There are a plethora of dietary strategies to choose from and most of them use plants as their foundation. Plant-based foods offer us a multitude of health benefits, plus they can be very budget-friendly, yet not everyone is ready to follow a vegan or vegetarian-only diet. Enter the reducetarian movement!
What Is The Reducetarian Movement?
Reducetarianism is simply the mindful and conscious act to eat fewer animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. With reducetarianism, people have the freedom to focus on plant-based eating without committing to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Popular diets that have been around for decades centre on plant-based principles, and of course, many cultures around the world have plant-rich lifestyles.
The reducetarian movement, started in 2015, applies the labels ‘reducetarian’ and ‘reducetarianism’ and focuses on how we can all eat less meat. With the rise of minimalism in more recent years, as well as the high cost of food, it’s no wonder that reducetarianism has taken off.
Benefits of Being a Reducetarian
The reducetarian lifestyle is a holistic one that considers a slew of factors but that doesn’t mean you need to make massive lifestyle changes. Collectively, the small changes made by each of us participating in reducetarianism add up.
Reducetarian Human Health Benefits
- Eating excessive amounts of red meats and processed meats is linked to a higher risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes.
- In a study of 475,000 people in the UK, those who ate meat (including poultry) three or more times per week had a higher risk of developing or suffering from many common complaints and diseases.
- Following a reducetarian way of eating can help mitigate the risk of these devastating health consequences. One study estimates that transitioning to a plant-based diet could save millions of lives by 2050.
Reducetarian Environmental Benefits
Reducetarian Benefits for Animals
- Numbers vary around the world and according to each type of animal, but one research institute estimates that 90% of the world’s animals are currently living on factory farms.
- Factory farm conditions are not conducive to an animal’s physical or mental wellbeing; they live in cramped quarters, receive little to no outdoor access, and are often fed a highly processed diet including foods they wouldn’t eat in the wild. These are just a few of the reasons why factory farming is harmful to animals and the planet.
- By reducing our meat consumption, the hope is that fewer animals would be killed for our food.
Economic Benefit of Reducetarianism
The Culinary Nutrition Approach to Being a Reducetarian
The core principles of reducetarianism are sound, and we’ve taken it a few steps further to consider what else we can reduce in addition to animal products to benefit our health and the health of the planet. The Culinary Nutrition Expert Program is already dairy-free, but we’re also gluten-free and aim to teach our students how to reduce their consumption of foods that can potentially have a negative impact on their health.
In addition to reducing animal products, we’ve expanded the scope of being reducetarian to consider:
- How can we eat less gluten, or eliminate it entirely?
- How can we eat less sugar, and choose better alternatives?
- How can we reduce our food waste?
- How can we make ethical and conscious choices in all of our food choices?
How to Practice Reducetarianism: Tips and Resources
How to Eat Less Meat
1. Swap in plant-based alternatives
There are tons of plant-based alternatives you can use like beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and more depending on the recipe. In many cases, you can swap in plants 1:1 or use half meat, half plants.
2. Eat smaller portions of meat
If you’re consuming meat for its benefits, that doesn’t mean you need to fill your entire plate with it. We can still reap the rewards by having smaller quantities. We like meat to function as the side dish in our recipes, with veggies as the main attraction.
3. Try Meatless Mondays
Start the transition to being a reduceatarian one day a week for Meatless Mondays.
4. Explore vegan and vegetarian recipes
If your primary encounters with vegan food have involved overcooked veggies and a lack of seasoning, know that vegan and vegetarian food has come a long way in the last few decades. There are scads of plant-rich recipes that are packed with flavour, and you won’t miss the meat.
5. Purchase higher quality meat
When you purchase meat, aim for options that are local, sustainable, ethically produced and organic. These options are pricier, but they support local farmers, animals, health and the environment – and the price point will encourage you to eat less.
Resources to Help:
How to Eat Less Dairy
Photo: iStock.com / Mizina
1. Opt for dairy-free alternatives
Whether you’re looking for dairy-free cheese, chocolate, ice cream or baked goods, there is a dairy substitution these days for basically everything! The very best dairy-free alternatives are just waiting to be made in your very own kitchen.
2. Make your own nut/seed milk
We are very fortunate that there are loads of dairy-free milks available at most stores. Almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, and coconut milk can easily replace cow’s milk in any recipe. Learning to make your own nut or seed milk is a game-changer that can save you money and reduce packaging waste (and it’s one of the first recipe assignments we teach in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program).
