The research is pretty undeniable – meat consumption is a primary driver of climate change, with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation suggesting that the meat and dairy industry is responsible for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And that's just the greenhouse gas emissions – when we consider water usage, deforestation, it all adds up!
While there are other cultural and ethical elements to consider when making the decision to become a vegetarian or vegan, reducing our meat consumption, even by just one meal a week, is something we can all strive to achieve. And you're not alone! The uptake of veganism and vegetarianism in recent years has experienced rapid growth –between 2014 and 2019, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled!
However, if you're living with a partner, family member or friend who loves eating meat it can make it hard to cut down on your own intake, especially if you're not the one in charge of the cooking. Believe me, I've been down that road and I know it's not always a smooth ride but it's possible to cut down your meat intake even if the people you live with don't want to! Here are some tips to get you and your household on the right track.
Start the conversation
Not eating meat can be a touchy subject, but it's still important to talk about it. If you haven't spoken to your household about cutting down on meat before, start by explaining what you're thinking of doing and ask them if they'd consider adding in some meat free alternatives to the weekly meal plan. If you can, talk them through your decision and help them understand why you are so passionate about this. Explain that your concern for the planet outweighs the convenience of just eating whatever you feel like. Who knows, your passion may even convince them to try it for themselves!
It's worth noting here that putting someone down or criticising their food choices is not the way to get through to someone. Focus the conversation on it being a choice that you're making for yourself, rather than on why they're not making the same choice. Try to be positive and be open to the fact that they might not agree with you, and you may have to go it alone.
If you have already talked about it with your household and they aren't willing or able to go meat free, you can still keep them posted with what you're doing for yourself. Show them what you're cooking and eating and slowly get the idea in their heads that having a few meat free days isn't really that hard!
Become an awesome vegetarian cook
If you're not already the main cook in the house, and the people who do hold the cooking power don't want to or can't change, you'll have to take matters into your own hands. On the nights you don't want to eat meat, cook up your own veggie meal or your own veggie option to go with what the rest of the family is eating.
And it's not as hard to do as you might think! Jump onto pinterest or just google and search for the vegetarian version of anything you're thinking of making. There are plenty of recipes. You can also opt for the vegetarian option when you go out to eat, which will provide some good inspiration. Because of the growing number of vegetarians, these options aren't the piece of tomato and lettuce like they used to be. Then you can cook for your household and show them just how great eating vegetarian food can be!
Craving the texture or flavour of meat? Here are some great alternatives that will have even the most carnivorous of your friends salivating!
- Tofu (a classic – just make sure that you press your tofu first, to get rid of the excess moisture! This allows it to take on the flavours of your cooking better and gives it a meatier texture).
- Jackfruit (perfect for imitating pulled pork!)
- Mushrooms (in particular Oyster mushrooms!)
Take it for a test run!
If your fellow house dwellers are open to changing their cooking habits - try out cutting down meat or going vegetarian as a whole household for a couple of weeks. This will give everyone a taste of what it would be like to cook your way and hopefully give them a taste of how delicious meat free stuff can be! Then at the end of the two weeks have another chat and see if you want to continue like this. This is a perfect way to do it because it doesn't feel like such a huge commitment, and you'll have a chance to debrief on how it went. Then you can decide as a whole where to go from there based on experience.
Same, same but different
My friend's Mum has always been vegetarian but the rest of the family isn't - for every meal they basically made a vegetarian option of the same meal. Sounds like effort? It's not really! Take tacos for example. You've got a big spread on the table, avocado, cheese, beans, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, pineapple (don't judge me it's delicious), coriander and a chicken taco mix. You're all eating the same meal but the non meat eater just steers clear of the meat! In other meals (like a curry) you can just cook the meat separately, serve up the vego curry to whoever wants it then add in the meat for everyone else!
Go week to week
My boyfriend and I take this approach right now. One week, he is responsible for planning what we eat and writing out a shopping list. He gets to choose whatever he wants but he also has to organise it. The next week, It's my turn and so on. This is great because if you choose to be vegetarian every second week then that's already halving your meat consumption! The perfect compromise.
Vegetarian at home, flexitarian going out!
Today, due to the growing prevalence of plant-based diets, it's not hard to find a restaurant or café that caters to both vegetarians and vegans (and we mean properly caters to vegos – we deserve more than just a single mushroom burger!)
But if your fellow house-dwellers are concerned about the impact adopting a plant-based diet might have on their social life, you can suggest adopting a more flexible approach – vegetarian at home, flexitarian while out! That way, you'll still be able to massively reduce your meat consumption (and become an expect vegetarian chef!), without the added stress of having to answer the dreaded question "but where do you get your protein?" during every event.
Lead by example
The best way you can help people change their habits and become more open to doing things the planet friendly way is by showing them how it's done. Be positive, be encouraging and be excited about what you're doing and it's sure to catch on! I'm not going to lie, this takes a long time but lots of the 1 Million Women staff and volunteers have been in these situations, and they swear hand on heart that by leading by example, their family members and partners have become more open and willing to help them with their planet friendly lifestyle.
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