Let me just start this post by saying that I love meat – beef, poultry, pork, lamb, wild game – I’ll try pretty much anything. I was born and raised in West Texas, and I’ll be the first person to tell you that a really good grass-fed ribeye is AMAZING. But in the past 5 years, we have dramatically reduced the amount of meat that we eat on a regular basis. It started when we lived in Austin. Brad and I were both in graduate school, and money was tight (2 in graduate school + 2 young kids = no money), so meat was something we ate less and less of. We also subscribed to a CSA farm share. There’s nothing like staring a giant box of kale, tomatoes and squash (that you have already paid for) to prompt you to eat more vegetables!
Now days, we eat meat maybe 1-2 times a week. We subscribe to a vegetable delivery service here (the closest Ireland gets to a CSA), and participate in Meatless Monday. We have kept up the habit for 3 main reasons:
Eating less meat is better for your body
Meat is a calorie-dense food. It is higher in fat and cholesterol, and depending on the type of meat you buy, it can have plenty of hormones in it as well. Reducing the amount of meat you consume reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Eating less meat is better for the environment
There are plenty of arguments around the the issue of meat consumption and environmental impact. Meat production, in general, uses more water, produces more greenhouse gases, and uses more fuel than farming. For example, it takes approximately 1850 gallons (7000L) of water to produce 1 pound (500g) of beef compared to 39 gallons (148L) of water to produce a pound (500g) of vegetables.
Eating less meat is better for your wallet
It is no secret that meat costs more than vegetables, grains, legumes, and nearly everything else at the grocery store. Food prices here in Ireland are about 30-40% higher than in the US. Personally, I prefer to spend money on quality ingredients – organic vegetables, cheese, good pasta, etc, rather than eat ground beef (“beef mince” here in Ireland) every night, just for the sake of eating meat.
This post isn’t really about trying to convince you to give up meat entirely. Like I mentioned above, I really like meat! What I am trying to convince you to do is to give Meatless Monday a try. It is an easy, no-commitment way to work more vegetables into your diet. Choose a vegetarian meal for one day a week. Today is Monday, and my Twitter and Instagram feeds are full of #meatlessmonday hashtags. Vegetarian meals do not have to be boring salads! There are loads of pasta dishes, casseroles, gratins, soups and stews, etc that make a great meal without the meat. The picture above was a winter vegetable pot pie that I made for tonight’s dinner.
PS – For those that are curious, yes the kids eat a vegetarian diet along with us. In fact, one of our kids doesn’t care for meat at all. I’ll write a post next week about the ways we have encouraged our kids to eat (or at least try) more vegetables.