How big is your carbon footprint? A simple lifestyle change can greatly decrease CO2 consumption levels—and it starts with what's at the end of your fork. You may not consider the type of protein you eat when it comes to environmental health matters, but there's more to the puzzle than recycling soda bottles and driving fuel-efficient cars. According to some estimates, you can save at least 3,000 pounds of CO2 per year by going vegetarian.
Many studies focus on the not-so-friendly environmental impacts of beef, pork and chicken production, and now the focus has shifted to the comparatively greener production of "imitation" meats like veggie burgers, fake chicken nuggets, and meatless bacon. According to a new study presented at the American Society for Nutrition Annual Meeting , even though these meatless alternatives are heavily processed, greenhouse gas emissions from their production are only about 10 percent what they are for producing beef-based products. It's like driving a car 3 miles instead of 30! Don't worry, you'll still get more than enough protein.
Simultaneously caring for your body and the planet just might include cutting back on meat more often. In recent years, there has been a rise in popularity of various meat alternatives, most of which are derived from wheat and soy, with newer options using quinoa and pea protein. Not sure where to start when it comes to alternative meat products? Try these options first:
1. Veggie Burgers
While I prefer whole-food options like these homemade black bean burgers, I also love Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers in a pinch—you can't beat their ingredients! They're a great option, especially for beginners who aren't ready to make something from scratch. Find them at your local grocery store. Just heat them up on the stove or grill, and top them with your favorites like lettuce, tomato, and mashed avocado.
2. Meatless Tacos
Gardein makes imitation ground beef or grilled chicken, so you can still enjoy the taste and texture of meat. But nothing beats fresh veggie tacos with all the fixings. Sometimes keeping it simple is best with a mix of white beans and black beans, corn, bell peppers, onions, and spices, sautéed on the stove. Wrap it up in a corn tortilla with salsa, guacamole, and fresh lime juice. Or make these Tempeh Taco Boats in lettuce wraps with vegan sour cream.
3. Cauliflower Steak
Yes, this is a real thing and a must-try at that! Check out these Cauliflower Steaks with Mushroom Gravy. So drool-worthy and surprisingly satisfying, plus easy to make! You'll be wondering why you hadn't tried them sooner. Pair with roasted potatoes and a side salad for a complete meal.