Four ways to eat less meat that are better for the planet, your health and your bank balance

Do I pick up the meat at my local store or go out of town to get tofu? Should I add honey to my winter porridge or would strawberries or mango be better? Should I choose to drink oat milk or organic goat milk?

Most people are familiar with the idea that food consumption will affect their health. But food consumption also contributes between 20% and 30% of the environmental footprint of daily life, with impacts from production, processing, transport and retail. For many of us, our diet could be healthier and more sustainable, but it can be difficult to know which choices will have the biggest positive effect.

As part of our research into healthy and sustainable eating, interviews with mostly young adults found that UK consumers are willing to make small changes that improve the health and environmental footprint of their diet, if those changes have some benefit and have a low cost. to them. Small changes in diet are often easier to maintain long-term than larger changes, but the small changes you need to make to get the biggest benefit, for health and the planet, are not well known.

To provide this advice, we compared the health, environmental and financial effects of a range of previously proposed sustainable dietary actions. We applied 12 sustainable actions to dietary data from 1,235 UK adults in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

We investigated the differences between the new diet and the original diet for six dietary markers (protein, saturated fat, sugars, salt, iron, calcium), three environmental markers (greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater withdrawals, land use) and dietary cost. There were some limitations: we were unable to quantify the impacts of reducing food waste, for example.

But our research showed that four simple switches resulted in the biggest benefits for your diet, the planet and your pocketbook. These changes won’t be small or simple for everyone, but you don’t have to try them all. Each change will benefit both your health and our home, and soon many small changes add up.

1. Replace the meat elements with legumes

Beans, chickpeas and lentils are high in protein, fiber and low in fat. They have a low environmental impact and can even benefit the growth of other crops, in addition to being very economical. Barriers that prevent people from consuming legumes tend to focus on their taste or texture. And legumes can be perceived as inconvenient, laborious or difficult to cook.

Start with hummus – a pre-made chickpea dip or dip. Including more legumes in your diet is made easier and faster by using prepared and canned legumes or by cooking dishes in batches and freezing portions for another day. Try incorporating canned beans into your favorite soups and stews. Add lentils to your Bolognese sauce. If you’re feeling more adventurous, experiment with some new and tasty recipes from cultures that traditionally use legumes, such as Mexico, the Middle East or India.

2. Replace the meat elements with eggs

Eggs, like legumes, are very nutritious. They provide protein and many micronutrients, have a low environmental impact and are good value for money. Choose free-range eggs for additional animal welfare benefits.

Eggs can be easy to prepare. They are soft and can be easier to eat for those who may have difficulty chewing, swallowing or cutting food. Eggs can add taste and flavor to your diet. Eggs can be consumed at any meal. Warmed or scrambled, they make a great protein-rich breakfast, hard-boiled eggs make a filling on-the-go snack, and poached (slow-cooked) eggs can impress dinner guests.

3. Replace the meat elements with hard or soft cheeses

Cheese is another nutritious food, full of calcium and other micronutrients, good for strong bones and teeth. Often considered a food with high environmental impacts, cheese usually has a lower environmental footprint than meat, even more so for soft cheeses.

The environmental impact of dairy products increases with the necessary processing, mainly as a result of the waste that is generated at each manufacturing stage. Milk has the lowest environmental impact, yogurt slightly higher, soft cheeses such as cream cheese slightly higher, and hard cheeses such as Cheddar even higher.

Try swapping your pepperoni pizza for four-cheese pizza, substituting meat in pasta dishes for mild blue cheese to preserve flavor, and use mild cheeses on sandwiches.

4. Reduce meat consumption by 20%

Meat production, especially beef and lamb, has a high environmental impact. Eating a lot can be unhealthy, but eating meat in small amounts can provide a valuable source of protein and micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. Try eating smaller portions, increase the quality of meat that shop for the health benefits while eating less, or try to have regular vegetarian days like Meatless Mondays. Choose the meat option when you eat out, make it a treat for special occasions and eat more plant-based dishes at home.

Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology, Bournemouth University and Danielle Guy, doctoral candidate in psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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