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This year (2019) I decided to make the switch to a plant-based diet. I had two main reasons for this; the first was to further reduce my personal impact on the environment and the second was to improve my health.
When people find out that I’m plant-based the first question they always ask is “but what do you eat?” The simple answer to that is a lot! One of the joys of switching to a diet like this is that you can eat a lot more food then you used to and not put on weight.
The second question I get asked a lot is “How do I even start to reduce the amount of meat I’m eating?” I thought I’d answer that question today..
Not ready to give up meat yet? Check out this blog post: Sustainable Crowd-Sourced Meat From Buy A Cow
The Difference Between Vegetarian, Plant-Based & Vegan
If someone follows a vegetarian diet it means that they don’t eat meat but still eat animal-related products like cheese, milk and honey.
People often confuse a plant-based diet with being vegan. They are not the same thing! Vegan is a lifestyle, it means that you not only don’t eat meat but you also don’t wear or use any products made from animals like leather. A lot of the supermarket vegan food is processed which means it’s not actually as good for you as some people think. Obviously, if you’re vegan and cook all of your own meals from scratch then that is much healthier.
Plant-based is a diet where you don’t eat meat or any animal-related products like dairy. You also tend to steer clear of processed foods. My diet is made up of plant-based & wholefoods. For ease, as a lot of people don’t tend to understand the difference I often refer to myself as vegan as people seem to understand that a bit better. No wonder people get confused!
I chose to be plant-based as it helps me to reduce my carbon footprint and improves my health.
How To Get Started Reducing The Amount Of Meat You Eat
I would strongly suggest starting slow. If you just cut out meat completely one day without doing any research first you are going to get frustrated and probably hungry. As I said earlier there are lots of things that you can eat on a plant-based diet but you have to know about them first.
One thing I have noticed since switching to a plant-based diet is that I’m hungry a lot of the time but in a good way. Although I know that sounds odd. It’s mainly because plant-based food had less calories in it which means you can eat a lot more of it and more often. I’d highly recommend having lots of healthy snacks on hand to curb the cravings.
Do Your Research
Start looking online for recipes ideas. Read plant-based or vegan recipe books. The more informed you are about making the switch the more likely you are to succeed at it. Switching to a vegetarian, vegan or plant-based diet will be different from what you’re used to. You need to know what foods you should be eating to make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
I have three books that I’d highly recommend…
- *How No To Die Cookbook by Michael Greger
- *BISH BASH BOSH! Your Favourites All Plants (Currently on sale at Waterstones!)
- *The Mindful Kitchen by Heather Thomas
Michael Greger, the author of How Not To Die Cookbook also has his first book which is just called *How Not To Die. It’s not a recipe book but covers all of the reasons why switching to a plant-based diest is great for your health & wellbeing.
Watch films & documentaries about the meat industry and the effect it has not only on the animals themselves but also the planet.
Here are a few I’d recommend, although word of warning there can be some graphic images in them!
- Cowspiracy (Netflix or online)
- Supersize Me (Netflix)
- Rotten (Netflix)
- Meat: A Threat To Our Planet? (BBC One watch it on BBC iPlayer)
Have One Meat-Free Meal A Week
I’d suggest starting by having one meat-free supper a week. I started by doing meat-free Monday. Make a list of the meals that you normally have at home and then look into ways of turning those meals into meatless meals. For example, if chili is a regular on your meal plan list then make it vegetarian chili next time instead. You can do this with all sorts of meals including sausage & mash, curries, cottage pie and fajitas.
Once you get used to having meals without meat you can then start to ramp up the number of times you have them. This is the best way to start as your still cooking meals that you know but just swapping one element of them.
Give Up Red Meat First
If you want to slowly start to eat less meat then I’d recommend starting by giving up red meat. Red meat has the highest carbon footprint.
Create a 6 Week-Meal Plan
Before you think I’ve lost the plot a 6-week meal plan is not as scary as it sounds and will save you a huge amount of time in the long run. This is how I plan all of our meals now and it really is life-changing.
You can find out more about how to create a 6-week meal plan in my blog post here > How To Simplify Your Food & Eating Habits I’ve also included a free 6-week meal plan template for you to print of and use.
Cook From Scratch
Try to avoid processed meat-free food. Cooking your meals from scratch with fresh ingredients is not only much better for your health but also saves you money. It also gives you the option to batch cook your meals which means you can freeze any leftovers for another day.
Bulk Out Your Meals
If you’re not quite ready to give up meat completely then try to bulk out your meals with non-meat alternatives like beans, lentils and pulses. That way you can still have some meat in but not as much. You can freeze any uncooked meat ready for another day to reduce food waste and save you money.
Start Meal Prepping
I’ve found meal prepping to be really helpful whilst switching to a plant-based diet. My other half and kiddies still eat meat so I’m having to cook two separate meals every night, which can be quite stressful. Having pre-prepped food on hand makes the whole process a lot easier.
I’ve started to meal-prep on a Sunday ready for the week ahead. I batch cook things like quinoa and lentils so that I can easily add them to dishes. I also prep our salad bits like cucumbers, carrots and peppers. I keep them all in air tight containers in the fridge which means the kids can just grab them when they want a snack.
Check out the queen of meal prepping Hello Nutritarian for tips and serious fridge envy!
Monitor Your Health
As you’re going to be changing your diet is very important to monitor your health during the transition phase. You can do this by keeping a food & health diary where you write down what you’ve eaten that day and also any changes in your health. It’s so you can keep track of any changes that might be happening. If you’re starting to feel tired or losing too much weight it might be time to have a rethink about what you’re eating.
Personally, I use *Thriva to track my health. (if you do decide to use them yourself and use my link I get a little bit of money off my next test). It’s a service that I pay for every month as I feel it’s perfect for helping me to monitor any health changes.
I‘ve subscribed for their baseline test which I take every 3 months. Each test monitors my liver function, ferritin, cholesterol (lipid profile), vitamin d and B12. The B12 results are particularly important as anyone following a plant-based or vegan diet can lack B12. Low levels of B12 can cause anaemia and nervous system damage so it’s very important to know that you’re getting enough.
Don’t panic though if you don’t want to or can’t afford to have tests done like the Thriva ones. You can just buy the B12 supplements and take them anyway. I get mine from our local health food store. I also take Vitamin D supplements as my previous tests have shown that my levels are low.
So, what about you? Would you like to reduce the amount of meat you eat or even give it up altogether?
About Gina Caro
Gina is a content creator and award-winning blogger. Her aim is to help you live a more sustainable & simple life. Her blog covers zero waste, minimalism, wellbeing & thrift. She currently lives in Cornwall with her partner, two kids and Charles the dog.