The diet that is good for you AND the planet

*by Luke Vanderzeil*

Now this isn’t a ‘give up meat’ post, I promise!

You have probably heard that moving towards a plant-based diet is not only beneficial for your health, but also beneficial for the planet.

But how beneficial? Do I have to give up all these foods I really love? (What about bacon? 🤯)

No. Let me explain.

A bit of context. Diets based around animal products have a significantly larger carbon footprint due to the environmental costs of their production. To produce one kilogram of bovine meat requires 15,000 litres of water. That’s  a lot of water! 242, eight minute showers to be exact! 

Why is this number so high? Well, water is used to grow crops for feed, water is consumed directly by the animals, water is used for transportation and it’s also hidden in a number of other factors. And this is just the water value. Globally, animal agriculture and its land use is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

This is due to the fact we continue to use large scale, destructive, industrial production processes for agriculture - and that goes for both meat and plant-based products.

Don’t get me wrong, there are more holistic and regenerative agricultural practices, such as silvopasture and managed grazing but I am focusing on the negatives of factory farming practices in this post. 

For this reason, switching to a plant-based diet is one of THE BIGGEST actions you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. If going vegan (yeah I dropped the ‘V’ word) can reduce our food related emissions by 70%, sign me up. 

Now, it is very important at this point in the post I confess I have been on a plant-based diet for almost 5 years. After watching Cowspiracy, I knew that meat had to go, and back then I was an all you can eat, Brazilian BBQ kind of guy or as Captain McCallister would say, ‘a remorseless eating machine’, BUT I promise this isn’t one of my vegan rants. 

I think Aziz Ansari puts it best:

'Oh, my God, that’s disgusting. It’s cruel, it’s inhumane. The government definitely needs to properly regulate the meat industry. There’s no excuse for this. The government definitely needs to properly regulate the meat industry. Buuuuuuuttttt, in the meantime… I kinda still gotta eat meat ’cause I don’t want to feel weird and hungry all the time.' 

And you know what, fair enough! Eating is SUCH a big part of our lives and no one wants someone else telling them what they can and cannot eat. Changing your diet is a hard thing to do! (trust me on that one).

So, you want to help the environment but keep some of the tasty treats? And presumably avoid several arguments with your family members, annoying your friend group with a limited restaurant roster and hearing ‘where do you get your protein from’ over and over AND over again? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Enter, The Mediterranean Diet. 

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The Mediterranean diet is made up of plenty of wholefoods, chicken and fish a couple of times a week (as sustainably sourced as you can find, otherwise your emissions could rise), red meat once a month and plenty of healthy fats (made popular by the Blue Zone study). If more people moved towards this diet, it would be the equivalent to taking 1 billion cars off the road. And you still get to eat your meat. Even just eliminating red meat is a big win for both the earth and your body. (note: always consult a health professional before making any big dietary changes).

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We don’t all have to go vegan, we don’t all even have to go vegetarian. Being ‘Flexitarian’ is a fantastic option. 100% plant-based diets will get close to or surpass the 1 tonne of Co2 a year saving milestone though. The IPCC special report suggests a move towards plant-based diets and outlines the benefits. There are sustainable meat sources you can purchase from, and we are seeing some amazing regenerative agriculture practices, as featured in the 2040 Film and Kiss the Ground

Everytime you swap plants for animals, it’s a triple win. Better for you, the planet and your wallet. There is a perception that plant-based diets cost more, but that’s not the case. There are also some pretty cool substitutes out there at the moment - Beyond Meat will hold over even the most stubborn family members.

My challenge to you: 

Try swapping out three meals in your week for one of these recipes, just three! See how you go. If you like it, maybe swap out a few more. You’ll be amazed at how cheap and delicious they are! (Be sure to give Cookie & Kate a shout out on your insta post!)

The world isn’t in the best place right now, so we all need to be making quick, easy changes. It is a lot easier to reach for the beans in the supermarket than it is to buy a Tesla or install solar panels. By my calculations, I saved over $1,500 a year by swapping animal products for plants, dropped my body fat from 22% to 14% and have prevented over 15,000kg of Co2 (the equivalent of 3 homes worth of electricity for almost a full year) from entering the atmosphere. 

You know what, I’m pretty stoked by that 😊

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