There are a plethora of reasons why I want to eat fewer animal products, the main one being that I freaking love animals, and I don’t want to exploit them if at all possible. I’m also concerned about the impact on the environment – animals consume A LOT of water and produce A LOT of waste. It also strikes me as a little sad that we happily and unquestioningly feed animals delicious and healthy food, give them shelter and medical care, then just kill them. There are millions of humans out there that would benefit more from the food.
I’m not here to tell everyone to go vegan. It’s hypocritical for a start – I don’t eat animal flesh but I can’t quite kick the eggs/dairy part. I wish I could, and I’m sure one day I will, but who am I to tell you what to eat?
I do think though, the rate at which we consume such products is unsustainable. If we carry on in this way, we’ll have to cut down more rainforests both to graze livestock on and to plant crops to feed them.
I’ve compiled some tips to help you reduce your intake of animal products. I believe reducing the amount of animal products without actually cutting anything out is called reductarianism, and I hope it catches on.
1. Swap animal milks for plant-based ones.
I have unsweetened almond milk in coffee and porridge. It does take a little while (I’d say a week) to get used to the flavour, but now I find cow’s milk far too creamy in coffee.
2. Eat more salad
If you eat more plants, they have fewer calories therefore you can eat more of them. Winner!
Don’t worry about your protein levels. At all. If you’re eating enough calories, you’ll be absolutely fine. Broccoli has more protein per calorie than beef, although you’d need to eat a lot of broccoli to match the calories that’d be in a piece of steak. All that ‘complete protein’ gumph has been debunked – make sure you’re eating a variety of fruit and veg and your quota for the various amino acids will be filled.
4. Bean and grains are your friends
(High quality) carbs in general. You know, whole grain carbs. Beans are a true superfood (even baked beans are awesome source of plant-based protein, vitamins and minerals), and you can supercharge them further by eating them with something loaded with vitamin C, like a red pepper.
5. Try new foods
So many people ask me what I eat on one of my many ‘vegan weeks’. We learn to eat certain foods, and what constitutes a balanced diet from our family and peers. It forms our culture. Thankfully though, since we get so much access to recipes from other countries, we can broaden our palates. I’m English, and the idea of a breakfast burrito was MADNESS a couple of years ago, and still is to a lot of older people. Tofu especially gets a bad rap, but let me give you one recipe: blend a carton of silken tofu (NOT FIRM – you can get it in Sainbury’s) with a big bar of dark chocolate a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract, until it’s all combined. Chill for four hours + and eat. It’s the best chocolate mousse EVER and is fairly healthy. Promise.
You don’t even need to try tofu. How about instead of your ham/cheese sandwich at lunch have a falafel one? Or hummus and salad?
6. Don’t label yourself
So you want to cut down your meat consumption, but still want a Sunday roast. Who cares? You don’t have to call yourself a vegetarian to eat meat-free food. It’s not illegal to tell people you’re a vegan and then accidentally have some ice cream because you forgot. We’re all human.
7. Find a community
I highly, HIGHLY recommend Gemma Tomlinson’s Facebook group VEGAN MADE EASY (it’s all in capitals on Facebook, I’m not shouting at you). It’s a lovely community where you can learn about veganism. You can join even if you’re not vegan, but obviously don’t post anything non-vegan. Gemma’s ace at getting rid of trolls, and she doesn’t encourage graphic images or anything like that. It’s a nice, relaxed community.
People have a hard time accepting reductarianism, but don’t sweat that. It’s a lack of understanding that cause’s people to lash out. If you tell someone you want to eat less meat, they often react negatively – you’re questioning their eating choice and it’s that they’re reacting to, not you.
8. Don’t try to recreate animal products
If you declare you’re giving up cheese and try a vegan one straight away, you’ll probably be disappointed – it’ll take a while for your taste buds to adjust (and for your brain to forget what dairy cheese tastes like). Do try Marigold Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes 125g in place of parmesan, though – it has a pleasing cheesy nutty thang going on.
Also, replacing minced beef with Quorn mince, is a fairly easy switch (cheaper too) and I’m pretty sure they taste very similar.
There’re so many recipes for ‘naturally’ vegan things (i.e. that don’t require vegan cheese or hard to find ingredients). Curries, risotto, chillis, that kind of thing. Shameless link to my vegan Pinterest board here.
10. Don’t beat yourself up
So you’ve had no meat or dairy for a week, then you come in after a glasses of wine and have a cheese toastie. Don’t sweat it. It’s fine. Even if you just cut out meat one day a week, that’s making a difference. If everyone cut out meat one day a week, that’s reduced the world’s meat consumption by 1/7th. GO US!
I hope you found this useful and I reeeeaally hope it didn’t come across as preachy. Obviously, my dream would be for the whole world to be vegan (1. It would make it easier for me to become one and 2. if the market was there, think about how good the vegan cheeses would become), but I know that that’s unrealistic (grrr).
If anyone has any tips of transitioning from strict veggie to fully fledged vegan I’d appreciate them muchly.
Thanks for reading!
BTW I’m on the first day of a new attempt at the 5:2 diet. I’m huuuungrrrry.