animal products and wish to know more about it, there are multiple channels of information on the three main reasons to consider eating less meat/dairy/egg: it is better for the environment, for our own health, and for the animals. Plus, I think it’s pretty gross to eat dead animals. There are tons of sources out there to get further information about the health issues caused by a diet that is filled with meat and animal products, and the health benefits of eating less of those, as well as on the environmental issues around animal agriculture and livestock, and on the bad treatment of animals and the conditions they live in in actual day over-consumption of animal products, and more. Here are a few interesting sources that can help you learn more about all of it:
- Book based on personal anecdotes and investigative discovery Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer:
- I honestly think this book summarizes very well the place meat and other animal products have in our everyday lives. It’s filled with facts, research, anecdotes and humor. I honestly recommend it to EVERYONE, it doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan, vegetarian, meat-lover or whatever; if you’re OPEN-MINDED and wonder what is and isn’t true about the meat industry, give it a try! It is based on the author’s extensive research, visits to many farms, and interviews with people from diverse backgrounds (from farm owners and butchers to animal rights activists. It explains the relationship between current meat consumption and environmental degradation, the relation between meat consumption and collective public health, while acknowledging the central role of food in our everyday lives, and giving a solution to the issues that vegetarianism might create in a home or any other around-the-table situation. Most importantly, it opens the conversation about “the secrecy that has enabled the factory farm”, challenging our actions now that the information is out there and “we can’t plead ignorance, only indifference”.
- There are many scientific articles and ethics books that challenge meat and dairy consumption and goes deep into the environmental and health effects of today’s consumption habits, most of which you can easily find on the internet as well as almost any library or bookstore!
If you think veganism is b*llshit, just let me say that I think you’re completely RIGHT to DOUBT it; it would be weird not to be skeptical about eating habits that challenge most societies’ standards, families’ customs and peoples’ traditions. You are right not to be gullible; don’t believe 100% in others’ words, take a look at the facts yourself, whether we are talking about the things that the government and related medical authorities tell us (who are highly financed by these large animal-abusing industries), or facts revealed by other scientific and medical institutions.
Tip 1- It’s a PROCESS: take your TIME, don’t transition overnight.
The way in which you choose to transition towards eating fewer animal products is as important as the transition itself. Start by reading about different diets and cooking tofu, more vegetables, whole grains and finding vegetarian/vegan alternatives to what you are used to eat. For example, soy cream can be used instead of milk cream, coconut yogurt can replace dairy yogurt, and many ingredients can replace meat: diversified vegetables (quantity and quality are important here), legumes such as beans and lentils, tofu, tempeh and organic soy alternatives. Also, try to know where the meat you eat comes from; even if it’s organic, it doesn’t mean the animal was healthy or well treated, thus you can start buying meat from local family farms for instance. I transitioned by cutting red meat and only eating the poultry I bought from a small family farm that is one hour away from Montreal (La Ferme Bourgeois), where the animals are organically fed and live outside, having space to exercise and be happy. That way, you will have to make more effort to buy your meat, thus you will eat it less often, plus you will be eating healthier animals. You can also start researching vegetarian/vegan options at your favorite restaurants and take-outs, so you will know what alternatives you have when you go out. I also carry around with me at all times a bag of mixed nuts and a cereal bar, as well as lots of water. That can help with your cravings and will keep you from buying MacDonald’s fried chicken nuggets when you’re hungry at 2 am.
Tip 2- Get informed!! Read read read.
