Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eating Less Meat: It’s surprisingly easy to do.

Vegetables are delicious.  I bet it was the meat and dessert industry that started spreading the meme that kids had to eat their vegetables if they wanted dessert, as though it were a chore to eat vegetables.  And then kids started to believe it. 

After reading James McWilliams analysis of the rift between animal rights advocates and sustainable farming advocates on the subject of synthetic meat at the Atlantic, I thought I might write a bit of an update to the post I wrote way back in December about roughly the same subject. 

I concluded that post by confessing that I ate all the usual meats without much in the way of guilty feelings.  Since then I’ve pretty drastically reduced my meat intake.  My decision to change my diet was not based on animals’ capacity to think or suffer but because a little over two months ago a few friends of mine and I were discussing the carbon costs of our diets.  Heh… Just writing that makes me feel like such a caricature of a liberal yuppie.

But anyway, my friend was pointing to some research he had read about that suggested, persuasively to him, that given the carbon costs of industrial meat production, going vegetarian was one of the most effective ways for an individual to reduce his carbon footprint.  I don’t mean to evaluate that argument here, but you can read about it at New Scientist

thaistirfry Now, my friend is not a vegetarian, so it’s not like he was judging the rest of us, but partly because by this point in the evening we were already several beers in, I decided to call him on his mild hypocrisy.  I told him that if he went vegetarian, I would too, thus doubling the environmental impact of his dietary decision.

We made a few concessions on the spot to make the challenge realistic and decided it would last only 6 months (actually until November 5th, because it’s so easy to remember).  We were permitted fish for two meals a week, some other meat for one meal a week, but beef only once a month because it’s apparently the worst, environmentally speaking.  Other than that we would abide by a strict vegetarian (though not vegan…eggs and dairy are allowed) diet.

Since then, 2 months in, I’ve got to tell you, it has been surprisingly easy and I feel really healthy and good about it.  Here are some ways that my eating habits have changed (or not):

  • I order vegetarian meals in restaurants (easy)
  • I don’t eat fast food (a little tough at first, but there’s no way I’m wasting a precious beef credit on a Big Mac, now it’s easy)
  • I never realized how many hoagies I ate.  On average, I probably ate between 2 and 3 hoagies a week before.  Now I eat more peanut butter sandwiches, potato chips and fruit.  (moderately hard)
  • I eat tofu sometimes, like in a delicious stir-fry (easy)
  • I’ve been a recipe experimenter for a long time now, and if anything, contrary to what you might think considering that a vegetarian diet only reduces the number of ingredients I have to work with, my diet has grown more interesting, because instead of getting stuck in the old beefporkchickenpastabeefporkchickenfish rut, I’m trying all sorts of new recipes.  (fun and easy)
  • I’ve experienced no loss of energy; if anything, I feel less sluggish than I used to
  • I save money, especially on lunches, which I can then spend on expensive steaks once a month

So anyway, so far so good.  There’ve been only four or five minor slip-ups so far between my friend and I, and already I think we’re having a positive impact on the environment.  Just kidding, but seriously, significantly reducing the amount of meat I eat has been surprisingly easy for me and it’s delicious. 

There’s still four months ago, but I have a feeling that the eating habits I’m developing now will extend beyond Guy Fawkes’ day.

BONUS: Make this.  It’s easy, customizable, and you will like it.

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