So you’ve decided that you want to eat less meat: Smart choice!
By reducing the amount of meat you eat, you’ll help protect endangered animals and the environment every day.
If you’re not sure where to start or how to stick to your new diet on a budget, the Cheap & Easy Guide to an Earth-friendly Diet offers healthy, time-saving, wallet-friendly tips to help you accomplish your goal, no matter where you're eating.
Every meatless meal helps protect wildlife and the environment. From breakfast to dinner (and all the snacks in between), it’s easy to eat less meat and more delicious, plant-based foods.
Oatmeal, bread (toast, bagel), granola, dried fruit, cereal, smoothies (add chia, hemp or flax for protein) or an acai bowl.
Sandwiches wraps and pitas (raw, toasted or Panini pressed) (see The Complete Sandwich Chart below), hearty soups (lentil, minestrone, black bean) or Ramen noodle bowls (the oriental and chili flavors of Top Ramen brand are vegan; add peanut butter and Sriracha to make “Pad Thai” Ramen).
Dried fruit, crackers, pretzels with dip (hummus, nut butter), fresh fruit, nuts, energy bars or toast with nut butter, avocado slices or sliced tomato and hummus. Other less-healthy comfort foods can hit the spot sometimes and still be Earth-friendly.
Oven-roasted vegetables (toss cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, etc. with olive oil and seasoning, bake in oven until soft), loaded salads* (see below), veggie/tofu stir-fry,* veggie and bean chili, pita with falafel and veggies, tacos with beans, pasta and marinara,* veggie lasagna, sesame peanut noodles, baked pasta casseroles, vegan chorizo sausage and squash gumbo and more.
Try Meat Substitutes:
If you are making a meal and you can’t picture it without the meat, try using a meat substitute instead. Boca, Quorn, Garden Burger, Tofurky and Gardein make a huge variety of plant-based “meats” including burgers, deli slices, chicken cutlets and beef tips. Several companies make delicious plant-based “mayonnaise” that’s ideal in sandwiches and salads, like Veganaise, Earth Balance and Just Mayo.
Choose one or more from each column (protein, grain, vegetable and condiment) in order to create a sandwich or wrap that’s delicious, healthy, satisfying and, best of all - Earth-friendly.
Some people worry that eating less meat means insufficient amounts of protein. However the average American eats almost twice the amount of protein they need. So it’s easy to meet your protein needs from nuts, beans, seeds, tofu, tempeh and pseudo-grains like quinoa. For example, 1 cup of black beans contains 42 grams of protein, which is about 91 percent of the recommended intake for the average woman who spends most of her day hitting the books. Vegetables also contain protein, like broccoli, which provides 8.1 grams of protein per cup (chopped).
Transform a simple lettuce salad or sandwich into a satisfying and delicious Earth-friendly meal.
Sauces can make a wrap, salad, stir-fry or plate of pasta so much more exciting. Some sauces don’t even require cooking (like peanut sauce) and are ideal for a cafeteria, while others can be cheaply purchased at the grocery store or prepared quickly using simple ingredients.
Most restaurants offer meatless choices or can substitute vegetables or bread for meat. Don’t be afraid to ask — every time you request a meatless option, you show there is demand for meat-free dishes. So eating meat-free at restaurants helps make Earth-friendly options more available for everyone.
Try these cuisines that are particularly vegetarian friendly:
As much as 40 percent of food produced in the United States is thrown away; the average college student generates 142 pounds of food waste every year. This is not only a waste of the food itself, but it’s also a waste of the land, water, fuel, packaging and other resources that went into producing the food in the first place. As wasted food decomposes, it releases methane, which directly contributes to climate change.
Meat production is one of the greatest sources of agricultural waste. More than half of the grain grown in the United States is fed to livestock, and nearly half of all the water used in this country goes toward raising animals for food. It takes significantly less land, water and fossil fuels to produce plant protein compared to animal protein. By reducing your meat consumption you are taking a major step in reducing your overall food waste. And you can be mindful of not wasting plant proteins as well:
Love wolves? Want to save the rainforest? Worried about the climate or drought? Trying to eat healthier? Eating less meat has all kinds of benefits, so pick what you’re most passionate about to keep you motivated.