October 24th is Food Day, a movement and celebration towards more sustainable, healthier food for everyone. I believe so much in the mission, that I often jump at the chance to write about it.
We can’t talk about the challenges facing the future our food system, without talking about the tremendous burden meat production has on our environment and our health. The grim facts are likely to shock you. Bear with me for a minute, because I think it’s important to understand just what’s at stake (no pun intended)…
- Meat production accounts for 14-22% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and consumes 80% of our fresh water supply. The production of meat is extremely costly, contaminates our water supplies and oceans, and causes widespread deforestation throughout the world.
- According to a United Nations report, red meat production in particular, is one of the most ecologically costly foods eaten by humans.
- A multitude of studies have shown that the overconsumption of meat is contributing to the development of obesity and heart disease, as well as certain types of cancer.
And, I haven’t even gotten into the issue of animal cruelty.
So, just how does one make the transition towards a more sustainable, greener, plant-based diet? Part of the answer involves understanding that meat doesn’t have to be front and center at mealtime. In fact, many delicious and tasty dishes get their amazing flavor from the fruits and vegetables. Why not bring fruits and veggies center stage and make them the star of your plate? Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, you will be improving your health at the same time. It’s not as hard as you think, but I won’t lie. It does take some effort, patience and a little bit of creativity. I’m hoping these few tips may help get you started.
#1- Get inspired by the season. When the seasons change, what’s one of the first things we get excited about? The fruits and vegetables! Tomatoes and zucchini in summer or pumpkins and apples in the fall. Take your cues from nature. In-season produce can be your free guide to meal planning. This spring, I happened to come across the juiciest mangos. They were so good, I created this Mango Fried Rice dish, totally centered around their sweet flavor. In fall and winter, I love making soups and they’re a great way to showcase seasonal veggies. One of my favorite soups has to be my Sweet Potato and Apple Soup. I actually begin to crave it as soon as the weather turns cool. Why not bring a beautiful plate of soup to the dinner table and serve it up with a salad and some fresh, crusty bread?
#2- Think simple. The best thing about meatless meals is that many dishes require just a few simple ingredients and little time spent over the stove. When I go shopping I often buy more vegetables than I could ever consume. I often have an abundance of tomatoes I need to use before they spoil. Some of my favorite recipes have been inspired by one simple ingredient, like those tomatoes. This Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Flatbread Pizza was one of them, and required less than 30 minutes to prepare.
Some of my daughter’s favorite school lunches and after school snacks are the ones that are the simplest. I take her favorite crunchy veggies, cut them up and serve them with hummus, whole grain crackers and a juicy piece of fruit on the side. Simple, healthy and delicious.
#3- Don’t worry. If I had a dime for every person who worried they wouldn’t feel satisfied with just vegetables, I’d be rich. Fruits and vegetables are low calorie foods that contain high water content, fiber and often some protein. Because of that, they go a long way in keeping you satiated. You can add more substance, protein and healthy fats to your vegetables dishes by adding beans, lentils, seeds (like pumpkin, flax and hemp,) avocado and nuts. Check out these healthy and delicious main course meals for some ideas: Garlicky Chard and White Beans and Zucchini and Chickpea Soup.
#4- Don’t get discouraged. The transition towards eating less meat can take some time, years in fact. For me, it’s still a work in progress. But, from experience I can tell you that in time, you will notice yourself feeling better, more energetic and more inspired. You’ll want to continue to explore different recipes and cooking techniques that help you become more creative with your meals. The shift towards a greener diet often leads to a more conscious way of eating. You may start to notice you care more about your food, where it comes from and how it was produced. If everyone did that, what a difference it would make!
If a four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.– See more at EWG.
This post is part of a Food Day collaboration with the following bloggers:
Alli from Don’t Panic Mom
Amanda from Produce for Kids
April from Gluten is My Bitch
Emily from Colorado Moms
Gina from The Multitasking Missus
Jessica from The Balanced Kitchen
Jill from Just the Right Byte
Jory from Teeny Tiny Foodie
Kristen from Fueling a Fit Fam
Lacy and Emily from Laughing Lemon Pie
Maaike from the Official Food Day Blog
Maybelline from Naturalmente Mama
Sally from Real Mom Nutrition
Susan from Real Kids Eat Spinach