Since August, Sean Hennessy has served as the Greater Ohio Outreach Coordinator for Vegan Outreach. The non-profit animal advocacy organization educates on the importance of food choices to personal health. They emphasize the benefits of a plant-based diet, whether it is flexitarian (minimal meat consumption), vegetarian (no meat consumption), or vegan (free of meat, dairy, and eggs). As a vegan of six years, he would like to highlight why you should incorporate a plant-based diet into your resolution.
1. Plant-based diets can be a powerful tool to improve your nutritional outcomes.
A healthy plant-based diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes over meat, dairy, and eggs. Cutting meat and dairy products are linked with a lower rate of obesity, a lower risk of death from heart disease, a lower rate of cancer, and a lower rate of type 2 diabetes. “A lot of people don’t realize you can get more than enough protein from plant-based foods like beans, nuts, and vegan meat-substitutes,” says Hennessy. “Most adult vegans need about 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of healthy body weight per day, so for me, that’s 80 grams of protein per day and I get it easily from plants. Similarly, there’s a lot of calcium in products like almond milk, soy milk, and kale.”
He suggests that people looking to cut back from meat incorporate one simple change at a time, like going vegetarian one day per week for Meatless Monday or substituting products in your meals like almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
2. It is beneficial to our environment.
“A study in 2006 found that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet reduces a person’s greenhouse gas emissions more than switching from a Toyota Camry (at 30 MPG) to a Toyota Prius (at 57 MPG), so our food choices can have a profound impact on climate change and might matter more than other steps we take to go green,” he says.
Plants have lower greenhouse gas emissions and also require less water and land consumption. This means, as the global population expands, reducing our consumption of animal products can actually help provide opportunities to grow even more produce to meet the growing demand for food.
3. You can make a stand for a more humane world.
By choosing a plant-based diet, you are voting to save animals. The less meat our society buys, the less we slaughter animals like pigs, cows, and chickens. Processing plants slaughter animals like chickens and dairy cows as their productivity falls, which ends their life well before the natural lifespan.
“A dairy cow is killed by about age 5, though she could live over 20 years,” Hennessy explains. “And a mother cow forms close relationships with her baby calves, so the mother will bellow in sadness at the time of their separation.”
Pigs, he adds, are social and intelligent creatures that can even be trained to play simple video games. “I still haven’t heard a good answer to the question, ‘Why love a dog but eat a pig?’”
4. The food is actually pretty good.
“For breakfast, I usually make a strawberry banana smoothie with almond milk, kale, and flax seed. For lunch, I like to do tacos with Beyond Beef crumbles, Tofutti sour cream, guacamole, refried beans, and lettuce. And for dinner, I make a mean stir fry adapted from my mom’s recipe with udon noodles, bell peppers, mushrooms, green onions, and cashews. A lot of foods people already eat are vegan, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or celery with hummus.”
Though people may be reluctant to try meat alternatives, Hennessy recommends Gardein’s beef-less burger and Beyond Meat’s chicken strips. They are close to the taste and texture of actual meat without the cruelty.
5. It is easy to get started.
The accessibility of the world through the internet makes switching to a plant-based diet easy. Websites like HappyCow.net can help you find local places to eat, and VeganOutreach.org offers a free Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating.
Surprisingly to many people, a plant-based diet may actually help your wallet. Eating mostly unprocessed foods can save you money, and in the long-run cutting out meat that is pumped with antibiotics and full of cholesterol can decrease potential health issues.
Why wait? When you are working toward a healthier you this year, consider getting involved with Vegan Outreach or making a donation to help them spread awareness of the benefits of a healthy diet.