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“Eating less meat is another of those triple plays–something you can do that is good for your health, good for the environment, and good for your wallet.” -Amy Dacyczyn in The Complete Tightwad Gazette
I’ve been vegetarian for a little over a year now, and I love it. However, I’m not here to condemn or criticize people who eat meat. (How could I? My wife loves a good steak.) And I’m not trying to convince everybody to immediately go vegetarian.
Instead, I simply want to suggest that the meat eaters among us try eating less meat. As Amy says, it can be good for your health, good for the environment, and good for your wallet. And as you’ll see below, it’s not as hard as you might think.
It’s good for your body.
While cutting meat from your diet certainly isn’t a cure-all, it does have its benefits:
- Vegetarians have been shown to have lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and prostate and colon cancer.
- The average American consumes about 110 grams of protein per day, roughly twice the recommended amount. Cutting back on meat can bring you more in line with the recommended about.
It’s good for the planet.
- Producing a pound of animal protein requires about 100 times as much water as producing a pound of grain protein.
- Producing a pound of beef puts out as much carbon dioxide as driving a typical car for 70 miles.
- Producing a pound of beef creates 11 times as much greenhouse gas emissions as a pound of chicken and 100 times more than a pound of carrots.
If you want to protect the environment, every little bit of meat you cut from your diet helps!
It’s good for your wallet.
The following prices are from our local market, though prices will of course vary depending upon where you live, where you shop, whether you buy organic, etc.
- Cost of a pound of T-Bone steak: $6
- Cost of a pound of chicken: $3
- Cost of a pound of ground beef: $2
- Cost of a pound of beans: $0.80
And guess what? Beans are delicious.
It’s not as hard as you might think
I hear two common concerns when talking with people about cutting back on meat:
- How will I make sure I get enough calories and protein? (Or, “I’ve tried going vegetarian before, and after about a week my energy level plummeted, and I felt like I was going to pass out.”)
- Most of my dinners are based around meat. What am I going to cook for my family?
To the first question: It’s essential that you maintain a proper level of protein in your diet. If you switch to eating salad for every meal, of course you’ll feel light headed all day long. There’s practically no protein and very few calories in a typical salad. (And who wants to eat salad all day anyway? Not me!)
If you only cut back slightly on the meat in your diet, lack of protein shouldn’t be a problem. If you decide to go completely vegetarian, the trick is to eat plenty of beans, whole grains, dairy, or eggs.
As to the “what will I make for dinner?” question, my answer is that Google Reader is your friend. Subscribe to a handful of vegetarian food blogs, and you’ll get meal suggestions in your Reader everyday. Surely one of them will look good.
And with that in mind, here are a few easy-to-make, inexpensive, delicious, healthy vegetarian meals (and blogs) to get you started. (Click on the pictures to see the recipes.)
Tomato Basil Cream Pasta from Vegan Yum Yum
Give any of them a try, and I think you’ll agree that meatless dinners don’t have to be seen as a sacrifice.