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September 17, 2023

The Reducetarian Movement and How to Eat Less Meat, Dairy and Eggs

There is 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 center 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

Animal products require a massive number of resources, including food, water and land. Worldwide, animals use 83% of farmland and create 56% of the food sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, and use about 22% of our freshwater. Livestock eat one third of the grains grown across the earth; according to one estimate, if those grains were diverted to humans we could feed as many as 4 billion additional people. Animal production can contaminate water, habitats and soil. This pollution can lead to dead zones, and also destroy habitats and other animals who live off the land.

In this study, data analysis revealed plant-based foods produced half the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as their animal counterparts.

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

This study estimates eating less meat and more plants could lead to a health care cost savings of $735 US billion per year by 2050. In many countries, governments highly subsidize animal products; leading to cheaper prices and also overconsumption. If health care costs (both human and animal) were to be incorporated into the prices, our food costs would be much higher. On a household level, one UK-based study found that 28% of meat, fish, dairy and eggs were tossed out completed unopened. Reducing our food waste can also help save money.

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 reducetarian 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 flavor, 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. 

How to Eat Less Dairy

  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.

How to Eat Fewer Eggs

  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 omelets? Crumbled tofu is a fantastic scrambled egg alternative, and chickpea flour makes incredible omelets, egg cups and quiches. 
  3. If you love egg salad:
    Cut the number 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.

How to Eat Less Sugar

  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, fiber 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 fiber 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!).

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 flavor.
  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.
    We adore our leftovers, but if you’re not into them think of ways you can creatively repurpose and reuse leftover food.