Eat Meat? Eat It Better. Here’s How.

Photo: USDAgov on Flickr.

Do you eat meat? Have you considered eating less? More and more people are going “flexitarian,” which is to say that they are avoiding meat and other animal products in their diets, but not entirely. In a recent New York Times column author of How to Cook Everything Mark Bittman explains the charms of flexitarianism: “It’s increasingly evident, however, that a part-time vegan diet — one that emphasizes minimally processed plant food at the expense of everything else — is the direction that will do the most to benefit human health, increase animal welfare and reduce environmental impact.”

Bittman advocates what he calls “Vegan Before 6,” an approach to eating that reduces animal products in breakfast, lunch, and snacks before dinner, with meat, milk, and eggs appearing in larger suppers at the end of the day. This is a way for eaters to dramatically reduce their dependence on animal products for sustenance, simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint and increasing the amount of whole fibre, vitamins, and minerals in their diets. But, that’s only one approach. How else can you eat less meat and still remain healthy?

First, it’s important to recognize that you can get just as much protein from legumes as from meat, if you’re consistent about eating the right types of beans. Soybeans and soy products are a great source of protein, as well as magnesium and calcium. But lentils and other beans are also great, and most can be conveniently prepared from cans, or are cheap to buy in bulk. Going meat-free part-time may just be a way of saving time on money that might otherwise have been spent on meat.

Second, there are several ways to be more conscious of how much meat you are eating. You can reduce the number of days in which you eat meat, and you can also choose to purchase meat only from butchers that source free-range, organic meat. (Meat purchased in grocery stores and supermarkets is almost universally gleaned from factory farms.) There are plenty of butchers in the Toronto area that source local organic meats, like The Healthy Butcher and Rowe Farms.

These meats will cost more, but if you’re eating them only once or twice a week, it might just be worth it. In the meantime, there are plenty of beautiful vegetarian blogs to check out for recipe ideas, like 101 Cookbooks, The First Mess, and Naturally Ella.

Good luck, and happy eating!