There are 8 Simple Ways Meat and Dairy Lovers Can Help the Environment and they all involve delicious food!
I wrote this article earlier this month highlighting 4 ways to eat more plant based foods to support our environment’s health. The reality is that the majority of people do eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Most people are not ever going to commit to veganism 100% and if they do it will a temporary behavior change. In this way, it is essential to highlight that meat, fish and dairy reductionism is a valid and commendable environmental action.
Here are 8 Simple Ways Meat and Dairy Lovers Can Help the Environment.
The scale of the environmental crisis facing us all is overwhelming. When we think about the actions our governments need to take, we might feel frustrated or helpless. When we think about the necessary actions we can all take, we have choices. We can fly less, get rid of our cars and use public transport and bicycles instead, plant more trees, focus on green energy, vote for politicians who have an environmental vision, buy less, stop using single use plastics, turn our food waste into compost and recycle. The list of things we as individual citizens could and might do can feel intimidating.
The most simple and effective environmental action
Food production and consumption impacts animals and our environment. In particular, land use and emissions from factory farming, other large-scale meat and dairy production, and overfishing contribute to climate change.
One of the most simple and effective daily actions we can take is to modify the way we eat. The dietary choices that are better for the environment are conveniently also those which allow us to achieve optimal human health. Overconsumption of meat, fish, dairy and processed foods is destructive for our environment and our personal health. It is motivating to think that we can positively impact the environment with our food choices every day, and that these same food choices help our physical health too.
Meat, fish and dairy reductionism explained
Nowadays, the message that vegan or plant-based eating patterns are better for our environment is clear. Reactions to this advice are varied and can be extreme, with some people committing to these eating patterns in a zero-tolerance manner, and others entirely rejecting them. This leads to the commonplace knee-jerk reaction to any mention of a snack or meal which doesn’t include an animal product. On one side of the spectrum is vegan shaming, on the other is self-righteous virtue signalling.
Our environmental crisis calls for all of us to respond. For many people, completely cutting out animal products feels too big of a change and is therefore unrealistic. One way we can do our part is to simply reduce the quantity of animal products we use and consume.
8 Simple Ways Meat and Dairy Lovers Can Help the Environment
The reductionism approach is a reasonable and moderate approach that anyone can implement for themselves and in their family. This less extreme approach is more accessible for many people. Animal product reductionism means that you can still enjoy red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Setting an achievable, realistic target drastically increases our chance of success, which is good news for us individually and for our environment.
Making food simple
Reducing meat, fish and dairy consumption doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to buy lots of special products or do a lot of complex calculations to make sure you’re getting enough nutrition.
Serve more fresh vegetables and fruits at every meal
An easy way of reducing one food group is to crowd it out by serving more of the others. Rather than merely swapping a meat dish for a vegan one, simply add another plant-based dish to your table alongside your regular options. Try out delicious fresh vegetable salads and whole fruits which complement your existing meal rotation. Here are 17 plant-based recipes that your eyes, mouth and gut will love.
Eat more starchy vegetables, tubers and whole grains
Tubers (hello potatoes!), starchy vegetables (squashes, pumpkins) and whole grains (rice, oats, barley, etc) are satiating. And no, they will not make you fat! We cannot live on vegetables and fruits alone. Tubers, whole grains and legumes are rich in vitamins and dietary fiber, both of which are essential to our health.
Whole grains are one of the least intensive foods to produce. Processing and refining whole grains uses extra energy and resources and therefore has a larger environmental impact. By eating the whole grain, we cut out a large part of the production process and we retain the nutritious benefits of eating grains in their natural form.
Here are three recipes using these filling and nourishing ingredients:
- delicious toasted almond brown rice salad with dried cherries
- simple baked potato fries recipe for a perfect side dish
- double baked sweet potato tzimmes: a modern remake of a Jewish classic
Replace meat, fish and dairy with legumes like beans, lentils, peas
Legumes are a protein rich vegetable food that are packed with nutrients. They are also versatile and can be added to many recipes to boost protein and replace meat, fish and dairy. Either swap out the meat entirely, or use half the usual quantity and substitute legumes for the rest. In soups and stews, as a satisfying side dish, puree for dips, and added to salads, beans, lentils and peas are great in stuffed vegetables, burgers and meatballs too.
Use less meat and dairy in recipes
If you want to continue enjoying animal products, simply reduce the quantity of meat, fish, dairy, eggs at every meal. For example:
- If your recipe calls for beef, chicken or fish, reduce the amount by half and add mushrooms or another vegetable to the recipe
- Swap yogurt or milk based ingredients for plant milks and yogurts instead
- Use ground flax seed or egg replacer instead of eggs in pancakes and baked goods
Buy ethical animal products and in smaller amounts
When you do eat meat, fish and dairy foods, select local and ethical products. Examples include eggs from free-range hens and beef from grass-fed cows. Yes, these higher quality and ethical animal products are more expensive but they are also healthier for our bodies and the environment.
Serve animal products only once during a meal
In today’s world, there is no need to have an animal protein appetizer, an animal product based soup, an animal protein main course and an animal product based dessert. Even on special occasion meals, we just serve one animal product. Choose which one aspect of the meal will contain the animal product.
Serve smaller and smaller portions of meat, fish and dairy
Many weightloss focused eating plans limit or exclude carbohydrate, which has normalised eating vastly increased portions of animal protein. In fact, serving a small portion of protein alongside a satiating whole food carbohydrate such as the humble (delicious and versatile) potato and a salad is an incredibly well balanced, delicious and healthy meal.
If we focus on meat, fish, and dairy as condiments – rather than the focal point of the meal – we can serve smaller portions of animal products. Examples of how you might try this:
- Steaming chicken noodle soup can be made with just chicken broth and served without the meat. Alternatively, a very small amount of chicken could be used as a garnish.
- One spoon of yogurt on top of a bowl of sliced fresh fruits, cereal or a bowl of soup.
- If you are serving meat or fish with the meal, make it a habit to serve smaller portions of sliced pieces of meat/fish rather than plating a whole chicken breast, steak or fish.
One vegan or vegetarian meal per day
Consider preparing and enjoying one vegan/vegetarian meal per week or per day to gently incorporate non-animal meals in a way that feels comfortable and manageable. When this feels good, you can increase the number of vegan meals you consume every day.
The environmental crisis requires that each of us change how we live on our earth. Food is a daily choice that makes a large impact on the environment. Committing to eating less red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs is positive for the environment and for our health,
In the comments below, share your thoughts about meat, fish and dairy reductionism.
Gather some new recipes to try
One side benefit of switching up ways of eating, is that your usual meal rotation gets broadened with new plant-based recipes!
For a variety of ideas, you can look to Jewish Food Hero’s cookbooks: