As Earth Day looms in the distance and the weather begins to warm, it’s time to talk about one of my favorite hot topics in the world of food: how to reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat.
It’s been proven, time and time again, that the best way to start reversing the effects of climate change is to eat less meat. Red meat is particularly damaging — for every 50g of protein you consume from beef, 17.7 kilograms of CO2 are being produced.
Asking people to take meat out of their diet is a big ask. I get it. Even as a vegetarian, it’s difficult for me to contemplate going vegan, a shift that feels equivalent to that from omnivorism to vegetarianism.
I love challenging people to start a few days or weeks at a time. What better time to try that than Spring, when fresh produce is plentiful and the sun is finally shining again? To help you get a good start, I pulled together a few of my favorite ways to eliminate meat from your diet:
1. Just take it out.
You might be surprised at how little some of your favorite recipes suffer when meat has simply been removed. Try removing the meat from your lasagna, pizza, spaghetti, and most soups, and you’ll find that you have pretty much the same dish as you started with. Want to level up? Add some zucchini, eggplant, or fennel to “beef” up your dish the veggie way. Try this vegetarian bolognese for a start!
2. Lean on beans.
Beans are my favorite. Full stop. I use beans almost every night in my kitchen to add a dose of protein and heft to vegetarian meals. Use black beans to make tacos, add some chickpeas to meatless soups, and pull out a can or two of cannellini beans to make a delicious pot of beans that, when paired with crusty bread, makes a main dish that puts meat to shame.
3. Explore alternative meats.
We’re living in the future, people! Even at the most basic of supermarkets, meat alternatives like Beyond Burger, Impossible Meats, and more are available. These genetically engineered alternatives help meat-eaters give up the real stuff by providing a product with the same texture and taste profiles. As a vegetarian, I’ve noticed that some of these products are actually too close to the real thing for me to enjoy, but for meat-eaters, they’re hitting the nail on the head.
4. Learn how to get creative in the kitchen.
My biggest piece of advice for learning how to leave meat behind is to get creative in the kitchen. Cooking without meat can force you to dig deep into your arsenal of cooking techniques, spice cabinet, and alternative ingredients in a way you’re not used to doing! Need some help to get started? The Chopping Block is offering virtual classes, including vegetarian options. We've all heard of Kung Pao Chicken, but Kung Pao Cauliflower is a healthier alternative and tastes even better! Join us on Thursday, March 18 at 6pm CST to learn how to make:
- Kung Pao Cauliflower with Steamed Rice
- Sesame Green Beans