You’ve heard it a million times. Eating less meat and more vegetables is better for your body and better for the environment. Raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gas emissions than growing vegetables and grains.
Still, many people love eating meat. This Earth Day 2011, why not consider becoming a flexitarian?
In a recent interview with the Nature Conservancy, Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, said that over the years his tastes have changed to become more flex.
“I used to think of meat in the center of the plate,” Ells said. “Today, I am a meat reducer. This means I eat less meat and make sure that the limited meat I do eat is of the highest quality. My plate is comprised of seasonal and local vegetables with meat as an accompaniment.”
Ells is not alone in this philosophy.
You can call it meat reducing or flexitarianism, or as long-time New York Times food writer Mark Bittman calls it “less-meatarianism.”
“Longer term, my hope is that we’ll see increasing numbers of people recognizing the secular benefits… of relaxed food-related self-discipline, represented by flexitarianism, by the Meatless Monday campaign, and by my own (perhaps badly named) crusade for ‘less-meatarianism,’ all of which can have positive effects on the environment, on our personal health and on world hunger,” Bittman said.
You can flex your vegetarian muscles just one day a week with Meatless Monday, a public awareness campaign created in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. Their goal is simple: help Americans reduce their risk of preventable disease by cutting back saturated fat.
“Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity,” according to their website. “It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
The Mayo Clinic now endorses a flexitarian diet too. In a February 2011 article Mayo Clinic nutritionists Jennifer Nelson and Katherine Zeratsky give this advice:
“You can still eat meat, poultry and fish in moderation as part of a plant-based diet if you're willing to be flexible. Indeed, many people who eat this way call themselves flexitarians. Start by going meatless one or two days a week. On those days, plan menus that feature entrees you like and that are typically meatless, such as veggie lasagna, minestrone soup and pasta salad. If you need a snack, try a handful of nuts and some fresh fruit.”