The Healthiest Diet
It’s hard to ignore the evidence mounting against factory-farmed meat: Raising livestock for food is one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for 20 percent of man-made greenhouse gases emitted each year. If all Americans skipped their daily eight ounces of meat one day per week, we could save more emissions over the course of a year than if we gave up traveling by cars, trains, planes, and ships combined.
There are the health benefits to eating less meat, as well. People who consume a plant-based diet weigh less, have lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers, and on average live longer than meat eaters.
So why aren’t we all vegetarians? Are we really that attached to meat?
Making It Fun
Tara Austen Weaver, author ofÂ “The Butcher and the Vegetarian”, claims there’s no other food to which Americans are so emotionally connected. For many of us, meat = fun and vegetarian = boring.
But for a growing number of chefs, cookbook authors, lifelong vegetarians, “flexitarians,” and hard-core vegans, refusing meat is not a limiting proposition. If you approach it the right way, it’s the opposite; it can be a world-expanding adventure.
How to Get Started
Spring Vegetable Ragout
Ready to start cooking? Try this light vegetable ragout, for starters: You may be surprised at how flavorful it is. Sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with oil, and serve it over pasta, polenta, or tortellini to make it a main dish.
Cold Peanut Noodles
This vegan dish is an excellent combo of whole grains, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. Garlic, ginger, and soy sauce add flavor, while a topping of bok choy and carrots provides a serving of vegetables as well.
Mushroom, Spinach, and Scallion Tart
Tomato Soup with Poached Eggs
This hearty soup makes a hearty meal at any time of year — and the poached eggs are a valuable source of meatless protein.
Vegan Till Dinner
Food journalist and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman is a “less-meatatarian”: Before 6 p.m., he eats only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (like tofu, pictured herestir-fried Thai-style); after 6, he has whatever he pleases.
“I noticed that the quality of the food most people were eating was getting worse, animals were being treated worse, the environment was suffering, and people — myself included — were getting fatter and less healthy,” he says.
The Price of Meat
Cut down on meat and reduce your carbon footprint: Here’s a look at the numbers.
- Cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2.
- Sixteen times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and rice.
- Twenty-eight percent of the world’s assessed fishery stocks are “overexploited or depleted,” according to a 2008 estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
- Seventy-seven percent of U.S. soybeans and 46 percent of U.S. corn feed farm animals. That’s a lot of land.
- Going vegan saves 1 1/2 tons of CO2 equivalents, compared with the average American diet.