When the Humane Society International (HSI) was involved in the original negotiations for the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in the late 1990s, it promised a new era of environmental protection. The Federal Government had recognised its obligation to protect our environment at a national level and introduced...
Have you previously considered cutting back meat and animal products, but found the idea daunting? Whether it be the prospect of cooking in a totally new way, the social impacts of narrowing your food options, or doubts over whether you can consistently commit to vegetarianism (or if you even have to at all!), we know that there might seem to be a lot of hurdles to overcome before making the leap to a meat or animal product free diet. We have collected some great tips to help you in your transition away toward a more planet friendly diet, and we would love to hear any other tips you might have for our readers in the comments below!
1. Have a purpose
Understand why it is you are interested in reducing your meat or animal product consumption. Is it for your health? Is it because of animal welfare concerns? Perhaps you want to reduce your impact on the planet, or maybe it’s a combination of all three.
An honest understanding and desire to adopt a flexitarian, vegetarian, or vegan diet will help you stay motivated and give purpose to your decision to undertake change.
2. Do your research
Not only should you research and understand your purpose for adopting a meat reduced diet, but you should also take the time to understand how making this change will fit into your day to day life, and what kind of standards you will set for yourself on this journey. Some examples of avenues for research may be:
- How will changing my diet impact any medical or health conditions I have?
- What kind of diet aligns with my motivations? Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Flexitarian?
- What is the availability of meat product alternatives in my area?
- What kind of shelf ready snacks meet my diet criteria that I can grab in a pinch?
- What are some hidden food pitfalls I need to be aware of? For example, what cheese contains rennet? Which lollies contain gelatine?
- Do I encourage my family or children to join me on this transition? If so, how?
There are so many incredible resources online (including this blog!) that will help you understand and prepare for a transition away from some or all animal products. Take advantage of all the knowledge at your fingertips, it will help you feel at ease and less overwhelmed by the hurdles before you.
3. Don’t overcommit too soon
Start small. Pick one day a week to eat meat or animal product free to begin with. After that, start by removing one product from your diet at a time. You might start by removing red meat initially, and once you are used to cooking without it and you know how your body and health have reacted to the change, you can move on to eliminating chicken, or fish, or diary in incremental steps until you reach your desired dietary goals.
By doing this, you can adjust to life without each product at a time. It will allow you to learn how to prepare food without it, understand how your body responds to the change, and also help you to identify your limitations. You may find that some foods are just too difficult to live without, but if you have made incremental steps then you will be less likely to feel as though the entire transition has been a bust, and instead make allowances for yourself to ensure the sustainability of the changes you find you can make with relative ease.
4. Collect recipes and meal plan
Plan ahead! Join recipe groups online and scour the web for your favourite food blogs. The more great recipes you can collect and have on hand, the less likely you will be to feel overwhelmed by the decisions of what to eat for every meal. The recipes might inspire you to explore more animal product free cuisine, or you might find that the act of meal planning and organising your food options ahead of time relieves you of the pressure to come up with impromptu meal ideas on a daily basis.
5. Use apps to help with social situations
You can use technology to help you when you are out and about or trying to select a place to eat and socialise with friends. Apps such as Happy Cow (and many of the other apps listed in our blog here will help you identify which foods fit your diet, or which restaurants cater to someone with your dietary requirements.
6. Understand your dietary needs
Make sure to understand how you will need to adjust your eating habits to maintain your health and wellbeing. A great place to start is to read our blog on meat-free nutrition here but also be sure to consult your doctor or a nutritionist if you feel like your new diet is not giving you enough energy or making you unwell.
7. Find support
It is always easier to make a change if you have the support of others. Make sure that you turn to family, or friends, or online communities for support and to help you with any questions or difficulties you might be having. Online groups are a great way to make new friends and feel connected to a wider community who share your values and understand your struggles.
8. Be kind to yourself
Finally, go easy on yourself. Perfection is the enemy of progress, after all. Take things slow and forgive yourself if you slip up. A transition away from meat and animal products is not about achieving 100% perfection, it is about finding a balance that it sustainable for you and your way of life. Take it all one day at a time, make whatever changes you can, and do not feel as though imperfection equates to failure. Every step you make towards a diet that involves less meat or animal products, is a step towards a happier environment and reduced animal suffering.
No Meat Monday recipe
We have this delicious Greek-inspired chickpea burger recipe from Connoisseurus Veg to share with you.
Rhiannon Cunningham is a Campaigner for Humane Society International and has been with the organisation since 2015. She is admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW as a solicitor and has a Masters in Environmental Law from The Australian National University. Currently, she is in her final year of a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science, with a focus on conservation and sustainability. Her work with HSI is primarily focused on environmental policy, native wildlife protection, and animal welfare laws.