“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
It all started my senior spring. I was in an environmental seminar, “Biotech Plants and Animals,” learning about GMOs (genetically modified organisms), how to sustainably feed the world’s growing population, the plight of the ocean’s fish, and the mass production of meat. The movies and TED talks we watched affected me most, especially the film Food, Inc. The moment I saw it, I swore to never again eat meat (I’ve caved a couple of times). Not only was I repulsed by the methods that big meat industries like Tyson and Purdue use to raise, kill, and produce their meat, but the process of meat production is environmentally tolling. According to Mark Bittman, it’s estimated that raising animals for food makes up about 51% of our greenhouse gas emissions and producing a pound of grain-fed beef takes 100 times more water than producing a pound of wheat. These numbers are staggering yet hopeful because reducing our meat consumption may be one of the simplest and most realistic ways to lessen our carbon footprint. Meatlovers – I’m not asking you to give up meat entirely, but try giving it up for a day and buy grass-fed beef; anything is better than nothing.
It’s been a year since I became a vegetarian, well pescatarian (I still eat fish) for now, and I’ve never felt better. I had never been a big meat eater, and I’m fortunate to have a mother who cooked very healthy, mostly organic and oftentimes tasteless (sorry mom) food. Basing my diet around whole, plant-based foods has been relatively simple and I never ever want to go back. It’s easy to become a vegetarian and eat crap like pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, cereal…as with any diet change, you have to do it right. I’ve toyed with veganism (I rarely eat cheese and drink only soy or almond milk), but I do love yogurt for breakfast. I challenge you to cut out processed foods from your diet, go two days a week without eating meat, and maybe try packing your lunch next week.
Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve became more mindful of the food I eat, how I eat it, and have a new collection of vegan/vegetarian cookbooks as well as books about nutrition. One of my favorites – Michael Pollen’s book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.
Some of my favorite rules from Michael Pollen:
2. Don’t Eat Anything Your Great Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognize as Food
6. Avoid Food Products That Contain More Than Five Ingredients
14. Eat Only Foods That Will Eventually Rot
28. Eat Your Colors
37. Sweeten and Salt Your Food Yourself
45. Eat All the Junk Food You Want as Long as You Cook It Yourself
56. Eat When You Are Hungry, Not When You Are Bored
57. If You’re Not Hungry Enough to Eat an Apple, Then You’re Probably Not Hungry
73. Do All Your Eating at a Table
83. Break the Rules Once in a While
If I could I would list them all.
Tomorrow, if you’re having people over for a Memorial Day BBQ, keep these tips in mind; don’t buy excess, cook the food yourself, and maybe, just maybe, make tomorrow a Meatless Monday.