by Jamie Landa, Food Campaigns Intern
One of the most important things we can do as consumers to lessen our impact on the climate is to reduce the amount of animal products we eat. Raising animals for food produces over 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emission in addition to using more water and creating more pollution than growing plants.
Going vegan or vegetarian can seem inconvenient, expensive, and just plain not-fun. But it doesn't have to be—it can be easier and more enjoyable than you think. In fact, there are many benefits of vegetarian diets that can make it feel like a daily accomplishment for both people and planet.
Cutting down on animal products doesn’t mean you need to adopt a label. Holding yourself to a standard like veganism or vegetarianism can mean setting yourself up for failure. It helps to go into a meat-free life with the attitude that nobody’s perfect and the less animal products you consume, the better for the Earth. And if you’d like a label that gives you some wiggle room, you can always be a reducetarian.
Once you get past the fear that you need to be perfect, eating a plant-based diet can be fun and easy. Here’s 5 reasons why it’s exciting to ditch animal products from your diet:
1. Try new things
It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut, we all do it. Cooking and ordering the same dishes day after day can become a bore. Cutting out meat means changing up your diet and trying interesting new restaurants and meals.
Whether it means learning to cook with plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh or trying that new vegan spot in town, going vegetarian/vegan continually exposes you to new foods. Even better, these new options can be healthy, satisfying, and just as flavorful.
2. Get healthy
According to the American Heart Association, vegetarians have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer than meat-eaters. Some people fear that they will struggle to get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet, but there are plenty of plant-based protein sources including nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, soy, quinoa, hemp, and vegetables. Furthermore, this worry over vegans’ protein levels isn't necessary since many people may be getting too much protein.
A diet free of animal products can also result in weight loss. Provided you steer clear of vegan junk food, (Oreos are accidentally vegan) a diet rich in greens, colorful vegetables, and whole grains will keep you fit and full of energy!
3. Save money
Want to save over $700 dollars a year on food? Reducing the meat in your diet can get you there. Eating a vegan or vegetarian diet often is looked at as overpriced and designated for a privileged few. The reality is that if you shop consciously, you can end up saving money on a meat-free meal plan. A diet focused on whole and minimally processed foods is often the most economical. In-season vegetables and fruits as well as grains, nuts, and seeds can be found at very low prices compared with animal products and prepared foods.
4. Stop the guilt
Factory farmed animals often suffer prematurely short lives in terrible conditions. To make the most profit, factory farms confine large numbers of animals into small spaces, restricting their movement. This also creates unclean conditions in which animals can easily get sick.
To prevent this, large amounts of antibiotics are administered regularly. The livestock industry uses 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics annually. This overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance in humans as well as the development of drug-resistant “superbugs.” Large chains like Starbucks use milk and meat sourced from factory farms, making it difficult to avoid supporting these operations unless you buy items free of animal products.
Giving up animal products means you no longer are using your money to support animal cruelty, human health damage, and environmental harm. Being able to enjoy your meals guilt-free makes them so much more enjoyable!
5. Eat delicious food
There are so many great vegetarian/vegan recipes out there. Check out all the recipe links found in the captions of the tasty-looking photos in this post. More great recipes for yummy vegetarian/vegan meals can be found at Minimalist Baker, Organic Authority, and MindBodyGreen. Happy cooking!