Why Eating Less Meat Is Good for You AND the Planet

Updated: May 29, 2020

Have you heard about Meatless Mondays and are ready to give it a try? Or maybe you want to devour the plant-based burgers you’ve heard so much about. Did you know that reducing meat consumption is good for you AND the planet?

According to the Mayo Clinic, consider “serving budget-friendly, meatless meals once or twice a week. Meatless meals are built around beans, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains. These plant-based proteins tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat.” [1]

The Health Factor

A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Consequently, people who don't eat meat, generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease.

Moreover, reducing meat intake can have a protective effect. Research shows that people who eat red meat often (more than three times each week) are at an increased risk of death from heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Processed meats also increase the risk of death from these diseases. And what you don't eat can also harm your health. Diets low in nuts, seeds, seafood, fruits, and vegetables also increase the risk of death. [2]

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is just .36 grams per pound of body weight per day. This amounts to:

  • 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man (150 lbs.)

  • 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman (130 lbs.)

The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. If you do more than just sit all day, you may need more protein.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American College of Sports Medicine suggest that athletes need more protein. They recommend that endurance athletes consume 0.5–0.6 grams per pound of body weight per day. For athletes who strength train, their consumption goes up to 0.7–0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day. [3]

This equates to:

  • 75-105 grams per day for athletic men (150 lbs.)

  • 65-90 grams per day for athletic women (130 lbs.)

Depending on your goals, those numbers could be higher. Everyone is different, so talking with a trainer can help you determine your protein intake level.

Can Plants Give Me Enough Protein?

When you're eating healthy foods, the bulk of your meals should be plant-based anyway: veggies, a plant-based fat (like extra virgin olive oil), avocado, or tahini, and a whole grain or starchy veggie (like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, or spaghetti squash).[4]

As a matter of fact, just trade your meat for a plant alternative, which is easier than you think. Our society is used to planning their meals around meat. Change that pattern by adding these items to your protein list: beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and pea protein-based meat substitutes.

Have a Smoothie

If you have a busy lifestyle, a great way to get additional protein is by incorporating different types of smoothies into your daily routine. If you are busy, breakfast may be a great time to try one.

Why Is Eating Meat Bad for the Environment?

An increasing number of studies has drawn attention to the impact livestock—cows, pigs, and sheep—is having on climate change.

Cows are a particularly big offender. Their digestive system produces methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, and their manure emits additional greenhouse gasses. Cows also are resource-heavy animals. They require a higher amount of feed per unit. Moreover, the land needed to produce that feed also has a carbon cost associated with it. [5]

“Current diets are pushing the earth beyond its planetary boundaries, while causing ill health. This puts both people and the planet at risk,” according to the global EAT-Lancet Commission in a report released in early 2019. The commission urged people to slash their consumption of meat, and sugar, by 50 percent and replace them with more fruits and vegetables.[6]

That doesn't mean full-blown carnivores are being urged to go vegan, or even vegetarian. The emphasis is on reduction. Start slow and gradually reduce meat consumption, particularly beef and pork. Eliminate it from one meal a day, and then one day a week or perhaps it’s time to adopt that “Meatless Monday” plan!

If you need help figuring out your specific needs, please contact us. One of our coaches will be happy to help you.

[1] Mayo Clinic (July 26, 2017). Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat. Retrieved from mayoclinic.org. [2] World Cancer Research Fund (May 20, 2020). Limit Red and Processed Meat. Retrieved from wcrf.org. [3] VeryWell Fit (May 4, 2020). How to Calculate Your Protein Needs. Retrieved from verywellfit.com. [4] NBC News (March 15, 2019). Ask a nutritionist: What are the best sources of plant-based protein? Retrieved from nbcnews.com. [5] Today (April 18, 2019). Eating less meat can help save the planet: Here's why. Retrieved from today.com. [6] The Lancet (January 16, 2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Retrieved from thelancet.com.

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