If you want to tip your toe into plant-based eating rather than going cold turkey, you might be wondering if it is enough to reduce your meat intake, or should you just go fully plant-based? I’m going to help you answer the question, should I go for a simple reduced meat or plant-based diet?
I’ll start by saying, any change, even the smallest one counts. Studies have shown that swapping meat for legume-based meals a couple of times a week reduces inflammation in your body and begins to positively influence our microbiome. Which in turn boosts our health!
If you are truly at a crossroads and want to make a decision about whether to try a reduced meat or plant-based diet, here are a few things to consider first.
Are you someone who is constantly chasing deadlines, recently changed your job, has a new baby or is moving into a new house? If so, it might not be the best time for a significant change in your eating habits.
We are creatures of habit by nature. Once we decide to go against our default behaviour and want to make a change, it requires extra effort and energy. And cutting out meat 100% is no different. Particularly if you want to do it in a healthy way and replace meat with real plant foods and one of the new pea-based alternative meat products.
In this instance, reducing meat gradually takes the pressure off. Someone newly eating a healthy plant-based diet requires a little research and planning.
To ease yourself into it, start by skipping meat during the day and having it at dinnertime only. Or you can choose to go meat free 1 or 2 days of the week. Once this becomes second nature, and depending on your schedule, you can reduce even further.
How motivated are you?
Level of motivation matters when deciding on how deep you are planning to dive into plant-based eating. When people choose to cut out meat 100% it’s mostly because they strongly believe in the effect it has on their health and environment or for ethical reasons.
If you are at a healthy weight, have no aches and pains and just want to light up your menu, cutting out meat on occasion and introducing a few plant-based meals a week is the way to go.
It offers you the comfort of the known, and the experiences of the new and exciting unknown.
As you keep exploring one plant-based dish at a time, your journey will evolve with you. By keeping some meat in your diet you’ll keep doors open to both avenues. And the choice will always be yours.
What about your spouse and family
We are social creatures and are programmed to be part of a pack. This was crucial for our survival in times when being expelled from a stone age village would mean certain death.
That’s why we care so deeply about what others think of us. And our diet is no different.
We love sharing experiences, recipes, stories over a meal we can enjoy with our loved ones. If we suddenly eat differently than the rest of the pack (your family, friends, co-workers), it can create friction, or even arguments, in an otherwise peaceful environment.
If you find yourself in these situations, eating meat recreationally in special social situations might be a good idea. This way you are reducing meat, just not going 100%… yet.
Over time, as you become more comfortable with meat-free choices, you may want to eat fully plant-based. At that stage it’ll be more or less expected of you and won’t come as a shock to anyone.
How healthy are you?
Today we have strong scientific evidence showing that cutting out animal foods while introducing unprocessed plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, legumes, fruits and nuts and seeds reduces chronic, lifestyle-related diseases.
Heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, dementia and others are linked to inflammation, which can improve significantly (sometimes even reverse) when fully plant-based.
If you happen to suffer from any health condition it’s worth exploring a 100% whole food plant-based diet.
It may require some tweaks as you go, as you feel the diet sync with your specific body and conditioning, but the bottom line is there is no reason to hold back. Just make it your priority, give it the best shot you have and see what’s in it for you.
When deciding about how far to go with a reduced meat or plant-based diet, don’t overthink it. You can always stay in the moment and decide meal to meal, day to day, week to week.
Don’t let the pressure of making a decision and the desire to put a label on it prevent you from starting.
Keep the relationship between you and the way you eat alive, keep evolving and let the answers come to you over time. They will.