Resolve to Eat More Plants in the New Year

January is the month of New Year’s resolutions. Why not make a resolution that can improve yourself while also lowering your carbon footprint? During January, I will focus each week on a different climate saving resolution. My hope is that by the end of the month, you will find one or more maybe two resolutions that you can embrace. 

This week I will talk about food and how you can change your eating habits to step more lightly on our wonderful planet. Let’s start with why moving towards a plant-based diet is a good idea:

  1. Raising animals for food has a significant impact on climate change. According to Project Drawdown, animal agriculture is estimated to be responsible for 14-17% of greenhouse gas emissions. That is as much warming as the entire transportation sector.
  2. A whole-food plant-based diet has been proven many times to be the healthiest diet, bar none. Dr. Michael Greger is fond of saying that there is only one diet that has been shown to reverse heart disease: a whole food plant-based diet.
  3. According to the Humane Society, “Billions of farm animals suffer in factory farms globally, confined their whole lives to cages so small they can barely move.” Simply put: eating less animal products equates with less animal suffering.

That said, changing one’s eating habits is hard. And you don’t have to go from your current diet to one that eschews all animal products overnight. Here are some ideas on how to approach the change:

  1. Take small but deliberate steps. For example, go meatless on Mondays. Or perhaps eat vegan for one meal a day, say breakfast. 
  2. Find one type of animal-based food and sub it out. For example, replace dairy milk in your lattes and cereal with soy milk or another plant-based milk. Or replace all your burgers with veggie burgers.
  3. Focus more on adding healthy plants to your meals, rather than dwelling on what you are missing. Create big salads and stir fries full of delicious romaine lettuce, bright-colored bell peppers, crunchy carrots, bok-choy, kale, chard, lentils, and legumes. 
  4. Less protein is not a problem. Most Americans eat about twice the protein and less than half the fiber per day than recommended. And where do you suppose animals get their proteins from? Plants, of course! Legumes, nuts, and seeds have plenty of protein. And the more plants you eat, the more you will increase your fiber while reducing your protein excess.
  5. Eat an assortment of vegetables, fruits, legumes, greens, grains, nuts, and seeds. And avoid the processed foods; they lack the nutrients, whether or not they contain animal products. 
  6. For some great plant-based recipes and guidance, try Meatless Mondays, Vegan recipes on Epicurious, No Sweat Vegan, and the PCRM Vegan Starter Kit. If you love curries, try Vegan Richa and for the occasional need for homemade dessert, checkout Chocolate Covered Katie.

Go slow, but keep taking the next step to improve your health, ensure less animal suffering, and lower your carbon footprint. Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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