In this article, we explain why opting for a vegetarian diet (or one that consumes less meat) can be healthy for us as adults, for our children, and for our planet.
Vegetarianism: A quick introduction to a complex topic
Before we begin, we would like to make it clear that this article is in no way intended to convince you to choose a vegetarian diet as your lifestyle! Choices of this kind are very important and we believe that they should be made as part of a process of personal growth and consultation with your family doctor. Additionally, vegetarianism is only one of many possible dietary choices: you can choose to become a vegan, and exclude all animal derivatives from your diet; you can choose the path of lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume dairy products and eggs; or, you can choose to become a flexitarian, who do not habitually eat meat, but in certain situations do.
Like all complex choices, this one deserves special care in choosing and some time to find your ideal path.
Reducing meat consumption
In this article, we suggest habits, tips and ideas to reduce meat consumption because we believe that meat reduction has a number of positive effects on people’s lives and, in particular:
– It helps our planet, as intensive farming of animal feedstock is one of the causes of global warming.
– It is good for your health, as it reduces the risk of developing bad diseases.
– With proper care, a plant-based diet is also compatible with the nutritional needs of growing children
In support of these ideas, we will bring sound reasoning and citations from authoritative sources. However, do remember that we are not medical doctors. Before making a major lifestyle change, you should consult your family doctor for advice. We are merely trying to offer our point of view on what could be a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Eating less meat is good for the planet
Research shows that reducing meat consumption is a good way to help our planet, because meat production is a major source of pollution and a contributor to global warming. This is mainly due to the methane emissions emitted by livestock production (in particular, manure and animals).
To get a clearer idea of how serious meat consumption is for the planet, we need think of the fact that, forests are being destroyed and natural environments are being altered to grow fodder and animal feed to raise livestock. So meat consumption directly contributes to deforestation, the degradation of natural environments and, consequently, to the loss of biodiversity.
In addition, meat production requires incredible amounts of water (for animals, farm management, as well as for the meat processing). In fact, the over-exploitation of water resources is one of the many problems that are currently contributing to the degradation of our planet.
Finally, industrial-scale livestock farming requires the use of antibiotics to protect animals from diseases and infections, which may be due to poor farming conditions. However, these antibiotics also end up in our bodies when we eat meat. This means that more and more viruses and bacteria are exposed to antibiotics and can adapt. In a way, intensive animal husbandry means that bacteria and viruses are adapting to antibiotics, developing an ever-increasing resistance, which also causes problems for us humans.
Reducing meat consumption is good for your health
Certainly, there are many positive aspects that a low (or meat-free) diet can bring to your health.
We have listed some of them below, but this is by no means a complete list, so if you are interested, you should explore the subject in more detail (perhaps by talking to a nutritional expert or doctor who can give you the information you may need).
Here are just a few of the positive effects that a low (or no) meat diet can have on our bodies:
- It can reduce cardiovascular disease.
- It helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes (mainly due to increased fibre and potassium intake).
- It can help people with diabetes.
- It may reduce – partially or completely – the occurrence of some types of cancer. In fact, a study by the World Health Organisation suggests that eating50g of meat a day (about two slices of bacon), increases the chances of developing bowel cancer by 18%.
A more vegetarian diet is good for children
Is a vegetarian diet a healthy and safe choice for children? Yes, as long as you choose foods that contain the necessary nutrients. In fact, we might even say that choosing a vegetarian diet for your children could help them to be healthier in the long run.
Research has shown that people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to be healthier than those who consume meat.
The reason behind this lies in the lower consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol, in favour of fibre. However, removing animal foods from a child’s diet altogether can be problematic. Therefore, careful attention must be paid to the nutrients that children need as they grow:
- Protein: for growth, muscle maintenance, organs, immune system. Sources of protein are eggs and dairy products. Alternatively, you can choose vegetable proteins, and give your child peas, beans, lentils, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains.
- B-12 Vitamin: healthy nerves and blood cells depend on this vitamin. Vegetarians can get it from fortified cereals, and meat substitutes such as tofu or tempeh, or from nutritional yeast found in (for example) bread and pizza.
- Zinc: getting the right amount is essential for your child’s growth. You can help your baby get it with leavened cereals and bread.
- Iron: for iron intake, you can prepare breakfasts with iron-enriched cereals. Alternatively, you can cook meals containing beans and lentils.
- Calcium: this mineral is very important for the development of strong teeth and bones, and is present in cereals, orange juice, soy milk.
Among other things, eating less meat can have positive effects on your physical appearance too!
Apart from the fact that it can help with weight loss and weight management, there are other benefits that can be derived from a correct and balanced plant-based diet based. These include:
- Combating various chronic diseases
- Giving the skin a healthy complexion
- Growing healthier hair and nails (thanks to vitamin intake, minerals and antioxidants)
- Giving the skin a radiant colour (by replacing with vegetables foods with a high glycaemic indexes: in particular those rich in carotenoids)
Vegetarian diet, where to start
In order to embark on a plant-based diet, you need to change the way you cook and shop.
As you reduce your meat intake, you will need to eat other foods that provide your body with (plant) proteins.
Here is a quick list of foods that should be in your pantry at all times when reducing meat consumption:
- Legumes (especially lentils and beans)
- Whole grains
Of course, it will be even more environmentally friendly and impactful if you choose to buy from local producers and if you always purchase seasonal fruit and vegetables!
Vegetarian diet: let’s play together
If you liked this article and are interested in going down this enriching path, we recommend that you consult your doctor or a specialist.
However, if you would like to involve your children in this process, making them more aware of what fruit and vegetables are in season, or how important water is for our planet, we have a couple of games designed with these topics for you.
See you soon!