Reducing Consumption of Animal Products
Members of the Cool Davis community are continuing to answer the call to install rooftop solar, make their next car electric, ride their bike or walk more, forgo some recreational travel, reduce consumption, and generally live a lower-carbon lifestyle. Some of these steps are taken at significant up-front financial cost.
Yet, one environmentally positive lifestyle change is often not eagerly adopted even though it is relatively easy, cheaper than many changes our community has readily embraced, and can significantly reduce one’s carbon footprint. That simple, cheap, and environmentally constructive step is reducing consumption of animal products.
So, it’s time to enter into the belly of the beast, so to speak, and engage in a discussion about the benefits of moving towards a more plant-based diet.
Convinced? Ready to roll? Skip to the bottom of this article for Cool Davis articles, resources, recipes, organizations, books, and guided programs.
Make a positive impact on the environment by eating fewer animal products
The reasons to eat a more plant-based diet vary from person to person. Some are motivated by the evidence that a whole foods plant-based diet is healthier than the standard American diet. Others are inspired to make a change when they learn about the miserable, short lives of many animals raised for food. Still others simply agree that adopting a plant-based diet is an individual step that can significantly shrink their environmental footprint.
Eating less is more
You don’t need to give up eating meat and dairy entirely to make a huge dent in your environmental footprint. Just as it’s positive to ride your bike or public transit to work a couple of days a week — while driving your car the remaining days — committing to a meatless day or two per week is reasonable and ultimately not difficult. While some people do become vegetarian or vegan, others choose to eat only fish or become flexitarians, eating meat for special occasions but adhering to an animal products free diet most of the time.
The transition can be quite tasty.
Personal decisions take time and consideration
Moving away from meat can be a very personal decision and the factors that motivate you can be similarly personal. To successfully make any lifestyle change you must be motivated. Motivation may come from the outside, for instance, friends or family, but information is often necessary to generate the internal conviction necessary to pull off a successful change.
Give yourself a week or two to gather and digest information but don’t leave the process open-ended. Then, based on what you’ve learned and what you know about yourself, decide whether going “cold turkey” makes the most sense for you or whether a slower transition is more likely to be successful.
People have successfully transitioned to a plant-based diet both ways. However, if you decide to do it, think about making a plan and a timeline, and posting it on the refrigerator.
A few tips for easing the transition
- Find support for your transition, for instance, cooking with vegetarian or vegan friends or a plant-based cooking class at the Davis Food Co-op or other organization. Many programs or resources have online discussion communities.
- Have a chat with your “housemates.” A family or house meeting will make your intentions clear and you may find out that you have some willing allies. It’s certainly easier if everyone is on the same dietary page, but omnivore/plant-based “mixed marriages” can be successful if everyone stays flexible.
- See if your physician group or health plan can refer you to a dietician, nutritionist, or physician who supports and is knowledgeable about whole foods, plant-based diets. Kaiser Permanente, in particular, promotes such diets and has this handy, free guide on line.
- Whether you make a quick change or a slow transition, do not overly rely on refined carbohydrates as a replacement for meat. Meat can be replaced with whole grains, legumes, seeds such as quinoa, and nuts. Mushrooms, condiments such as soy or umami sauce, and spices such as cumin and smoked paprika can add a savory flavor to dishes. Load up on vegetables both cooked and raw. One of the benefits of a plant-based diet done well is that you can eat more while consuming the same number of calories.
- Recognize that you can eat unhealthy on a plant-based diet, and that’s not the goal. Processed, snack, deep fried, and sugar laden foods may be vegan but they’re not healthy regardless of their starting point. Concentrate on eating whole foods that are not processed such as beans, whole grains, and fresh vegetables and fruits.
- If you like eating out, continue to do so. Chinese, Thai, East Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants often have many plant-based options on the menu. Don’t be afraid to ask a restaurant to modify a dish; many are happy to accommodate. Cool Davis working group COOL Cuisine maintains a list of “Cool Restaurants” in Davis that have at least two full plant-based meals to order.
- Some of the most common concerns about not getting enough nutrients on a vegetarian or vegan diet result from lack of information. You can easily get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Other nutrients to pay more attention to are vitamins D and B12, calcium, iron, zinc, and omega 3 oils. All of these have readily available plant-based sources except there are few vegan sources of B12. But you may need to pay more attention to the foods you eat to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients or simply use a supplement. On the other hand, you will probably be getting much more fiber, most vitamins and antioxidants, and reduced amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol, and toxins than those eating a standard American diet.
To wrap it all up, look on this as an adventure to discover a whole new set of foods and flavors. Plant-based recipes have come a long way since the rather bland fare of the 1960s and 1970s. There is a whole world of nutrition and incredible new tastes and textures to be discovered in plant-based foods.
Cool Davis articles
Cool Davis articles highlighting many aspects of plant-based eating and negotiating with others:
Vegan Cooking Classes at the Davis Food Co-op (to be held this Winter 2020)
Listed below are some of our favorite resources but there are literally thousands available.
Guided courses or apps
- Vegan Outreach has Ten Weeks to Vegan
- UC Davis Integrative Medicine has a 21-day Plant Based Challenge
- Challenge 22: 22 Day Challenge
- Plant Based on a Budget has free meal plans and shopping lists (and some commercial offerings as well)
- Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine 21-day Vegan Kickstart
- Vegan Amino app
Fuss-Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized, Sam Turnbull, 2017
Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, Lucy Moll, 1995 (also see www.vegetariantimes.com)
The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine from the Celebrated Restaurant, Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown, 1987
Popular recipe sites
The Vegan registered dietician’s nutritional resources (https://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-101/resources/)
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics protein guide https://vegetariannutrition.net/docs/Protein-Vegetarian-Nutrition.pdf
The Vegetarian Resource Group https://www.vrg.org/
The Plantrician Project https://plantricianproject.org/ The Plantrician Project, an organization of health professionals, is dedicated to promoting whole food plant-based diets because of research showing such diets reduce and sometime reverse the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.
The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide to A Healthy Vegetarian Diet, Vesanto Melina MS RD and Brenda Davis RD, 2003
The China Study, T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, 2017
How Not to Die, Discover Food Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, Michael Greger, MD, 2015
Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World, Josh Tickell & Terry Tamminen, 2018
BOSH TV cooking videos