3. Keep a food journal to track how you feel when you eat it
Sometimes, we don’t notice that dairy might be a problem until we eat less of it. Does dairy give you gas and diarrhea? Make your skin itch or break out? Leave you feeling bloated? Write it all down on a list or in a journal to begin tracking the patterns. Then, when you’re feeling an intense craving for cheese or milk chocolate, you’ll remember what the negative consequences will be if you make that dietary choice.
Resources to Help:
How to Eat Fewer Eggs
Photo: Caroline Attwood on Unsplash
1. Try flax or chia eggs in baking
These seeds have mucilaginous properties, making them great for binding in all kinds of gluten-free and dairy-free baking.
2. Use chickpea flour or tofu
Love scrambled eggs, quiche or omelettes? Crumbled tofu is a fantastic scrambled egg alternative, and chickpea flour makes incredible omelettes, egg cups and quiches.
3. If you love egg salad
Cut the amount of eggs you use in half and mix with avocado or mashed beans for a great sandwich spread.
4. Try eating more beans and legumes
If you love eating eggs for their protein content, beans and legumes are loaded with protein too! All kinds of mashed beans can make for great eggy replacements in spreads, casseroles and brunch dishes where you might use eggs. Plus, if using canned beans, you can save the brine (aquafaba), which is a near-perfect imitation for meringue.
Resources to Help
How to Eat Less Sugar
Photo: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
1. Learn about the health impacts of refined sugar
We don’t deny it: sugar tastes good. But it also has short-term and long-term health effects that can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. Understanding the impact can help inform your choices, and inspire you to consume less or choose alternatives.
2. When choosing sweeteners, opt for alternatives that also have beneficial properties
Natural sweeteners contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and more that offer benefits, as opposed to refined sweeteners that solely deplete us. Yes, they still have sugar – but they aren’t completely stripped of nutrient properties. We also recommend consuming them alongside fat, fibre and protein.
3. Make your own treats
When you create your own desserts, you can control what goes into them and use less sugar if you need to.
4. Balance your blood sugar levels
Focusing on a nutrient-rich diet that includes complex carbohydrates, quality fats, protein and fibre helps to balance blood sugar levels. You’ll be less likely to experience the rollercoaster of energy highs and lows that drive you to eat sweets.
5. Try reducing the amount in recipes to help lower your intake
Typically, cutting out a 1/4 or a 1/3 cup of sugar won’t drastically affect a recipe, or you can swap in applesauce or sweet potato purée to make up the volume.
6. Enjoy sweet fruits and vegetables
Fresh, sweet fruits and vegetables can help satisfy those sugar cravings. Once you begin your reducetarian approach to sugar, your tastes buds become more sensitive and the sweetness of a fresh strawberry or carrot may be all the sweetness you need (and crave!).
Resources to Help
How to Reduce Your Food Waste
1. Create a meal plan
One of the fundamentals we teach our students right off the bat in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program is how to create and execute a menu plan. Designing your meals and snacks at the beginning of the week can help ensure you stick to your healthy eating goals and actually use up all the food in your fridge.
2. Grocery shop with a list
How many times have you been enticed by a bright, fragrant fruit or vegetable and ended up tossing it because you could never figure out what to do with it? Plan your meals, make a list and take it with you to the grocery store or market.
3. Store your food properly
Storing food properly will help your food remain fresh and last longer, which means you’re not going to end up with moldy berries or limp carrots.
4. Buy local
Purchase food that is in season and grown close to where you live. You’ll end up with less waste because food will be fresher and last longer, having travelled fewer days to get to your plate.
5. Buy ‘ugly’ produce
Many shops now have an ‘ugly’ produce section where imperfect produce is available at a discount. These veggies are beautiful to us, and buying them means they’re less likely to end up as food waste.
6. Explore root to stem or nose to tail cooking
We have a habit in North America of throwing out parts of vegetables that we could easily use for another purpose, like broth for example. Animal consumption can be even more wasteful, as we view certain parts of the animal as ‘good’ to eat while other parts are ‘gross’. Using all parts of the animal not only reduces food waste, but adds nutrition and flavour.
7. Use those leftovers!
We adore our leftovers, but if you’re not into them think of ways you can creatively repurpose and reuse leftover food.
Resources to Help
Zero-waste chef Anne Marie Bonneau said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” It’s the same situation for the reducetarian movement. If each of us make a conscious effort to reduce our meat, dairy and egg consumption, we can create an overall positive impact on our health, animals and the environment.