When your mother told you to eat your vegetables, she was on to more than she knew. For the sake of our bodies and the Earth’s climate, experts say people across the world need to make roots, beans, leafy greens, and other plant foods a bigger part of our diets.
“We’re not saying go vegan. But significant changes can happen from shifting away from meat and towards plants,” says Richard Waite, an expert on food climate policy at the nonprofit World Resources Institute. The process of growing and transporting food accounts for a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, he stresses, and the majority of this comes from meat and dairy.
Fortunately, plant-based meals are delicious. And they are better for our health. Long-term consumption of red meat has been associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. By contrast, vegetable-based eating is linked to lower rates of these and other diseases.
Even intensive carnivores can find this way of eating enjoyable, says Victoria Moran, host of the Main Street Vegan podcast and author of a book by the same name. Incorporating more plants in your diet isn’t difficult, she insists. “The most colorful, delicious, and inviting foods are the plant foods,” she says. “This is not a sacrifice. This is an adventure.”
Here are some ways to get started.
Begin by blending and swapping
Dishes like hamburgers, meatloaf, sausages, and dumplings benefit when savory mushrooms or other plant proteins are blended into the meat, in a ratio of approximately one-third plants to two-thirds animal, says Sophie Attwood, a senior behavioral scientist at WRI who is working with the food-service industry to add more plant items to their menus.
“This isn’t watering down, the way adding breadcrumbs might be,” Attwood says. This mixture results in good flavor, texture, and mouthfeel, according to a study where diners evaluated blended carne asadas and tacos.
Similarly, carrots can replace some of the cheese in a mac and cheese dinner. Slice..