How to Become a Reducetarian (And Maybe Save the Planet)

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March 14, 2018

According to a Harris Poll published by Vegetarian Times, 3.2% of U.S. adults follow a vegetarian-based diet and approximately 0.5% are vegan. For the 96.3% of us who want to do better by the planet (but can’t face an eternity without bacon cheeseburgers or chocolate lava cakes), there’s reducetarianism.

Good news: You don’t have to give up any of your favorite foods. Reducetarianism isn’t an all-or-nothing mindset—it’s mindful meat eating, or vegetarianism in moderation where you make your own rules.

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The term “reducetarian” was coined by Brian Kateman, a recycling and composting advocate who learned reducing meat consumption is the best way to help the environment. Kateman founded the Reducetarian Foundation, which recently published The Reducetarian Solution, a book of original essays from influential thinkers on the subject.

The benefits of deliberately reducing meat consumption are numerous, including health benefits (reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke), financial benefits (less meat typically means lower grocery bills), and environmental benefits, namely reducing the impact of the meat industry, which creates half of all greenhouse gases and uses one-third of the world's fresh water.

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How to Become a Successful Reducetarian

Watch your portion sizes

The founding principle of reducetarianism is to eat less meat—including less meals that contain meat, and smaller portions of meat in the ones that do. Try swapping half of the chicken in a pasta dish with mushrooms, or bulking up a burger patty with shredded zucchini.

Say 'yes' to indulgent veggie dishes

If you’re foregoing meat for dinner, it makes sense to transfer the calories you’ll save on a slab of steak to a flavor-packed vegetable dish like potatoes au gratin, roasted Brussels sprouts drizzled with pomegranate molasses, or sweet potato casserole shellacked with toasted pecans. For best results, master a few recipes with locally sourced, seasonal produce.

Make meat a treat

When you eat meat, make it count. Fast food and other convenience products aren’t worthy. Instead, visit a local butcher or shop at the farmers’ market.

Designate one meat meal per day and one vegan day per week

The first part is easy: Eat meat for lunch or dinner, but not both. The second part might be a little more difficult, since most recipes contain animal products. Luckily, San Diego’s vegan dining scene has never been better, with options like Kindred (South Park), Grains (University Heights),  Flower Child (Del Mar), and Anthem Vegan’s new location in North Park. These spots, and others, deserve the support of the masses so they can continue to delight the (relatively) few vegan diners.

Explore international cuisines

Several global cuisines (like Thai, Middle Eastern, and Indian) cast meat in more of a supporting role, if it’s present at all. With worthy substitutes like fried tofu, falafel, and paneer, you won’t miss meat one bit.

Get creative with cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of the most versatile players in the vegetable kingdom. You can transform it into a pizza crust, broil it in the oven like a steak, bake it into biscuits, or chop it super fine and make tabouleh!

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