Meat is a common food and source of protein for many people, but it can contribute to health problems such as obesity and heart disease. You probably eat meat daily- maybe more than once a day.
However, do you know how much meat you’re eating every week and the impact on your health and the environment? To reduce your weekly meat intake, consider these five tips:
1. Reduce portion sizes
The first thing to do is cut down on your portion size. For example, consider this: a serving of red meat or poultry is only 3 ounces. If you’re eating something 5 to 6 ounces every day, that’s 2/3 of your daily portion right there!
People usually eat more than necessary when it comes to food, and this is even more prevalent for people who love their meat and dairy products (although there’s a trend for some people to reduce their meat and dairy intake).
If you reduce your portion sizes of meat and other animal products, then you reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or is thrown out.
On average, we throw away about 35% of all food produced in America – this accounts for $165 billion dollars worth of food every year! For example, if someone buys two chicken breasts and eats them both throughout the week, they would have eaten more than one chicken breast per day.
If, instead, the person reduces their portion size to only eat one of those two chicken breasts but still enjoys it just as much and still takes leftovers for lunch the next day, they reduce their meat consumption by half without compromising taste or enjoyment.
2. Replace red meat with fish and/or beans and legumes
Another way to reduce your weekly meat intake is by replacing red meats (beef, pork) with fish and/or beans and legumes. You can try preparing your meat dishes with fish or beans at least one day of the week.
Reducing the amount of red meats in your diet and replacing them with fish and/or beans and legumes will reduce calories and digest better.
Increasing legume, vegetable and fruit intake while reducing meat also boosts antioxidants in your diet.
3. Avoid eating processed meats “cold cuts” if possible
One serving of frankfurters (hot dogs for some people), ham, bacon, corned beef, smoked meats, and other processed meats is about 3 ounces. If you eat one of these every day, it’s easy to see how you can dramatically cut down your weekly meat intake.
Increased intake of processed meats increases your chance of developing colon cancer by 18% if you eat 50g of processed meat a day.
Red meat consumption has also been associated with an increased risk for a variety of cancers, including cancers of the colorectum and breast. Still, there’s debate about whether one type or class of food is more likely to cause these diseases than others, especially regarding processed red meats vs. unprocessed red meats.
4. Use meat as a garnish instead of the main component
If you’re baking, grilling, or broiling something like tuna or salmon (for example), add them as a garnish (topping) to your pasta dish instead of the main component. This reduces your weekly meat consumption while ensuring you enjoy delicious meals.
You can also reduce your weekly meat intake by swapping out one meal a week for something healthier, like veggies or fish. Try pasta with fresh tomatoes and pesto, veggie chili, sweet potatoes with avocado, or a salad with beans, avocado, and olives.
5. Switch to plant-based meats
You can reduce your weekly meat intake by putting more plant-based foods in the center of your plate at every meal. Plant-based proteins and meats like beans, legumes, and tofu reduce your meat consumption automatically. They can be seasoned to taste similar to meat without the health risks.
At breakfast time, swap out eggs for scrambled tofu or substitute beef bacon with turkey bacon. When eating oatmeal or cereal, try adding soy milk instead of dairy milk.
Starting at lunchtime, reduce your meat consumption by adding more plant-based proteins to sandwiches. Instead of good old PB&J, try hummus and vegetables on whole grain bread or a Mediterranean veggie pita.
When eating pasta, reduce the amount of meat you put in your dish by about half. Then, double the amount of veggies you’re adding. You can also opt for plant-based meats made from soybeans among other legumes.
Learning to reduce weekly meat consumption can increase energy, reduce stomach upsets, and the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer. It also reduces your overall environmental footprint.
Try reducing your weekly intake of meat one day at a time or reduce it by a half of a serving per meal. It’s easier than going full cold turkey.