You should know where your food comes from, and this doesn’t go only for animal products, but even soy products (which can be dangerous when not organic), vegetables, bread, fruit, you name it. You should also read blogs from regular vegetarian/vegan people who tell their experiences, as well as medical blogs on vegetarianism and veganism, so that you won’t lack vitamins or minerals. There are very informative videos in multiple channels as well, such as Peta youtube, and books like How Not To Die, as well as online articles. Here are a few:
- http://www.chooseveg.com/9-delicious-and-totally-vegan-ways-to-get for health tips
- http://www.forksoverknives.com/ for recipes
It’s extremely important to do your research. Personally, I had an iron deficiency when I stopped eating red meat and poultry, because I wasn’t properly informed. Here is how you get IRON from PLANT-BASED sources: you have to eat iron-containing plant-based foods every day (spinach, lentils, beans, etc.) at the same time as VITAMIN C-rich foods (kiwi, orange, lemon, etc.). You cannot ingest caffeinated drinks, black coffee or black tea at the same time as eating those iron and vitamin C-rich foods (you have to wait at least 2 hours, otherwise your body doesn’t really absorb the iron). For instance, you can eat a large salad with spinach and kiwis for lunch, or a meal of lentils with lemon juice, and drink white or green tea (instead of black tea or coffee), and you’ll get the iron you need!!! Plus, usually vegetarians/vegans have to take a VITAMIN B12 SUPPLEMENT (which is very easy to find at every pharmacy), since it is the only vitamin that is hard to get from today’s treated plants we eat (but it isn’t impossible, so if you don’t like to take vitamins get informed on getting natural plant-based B12, it’s present in ingredients such as nutritional yeast, and often it’s already added to soy or almond milk); meat-eaters get it from cow’s meat (since the cow herself ate non-treated plants that contained B12).
Tip 3- Learn the basics of cooking
Homemade food is always so much healthier! And once you know how to make it, you’ll shop better and look for more local, organic and quality products, which directly affects your health. And it’ll make it easier for you to know what you’re ingesting: Less salt, less refined sugar, replacing milk with almond milk and discovering the vegetarian alternatives to meat. That’s what I am attempting to share with in this blog!
Tip 4- Remember that even the smallest thing is still BETTER THAN NOTHING. You CAN make a difference.
It’s normal not to be able to become a strict vegan and then we have the tendency to say f*uckoff, I can’t completely cut meat from my diet so let’s eat hamburgers every day! Well, you’re wrong, even if you’re a vegetarian once a week it’s still better than not making an effort. You can make a difference even with the smallest gestures. Studies have shown that world hunger can be ended if everyone went vegan, and environmental degradation would reduce by a lot. According to the water footprint network, beef requires the most water, at 1,847 gal./lb., whereas vegetarian meat substitutes require soooooo much less; tofu requires 302 gal./lb., lentil requires 704 gal./lb., and chickpea requires 501 gal./lb. By not eating one pound of beef you save as much water as not showering for six months! So even if you decide to have one vegetarian day per week, you will make a significant impact. To learn more about health benefits, take a look at this post: http://www.forksoverknives.com/7-things-that-happen-when-you-stop-eating-meat/
Tip 5- Don’t forget to exercise!
A sedentary life is a significant cause to many diseases, especially related to bones (osteoporosis), muscles and the heart. Physical inactivity increases the chance of a heart disease up to 50%, type 2 diabetes to 35% and colon cancer to 30%.
But that’s not all.
Inactivity doesn’t only affect our bodies; it affects our minds as well. Grumpiness, anxiety, stress and depression can be consequences of a sedentary life. Physical activity helps us relax, be distracted from our problems, feel good about ourselves, be in good shape and sleep better. Michael Greger M.D. has an extremely interesting short video on physical exercice as a treatment for depression instead of drugs:
And yes, we can always find excuses not to exercise, but if we care about our well-being and health, we should exercise at least four times a week. Do it for yourself, the people who love you and the whole society, really. Don’t overthink it. Just find what you like (group sport, dance, yoga, pilates, cycling, running, whatever) and find time for it.But the truth is, physical activity doesn’t have to take a lot of time and resources. I recently found out some YouTube channels where yogis teach in short and longer videos many different yoga classes. You can do it at your house, in your time and you can even choose your level and the muscles you’d like to work on each day. Here are my two favorites: