Tips for a diet richer in vegetables

Analysis paralysis, being so overwhelmed by options that you can’t choose a path, has new meaning thanks to climate change. Making the “right” choice has never been so complicated, but we’re here to help. This is Impact, a new series on sustainability from PopSci.

Do you love the planet, but do you also love a big, juicy steak? You are certainly not alone. But, if you’re looking for ways to reduce your personal impacts on climate change, countless studies and reports point to making your diet less carnivorous. Even the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that reworking our agricultural systems and adopting more sustainable diets could provide 20 to 30 percent of the emissions reductions needed to keep the climate below 1.5. o 2 ° C compared to pre-industrial levels.

If you’re not ready to eat cold turkey with your favorite meat dishes, however, there are plenty of things you can do to smoothly transition to a more vegetable-friendly, planet-friendly diet.

Think back to how much protein you really need

Depending on who you are and what your daily life looks like, you may need more protein than someone else. On average, people need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight per day, says Amy Kimberlain, registered nutritionist, diabetes education and care specialist, and media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition. and Dietetics.

On a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, this would mean that the daily protein intake should correspond to approximately 200-700 calories per day, with a higher intake for middle-aged people, the elderly, and people who exercise regularly. For the typical 180-pound American, that would be around 65 grams of protein. But according to the Mayo Clinic, anything above 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight would likely be too much. And many people consume too much of it: Most adults eat around 100 grams of protein per day according to a 2017 report (and too much protein in the diet can mean annoying side effects like bad breath and diarrhea) .

[Related: Is red meat healthy?]

Calorie and protein levels obviously vary depending on what your favorite foods are: a Burger King burger contains about 13.6 grams of protein, while a serving of canned black beans contains about 8.87 grams of protein, according to the USDA. It might take some math and reading the labels, but knowing how much protein you need to be healthy might make the decision to swap a chicken leg for a side salad that little bit easier.

Introduce vegetables (literally) to your favorite hearty dishes

Adding “healthy” substitutes often comes in the form of cauliflower pizza crusts or using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in your favorite recipes. But beyond just health purposes, making sneaky trades can also be good for the planet.

“I think of chili peppers as a great example,” says Kimberlain. «It’s always debated: beans with chili or not, right? But jokes aside, tossing the beans in helps stretch the chili. “With all the other ingredients added, you might not even end up using a lot of meat. That principle, substitute or use a little less meat, works for” any dish. that you are preparing, “he says.

Other ways to sneak veggies into meat dishes might be tossing mushrooms into burger patties, hiding peppers and carrots in marinara sauce, or slipping shredded zucchini into your next spaghetti and meatball night.

[Related: How to eat sustainably without sacrificing your favorite foods.]

The same thing can be true for dairy products: studying cooking with alternative milks or even vegan cheese is a great place to start and may be unnoticeable for even the hungriest dairy lovers. If the concept of dairy-free milk, cheese, and yogurt gives you the creeps, you can always try a half dairy, half substitute option and see how it goes.

Start with a couple of meatless evenings a week

Trying a meatless meal once a week is another great option for improving your health, helping the planet, and getting a little creative in the kitchen. Fortunately, there are plenty of recipes for starting a greener diet, even if it only starts with a few dishes / meals per week or month.

But, adds Kimberlain, it’s important to double-check the ingredients before diving into meat alternatives. If you have a craving for a bean burger, be sure to buy meatballs that list beans as the actual main ingredient, not a side thought. The fact that a product is vegan or vegetable does not necessarily make it a perfectly healthy and eco-sustainable food.

Each gradual transition to a vegetable-rich diet is important. If you meet yourself, and your loved ones, where they are and see it as an adventure, it may not be as difficult as you would expect to lighten up on meat-based meals.

Leave a Comment