How to Reduce Your Meat Consumption: 5 Tips to Go Vegetarian
I never thought I would become a vegan. I grew up eating meat; I loved it, and I felt sorry for vegetarians who could not enjoy the wonderful taste that animal-based foods provided. This all changed, however, when my husband and I embarked on a three-week sugar detox.
As part of the detox, my husband decided he would not only cut out sugar for the three weeks, but that he would also cut out all meat, including fish and poultry. I called him crazy and told him he would not be able to sustain himself on a plant-based diet.
No sugar and no meat… how could one survive? I knew about vegetarians. Sure, those diets worked for “those people,” but that was not “us.”
My husband survived the three weeks without sugar and meat, and he actually lost a little bit of weight and felt better than ever. At the same time, I began learning more about the negative health effects of consuming meat and the benefits of a plant-based diet. After watching films like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated I decided to give plant-based eating a try.
My Discoveries About Meat
In my research, I learned through the World Health Organization (WHO) that dietary factors account for at least 30% of all cancers in western countries. Cancer researchers have also discovered that people who avoided meat were much less likely to develop the disease.
I then learned that the conventional practices for raising livestock are actually quite bad for the environment. This is what really forced me to cut out meat. The conventional process of raising cattle for consumption produces heavy amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition to nitrous oxide, methane from animal waste also pollutes our water and our air. 
Meat consumption is attributed to deforestation, grassland destruction, and the use of copious amounts of water. It takes about 4,200 gallons of water to produce food for an individual eating the Standard American Diet. In contrast, only 300 gallons of water is required to produce food for someone on a vegan diet. With water being such a precious resource in the modern world, we should try to conserve where we can.
Given these facts, my desire to live the healthiest life possible, and my hope to leave the world a better place for my children, I could no longer ignore the personal call to adopt a plant-based diet.
There are many different variations of vegetarian diets—some allow for dairy and fish, and some are stricter vegan diets (like mine) that eliminate all animal-based products. Every person is different, and while veganism works for me, always consult with your naturopathic physician or trusted healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Tips To Reduce Meat Consumption
Veganism is fairly new to me, so the struggles I’ve gone through to maintain this lifestyle are still very fresh in my mind. I understand the resistance and the fears. However, even if you can’t give it up entirely, reducing the amount of meat in your life will have real benefits to your health and the planet.
Discussing my path to veganism could take up a whole book. For this article, however, I thought I would address first things first.
Here are five tips that helped me reduce my meat intake.
Rapid lifestyle changes typically don’t work. Many people give up the entire process because it’s too hard. To reduce your meat consumption, start slow. Try devoting one day a week to excluding meat (i.e., #MeatlessMonday). Once you become more comfortable with this you can incorporate additional days.
Explore With Flavor and Spices
Experimenting with recipes that were packed with flavor and that everyone could enjoy was a main priority when I switched to a plant-based diet. Our family discovered that the flavors and spices make our favorite dishes so delicious, not the meat. Some of my favorite meals have remained the same before and after becoming vegan: chili, burritos, and paella.
Host a Meatless Potluck
Hosting a potluck where everyone contributes a meatless dish will not only provide you with a great theme for a party, but it will also give you a ton of ideas for future meal planning. A meatless get-together forces everyone to be creative and think about healthy alternatives.
Substitute With Beans and Lentils
Before cutting out meat, I was not a fan of beans, and I’d never tried lentils. I soon discovered that these magical foods provide a similar heartiness to meat, and they make great substitutes. On top of this, beans and lentils are great sources of fiber and protein. They also offer an array of vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Be Kind to Yourself
I’ve had setbacks when I didn’t realize that the baked good I just ate was made with eggs and butter. However, I soon realized that nitpicking at everything I ate only made the process of reducing animal products in my diet more frustrating—sometimes I wanted to give up all together.
I had to learn to forgive and be kind to myself. Now, I learn from these situations and quickly let them go. The road to a meatless diet is a journey not a race.
If this sounds like something that could work for you, summer is the perfect time to go meatless. With all the fruits, veggies, and other plants in season, the sky is the limit on your plant-based meal plan.
But remember; always consult your trusted naturopathic physician or health professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle.
What are your strategies for going meatless? Tell me in the comments.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a guest blogger for American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
 The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Meat consumption and cancer risk. Retrieved from http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/facts/meat-consumption-and-cancer-risk
 Sheer, R. & Moss, D. (n.d.).How does meat in the diet take an environmental toll? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/meat-and-environment/
 Environmental Working Group (EWG). (n.d.). Meat eater’s guide: Report – climate and environmental impacts. Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/
 Cespedes, A. (2011, September 17). What are the benefits of eating beans and lentils? Livestrong.com. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/479593-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-beans-lentils/