In many parts of the world, the amount of meat and dairy we eat is often more than the recommended nutrition we need. Rebalancing our meals with more vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and beans and less meat is one of the most important ways we can reduce our combined impact on the environment.
Buying less meat means less land clearing, fertilizer use, burping cattle, and greenhouse gas emissions. It also sends a message to grocery stores and producers that we want change. It’s a simple choice you can make every day, with a big impact.
Be healthier, save money and cut carbon pollution simply by changing what you eat.
Eating more veggies can be fun. Start with what you like. Love tacos? Try a delicious black bean base with all the tasty veggie fillings. Enjoy curry? Cook up a nut and veggie-packed version or try one at your local restaurant. Feeling more adventurous? Ask your local greengrocers about the best local produce to try.
Beef and lamb tend to create more carbon pollution, so substituting them with chicken or pork might be a good place to start if you want to keep some meat in your meal.
If you are looking to replace meat completely, choose protein-rich plants like legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains or plant-based meats. They come with the added bonus of fiber which will keep you fuller for longer and healthier. Find out more about foods with the lowest carbon footprint here or the plant-based meats with the greatest nutritional value here.
Depending on what you currently eat, you may not need to find other protein substitutes for the meat you replace. The average daily protein requirement is 51g (1.8 ounces) per person, but in many countries we consume well above that. For example, the average American consumes 83g (2.9 ounces) of protein each day, nearly 70% more than needed! And yet only 5% of Americans consume the recommended amount of daily fiber they need - putting more vegetables, fruits, and grains on your plate will increase your fiber intake.
Rebalancing your meals to eat more plant-based food not only increases your intake of different healthy nutrients, but eating less meat also means fewer saturated fats, and that will lower your likelihood of diabetes, cancer, and heart attacks. Plants also contain fiber, which animal products don’t, and fiber has great health benefits far beyond just digestion. A plant-based diet can even lead to a longer life!
Eating less meat could also save you money, because plant-based proteins can be cheaper than animal-based ones.
It’s good for the environment too. Most animal-based products emit up to 50 times more carbon and 5 times more water than plant-based products. Cattle also create methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. And clearing less land for livestock, means less deforestation, which protects the wild animals that live in those ecosystems. So eating less meat doesn’t just make you healthier, it helps protect the people, places and animals you love too.
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A recent review suggested that plant-based diets may prove to be a useful nutritional strategy for lifespan extension in part because they tend to be naturally low in the amino acid methionine.
Agriculture is estimated to be the proximate driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide.
If 50–75% of the world’s population restricts their calorie intake and meat consumption, a healthy, plant-rich diet could be one of the most impactful solutions at a total of 64.8–91.5 gigatons avoided emissions.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a 100-year global warming potential 28 times that of CO2.
Plant-based proteins can be cheaper than animal-based ones. For example, based on average US retail prices in 2013, the price per gram of protein ranged from 0.9 cents for dried lentils, 1.1 cents for wheat flour, 1.2 cents for dried black beans, and 2.3 cents for dried white rice, to 2.7 cents for eggs, 2.9 cents for milk, 3.1 cents for fresh whole chicken, and 4.4 cents for ground beef.
Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat decreases the risk of coronary heart diseases.
The average daily adult protein requirement is 56g for a man and 46g for a woman but many people consume much more than they need. Average daily adult protein requirement 51g. Average US daily protein consumption 83g.
Which Foods Have the Lowest Carbon Footprint?
With the entire supply chain taken into account, greenhouse gas emissions from plant-based commodities are 10 to 50 times lower than from most animal-based products.
Impact metric calculations
To determine the carbon emission reduction estimates related to adopting a plant-based diet, the following calculation was performed:
(# of meals/week) x (# of people eating with user) x (weeks/month) x (17 g protein / meal) x [(kg CO2e/100 g meat protein) - (kg CO2e/100 g pulses protein)] / (100g to g unit conversion) = kg CO2e reduction / group / month
For detailed calculations, references and assumptions, please see our Methodology.