How to Easily Improve Your Health and the Health of Our Planetby Elise Museles
It’s almost Earth Day! There’s no better time to connect our own health with the health of the planet. As you know, I’m a huge believer that feeling healthier doesn’t have to involve major upheaval. Lasting results most often come from small, consistent actions and subtle, meaningful shifts that lead us to adopt new habits in a sustainable way. In other words: gentle (and realistic!) changes tend to move mountains, while an all-or-nothing approach leads to struggle.
My favorite, simple, small change? To improve health, I always suggest adding colorful, vibrant food from the earth to your diet – before taking anything away. Food experts and nutritionists have disagreed about a lot of things over the years, from the role of fat to the benefits and drawbacks of animal protein, but they have always agreed on this one thing: MORE PLANTS = GOOD. When we eat more plant-based foods, we naturally reduce our meat consumption. And eating less meat is not only good for our health, but for our earth, as well.
Stay with me here, because I’m absolutely not talking about converting you into a diehard vegan – or even a vegetarian. Every body is unique, and what works for you may not be what works for me. But here are two important facts:
- Americans consume almost 200 pounds of meat annually per person, more than almost any other people on the planet, and
- Large-scale meat production accounts for 18 % of global greenhouse gas emissions.
So cutting back on meat not only helps reduce your chance of chronic illness, it also reduces your carbon footprint.
The question: what can we do better, without giving up meat all together?
Enter my personal friend, the visionary Brian Kateman. He’s the co-founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, a TEDx speaker, and a leading expert on food systems and behavioral change. He’s also the author of the newly released book, The Reducetarian Solution, a compilation of 70 original essays from influential thinkers on how the simple act of cutting 10% (or more) of the meat from your diet can transform your life, animals’ lives, and the planet. The book features contributions from Mark Bittman, Victoria Moran, Joel Fuhrman…and yes, even yours truly! (Act surprised: my essay addresses how to listen to your body when determining just the right way to make changes in your diet.)
What is a Reducetarian?
A Reducetarian is a person who deliberately reduces his or her consumption of meat. It’s a global movement to help improve our health, and share that improved health with the earth.
What I love about the Reducetarian concept is that instead of discussing our differences (a Paleo lifestyle vs. a vegan one, for example), we can focus on our shared commitment to eating less meat, regardless of where we fall on the spectrum. Since we are all unique, it allows us each to apply ourselves to the important part: tuning in and trusting our bodies to let us know what is right for us.
The Reducetarian Solution takes the guesswork out of eating less meat, offering a blueprint for a healthier and more compassionate way of eating. Rather than adopting a mindset of restriction and denial, the focus is on what you can have: more color and more plants. And that happens to coincide with more nutrients and more whole foods – easy!
The most important part is to release the rules and understand that every little effort counts. You can eat meat at lunch, but experiment with a meatless dinner. Try going meat-free during the week – or only on Mondays. The cumulative effect of all of our efforts, big and small, will make a difference in both our health and the health of the planet.
To get started, check out a few of my new-for-spring, meat-free recipes (THINK: Spring Greens & Lentil Salad, Fiesta Sweet Potatoes, Carrot Top Pesto, Berry Green Matcha Smoothie). If you’re in a baking mood, I love this Apple Crisp from The Reducetarian Solution. To keep it seasonal, try peaches or berries instead of apples. You can also browse my recipe archives and find some intriguing and delicious plant-based dishes to add to your table (or take your inspiration from my colorful Instagram posts…!)
I think you’ll be amazed at how simple it can be to eat more plants and a little less meat. And this easy, delicious change can set you on the road to a healthier heart, a longer life, and a happier body – not to mention improving our planet for generations to come. Now that’s something to celebrate.
Happy Earth Day!
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