You have good intentions. You want to give up meat for the health of the planet and the welfare of animals, but you’re having trouble doing it. Making major dietary changes is challenging! But maybe you’re trying to do too much too quickly. Another way to contribute to the health of the planet and the animal kingdom is to become a reducetarian.
What is a Reducetarian?
Being a reducetarian means reducing your consumption of animal products for health, environmental, or animal welfare reasons. It’s a way to do something positive for the health of the planet without completely giving up meat. The reducetarian approach to eating doesn’t eliminate meat but strives to reduce the amount of animal-based foods an individual eats even if they don’t adopt exclusively a plant-based diet.
Why should you consider the reducetarian approach? The livestock industry is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the world’s major environmental problems – overpopulation, species extinction, deforestation, air and water pollution, climate change, and so on.
Both beef and dairy production are energy-intensive activities, which require large amounts of fossil fuels (deforestation), fertilizers (fertilizer production), and feed (using grains). The meat industry also contributes significantly to global warming through the emission of greenhouse gases from livestock and deforestation for pastureland. Consuming less meat is a way to reduce the burden of these energy-intensive activities on the planet.
The Reducetarian Approach is Less Restrictive
The reducetarian diet doesn’t require you to completely overhaul your diet or become vegan or vegetarian. Instead, it encourages the consumption of more plant-based foods in place of meat, fish, and other animal products. A reducetarian eats mostly vegetables, fruits, and grains, but also occasionally meat. It’s a flexible approach and one that even meat-eaters can adopt and know they’re contributing to the planet’s health.
Being a reducetarian is about cutting back on animal-based foods. It does not mean cutting out all meat or becoming a vegetarian, although that is an option. It’s about being conscious of what you eat and making small shifts that will improve your health and reduce your environmental impact.
The Reducetarian Diet is More Inclusive
Some people feel they must go vegetarian or vegan to be part of the plant-based movement. They try it, get frustrated, and go back to eating meat regularly. Anyone who likes to eat and is interested in making a positive difference to the world can adopt a reducetarian diet. You might find this approach less intimidating than giving up meat entirely, and you’re still making a difference for the planet.
Being a Reducetarian Can Be a Pathway to Becoming a Vegetarian or Vegan
Becoming a reducetarian is a good step on the road to becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Each person has their own reason for choosing to reduce animal products but not all are ready to make a transition to a plant-based diet. You might want to take it one step at a time. Replacing one or two servings of meat per week with plant-based foods is doable, and you might discover you enjoy plant-based eating and want to take a further step and consume only plants.
Transitioning to vegetarianism or veganism may seem like a daunting task. But being reducetarian is not. And when you look at the wide variety of plant-based foods available, it’s easy to whip up a delicious meal that is also healthy, environmentally friendly, and humanely produced. You might not miss the meat!
If you want to be healthier and reduce the negative impact your diet has on the environment, reducing or eliminating animal products is a great place to start. With the reducetarian approach, you can pick and choose what foods you want to eat. This is a flexible and sustainable way to reduce animal consumption. You don’t have to become a full-time vegan or vegetarian, but you can still make small changes in your diet that will benefit animals and the environment.
A Reducetarian Diet Has Health Benefits
It’s nice to know that when you’re doing something for the environment it can benefit your health. According to MD Anderson Center, eating a plant-based diet lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Some studies show it reduces the risk of certain types of cancer too. Thirteen types of cancer are associated with obesity. Because plant-based foods are lower in calories, they make weight loss easier.
Plus, plants contain antioxidants and other compounds with an anti-inflammatory effect. Since inflammation is a driver of a number of health problems, eating more plants may lower your risk of many health issues.
One study of over 450,000 adults found that those who ate a 70% plant-based diet had a 20% lower chance of dying from heart disease or stroke relative to those who ate mostly meat and dairy. A 30-year Harvard study found that those who ate the most red meat died younger, but substituting nuts for one daily plate of beef reduced the risk of death by up to 19%.
Reducetarianism Will Make You More Conscious of Your Choices
One of the benefits of taking a reducetarian approach to eating is that you will become more conscious of the choices you make and how they affect the planet. People have been conditioned to eat whatever satisfies their hunger rather than considering the health and social consequences of doing so. Reducetarianism will make you more socially aware.
The Bottom Line
How to get started? Make plant-based foods the focal point of your meals. A plant-based diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and legumes while limiting meat, dairy, and eggs. Then, depending on how rigorous you want to be, you could add further limits. You can start by making small changes and adapt your approach over time.
Reducetarianism is more than just a diet–it’s a movement, focused on the simple idea that we can all make small changes to our daily habits to create a better world for ourselves and the planet.
“5 benefits of a plant-based diet | MD Anderson Cancer Center.” mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/5-benefits-of-a-plant-based-diet.h20-1592991.html.
“The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet – Consumer Reports.” 16 Dec. 2015, .consumerreports.org/diet-plans/plant-based-diet/.