The United Nations estimates that livestock is responsible for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the global population surging towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, diets rich in meat and dairy products are not going to be sustainable. This is why a chair of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a call for the citizens of the world to observe one meat-free day a week. How is going vegetarian only one day a week going to help the environment? Well, when the average American consumes around 250 pounds of meat each year, going vegetarian once a week reduces that number by 35 pounds. Still not convinced? Just multiply that number by the more than 300 million people living in the United States .
Besides its environmental factors, vegetarianism (even just part-time) can be enormously beneficial to your health. A vegetarian diet is proven to aid weight loss, control blood sugar and blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of complications from heart disease and type 2 diabetes, prevent cancer, and reduce the risk of hypertension. But whether it's for ethical, environmental, or health reasons, any type of vegetarian diet can seem difficult and daunting at first. That's why we've provided some tips to help make the switch to vegetarianism, part-time or full-time, easier.
MEATLESS MEALS: TIPS AND ADVICE
- Begin by getting a couple of basic vegetarian cookbooks from your local bookstore, public library, or favorite online retailer The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone in Between by Peter Berley or Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza. Both have lots of ideas for reducing the amount of meat in your diet.
- The best way to switch to a vegetarian diet is to begin gradually. Prepare meatless versions of your favorite dishes like veggie pizza, lentil sloppy joes, bean burritos, vegetable stir-fry, penne with vegetables, or chili. Once you get used to incorporating meat-free meals into your menu, you'll feel more comfortable cooking with ingredients like tofu, seitan, or tempeh.
- Stock your pantry with staples like rice, barley, pasta, beans, and canned vegetables to make it easier for you to prepare meatless meals. The more you have to work with, the less likely you'll be to revert to recipes that contain meat when you're short on time and ideas.
- Join the North American Vegetarian Society to meet people who share your outlook and goals, and to get advice and support for your new lifestyle. You can also gain advice, resources, and additional inspiration from the UK 's Vegetarian Society.
- Talk to friends, colleagues, or acquaintances that are vegetarian. They'll be happy to suggest recipes and share their experiences with you.
- When you don't have time to cook, visit your supermarket or Whole Foods for convenience items like vegetarian instant soups, frozen entrees, and canned goods.
- If you go out to eat on your meatless day, be sure to peruse the vegetarian items on the menu. If you don't like anything you see, don't be afraid to order the item you want without meat. Most restaurants will be happy to oblige, but international restaurants are usually the best bets for finding vegetarian foods. And if you feel like ordering pizza on your meatless day, just get plain cheese or any combination of vegetable toppings.
- Once you get more comfortable cooking vegetarian, visit an ethnic grocery or market for special ingredients like stuffed grape leaves, eggplant spread, artichoke hearts, hummus, artisan breads, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes.
- If you plan on traveling over your meatless day, pack plenty of vegetarian snacks like instant soup, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade cookies.